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Alfa Romeo Junior - The Crossover formally Known as Milano

Alfa Romeo Junior

Don’t worry - we’re not shifting our focus to SUVs, but Alfa Romeo’s newest model has ruffled so many feathers that we couldn’t ignore it. Ken Pearson and Craig Toone have their say.

If you’ve read our article detailing the new Morgan Plus Four, you’ll have read this line: “While chatting with RUSH founder, editor and supreme leader Craig about the new Alfa Romeo Milano compact (and optionally electric) SUV, I pointed out my love for the retro wordmark within the grille, in spite of being bored with retro stuff - excluding the new Renault Twingo Concept.”

It may not surprise you to learn that RUSH founder, editor and Lord of all he surveys Craig is not the biggest fan of the new model from the resurgent Italian brand. It turns out too that the Italian Government isn’t either. So what is there not to like about the smartly styled compact crossover that has great Alfa Romeo design touches scattered all over it?

Well, it’s difficult to tell from first glance as the B-segment model maintains the shield-shaped grille synonymous with the brand which can have the Alfa Romeo wordmark in classic script within it, or a close-up of the cross of Milan and the grass snake that feature within the Alfa Romeo badge, depending on the exterior styling package chosen. It could be the narrow, multi-segment running lights at each end with an additional LED strip underscoring the headlight cluster and a triple-stacked signature next to it, but I think these are nicely done, and there’s no way that the cloverleaf-style wheels based around a three or four-spoke design could be causing such outcry - they look epic.

Alfa Romeo Junior

Alfa Romeo Junior

I asked His Craig-ness for his thoughts on the exterior styling and he said: “I don’t actually mind the serpent infused grille, but the retro one is a hard pass for me. It just looks unbalanced and clashes against the futuristic headlights - like a statement is being made rather than something cohesive.”

I see where Craig is coming from, but I still don’t sense major outrage yet. So how about the interior? Can we find some middle ground there?

The two-piece Sabelt seats look excellent and they also feature the Alfa Romeo shield shape owing to a cutout beneath the headrest - itself featuring the logo stitched into the material. There are two 10.25” displays with one angled screen for the infotainment and another for the driver’s display which sits behind a small-rimmed multifunction steering wheel. The outer air vents have a cloverleaf design with an illuminated snake sitting on the adjuster dial and there’s generous amounts of microfibre to be found on the lower dashboard, seat inserts and the steering wheel.

There’s a three-seat bench in the rear complete with two ISOFIX anchor points and a boot behind that which Alfa Romeo say is the best in class owing to its 400 litre capacity and hands-free access. It’s a thumbs up from me - especially with the filament-style red lighting that finds its home in the instrument display shroud. It’s time for Craig to have his say:

Alfa Romeo Junior

Alfa Romeo Junior

CT: “I appreciate how Alfa Romeo have at least integrated the touchscreen display into the dashboard rather than plonking it on top. It’s the air vents that I don’t like - they call to mind the Toyota GR 86 and their sharp, rectangular form jars with the cowled instrument binnacles and the rest of the swoopy interior. The seats look smart, however again I don’t understand why such an unsporting car needs buckets with slots for racing harnesses. Give me some proper tan leather and stitched Italian craftsmanship. Don’t try and sell me the illusion of a sportscar.

"I just don’t feel as though it has that timeless elegance that other Alfas do - like Gucci has had a sneaky hand in it behind the scene. I’m on record myself as Alfa’s CEO stated in the press release that you’d buy a supercar or a supermini off Alfa Romeo, however this crossover just feels a step too far.”

Again, very valid points, but none of which are underscored by torches and pitchforks…could it be what’s under the skin that’s causing so much controversy? The model is based on Stellantis’s e-CMP2 platform which means it is a close relation to the Citroen C4, DS 3 Crossback, Fiat 600, Peugeot 2008, Jeep Avenger, Vauxhall Mokka and thus shares the same powertrains as those models.

This means that a 134 bhp 1.2 litre mild hybrid three-cylinder engine is the only piston-powered choice which can be had with either front or four-wheel drive. There is also a pair of electric variants which come with a 54 kWh capacity battery. The first features a 154 bhp front-mounted motor that is found in the electric versions of the models I listed, but with specific calibration for its application in the new Alfa Romeo.

Alfa Romeo Junior

Alfa Romeo Junior

The top-model at launch takes a name that we’ve seen most recently on the Giulia saloon - Veloce. This sees a 237 bhp motor under the bonnet, complete with a Torsen limited slip differential, stiffer anti-roll bars at both ends and suspension that has been lowered by 25 mm. This running gear can be found in the new Abarth 600e and will most likely lead to a drop in the electric range of up to 255 miles, but 100 kW DC charging means that around half an hour to top up the battery should be expected.

So, is it the platform sharing that is causing some angst?

CT: “It’s the fact that deep down we all know it’s the Abarth 600e - it’s cynical badge engineering at its finest and it reeks of a car born by committee rather than the eccentricity of designing a wonderful object then finding the time to figure it out, because it’s such a wonderful thing, no?”

I am beginning to sense the rage now. But if it’s not the exterior, interior or platform which has sparked outcry, what on earth is? It’s actually the name. You may have noticed that I’ve not referred to this model by any name since the quote from our Morgan article which you can read here. That is because the artist formerly known as the Alfa Romeo Milano has rather hastily been renamed to the Alfa Romeo Junior.

Alfa Romeo Junior

Alfa Romeo Junior

Why? Well, the Italian designed model from an Italian manufacturer which has the name of an Italian city (which can be found in Italy) on its bodywork is due to be assembled in Poland, which is not Italy. Eastern European factories have been assembling well built cars for years now - that’s not the issue. The problem is that the Italian Government is very hot on ensuring that products with Italian sounding names are made in Italy. It’s similar to how only sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France can be called Champagne and sausages with a 70% belly or shoulder meat content from the area surrounding Newmarket can be called Newmarket sausages.

Because changing a name is cheaper than relocating a factory and irritating the Government may be a bad idea, Alfa Romeo switched the Milano name to one from its back catalogue of models and rechristened it the Junior. It was something of a PR blunder by Alfa Romeo and I have a feeling that the person responsible for checking local naming laws has been exiled to Gloucestershire to spend the rest of their working life making Single Gloucester cheese - a cheese which can only be given that name if made in Gloucestershire from the milk of Gloucester cows.

So with the dust of the surprisingly controversial new Alfa Romeo beginning to settle, let’s recap the facts and the opinions. It is a Vauxhall Mokka-sized SUV which shares the stellantis e-CMP2 platform with a lot of other models, but looks to have Alfa Romeo design flair and character in droves both outside and in. It re-enters a segment that was vacated following the end of MiTo production in 2018. It can be petrol or electric powered and it’ll have a faster Veloce model available from launch. Prices may start below £30,000 and rise to over £40,000 for the Veloce but it appears to leave room for an even more spritely model that could wear the cloverleaf badge further down the line.

Alfa Romeo Junior

Here’s what Craig thinks:

”There is potentially a massive, traditional market niche opening that’s primed for Alfa Romeo to swoop into, yet they’re following trends rather than marching to their own beat. They’re jumping on the crossover bandwagon at the expense of the Giulia - finally cracking it by beating the BMW 3-Series as the driver’s car of the sector, then pulling the plug! If this thing was funding a Giulia GTA coupe, a Competizione flagship or a new Spider I would accept it as a necessary evil in the mould of what the Cayenne did for Porsche, but it's not. The brand is as Italian as Neapolitan wood-fired pizza and Nona’s secret Raghu recipe, but even the Italians have rejected the Milano. It’s just all so Alfa that it hurts.”

I hear you, Craig! As for my thoughts? Well, the new Alfa Romeo Mila-ah, I’m sorry I can’t call it that - Junior injects some charismatic and bold design into the compact crossover segment. It is visually more striking than nearly everything else in its corner of the market and if it drives as well as it looks - especially in 237 bhp Veloce guise - then the brand may be able to catch the attention of a new generation of drivers who have thus far not had an Alfa in their desired class of car or price bracket.

They may have got the name wrong once, but this is a car that for the long term future of the brand and for the shield grille to stand any chance of returning to M3-rivalling super saloons in the future, they absolutely have to get right.

What do you think? Have Alfa Romeo made the right decision by returning to the compact segment with an SUV? Or should they have followed the path of Lancia by opting for a small hatchback? We’re all ears.


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