Full of promise, the Alfasud showed what a hot hatch could be before it even gained a hatchback. If only it hadn’t rusted so badly.
The little Alfasud’s design set standards for small saloons despite the questionable build quality. Giugiaro’s fastback body was attractive, and came with four doors from the 1971 start or as a two-door TI with twin-carb engines from 1974. Hatchbacks were unforgivably late arrivals in 1981. By then, the car had been facelifted with plastic fairings.
Engines were always flat-fours driving the front wheels, starting with 1186cc, then 1286cc, 1490cc and 1350cc. Production ended in 1983, giving way to the Alfa 33.
Power (bhp@rpm) 93bhp@5800rpm
Torque (lb ft@rpm) 96lb ft@4000rpm
Top speed 115mph
Gearbox 5-speed manual
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
BODYWORK & CHASSIS
The Alfasud’s pretty little body was its undoing, especially on early cars. Corrosion protection improved from 1982, but before then was almost non-existent.
Rust on the main panels will be obvious, as will rust on the sills, which are structural. Underneath, beware of newly-applied underseal!
Check the whole front panel, the inner wings, behind the headlights, and the front chassis ‘legs’. Front footwells rot out if the windscreen has leaked. The door bottoms rust through when their drain holes are blocked, and the panel below the side windows rots on two-door cars.
At the rear, have a good look in the wells on either side of the boot floor, examine the area around the jacking points (just ahead of the wheelarches), and look at the under-bumper valance. Watch for rust breaking out behind the plastic body addenda on later cars; it’s hard to see in the early stages, but check you must!
The Alfasud engines were flat-fours with a single overhead camshaft, and a surprisingly "interesting" exhaust note which sounds very Italian! The TI models have twin carburettors and can be prone to rough idling. Early engines were smoother than the later, larger-capacity types.
Oil and cambelt changes (there are two belts) are absolutely critical to the long-term survival of an Alfasud engine, so when buying you need to see the service history or at least assess the likely diligence of the seller in attending to maintenance. Listen for a harsh rattle on start-up which indicates that the bearings are on the way out. The same noise at 3000rpm from a hot engine confirms the problem.
All the gearboxes are manuals, with four speeds on lesser models and five speeds on TIs and other later cars. They are fairly tough but become noisy as wear sets in, and may lose second-gear synchromesh. They are always noisy at idle. The change is sporty, with a short throw, and should be quite slick. Do make sure that there are no problems with the clutch, because a clutch change demands taking the engine out.
The inboard front discs are not easy to work on; access is particularly restricted on the later twin-carburettor cars. That has inevitably led owners to leave pad changes to the very last minute, and so scored discs are a fairly common malady. So is oil on the discs, thrown out from engine or gearbox.
The dashboard is pretty uninspiring stuff, while the seats have very 1970s fabric upholstery although they are comfortable enough. Disappointingly, the rear backrest does not fold forwards on the 1980s hatchback models. The driving position is relatively inflexible, too; you’ll either fit or you won’t!
Expect squeaks and rattles from the plastic trim.
You’ll want an Alfasud because there is just so much about the design that is spot-on. It’s a practical little saloon with enough room for the kids or the in-laws, and it doesn’t advertise its fun quotient.
Yet it delivers that fun by the bucket-load, thanks to a lovely rorty exhaust note, tight front-wheel drive handling, quick rack-and-pinion steering and rapid acceleration.