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Alfa Romeo changes Milano to Junior following political pressure

14th April 2024
Russell Campbell

Update: In a shock later-than-last-minute change, Alfa Romeo has changed the name of its new electrified SUV. What was revealed as the Milano, will be sold as the Junior, in a fascinating twist involving pressure from none other than the Italian government.

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See, the name Milano is, as you might have guessed, a reference to the Italian city of Milan, the traditional home of Alfa Romeo and once the place where certain Alfa Romeos were built. The issue here is that the new Milano is decidedly not a Milanese car in terms of its construction. Rather it’s set to be built in Stellantis’ Polish plant in Tychy, alongside the Jeep Avenger and Fiat 600 with which the Milano shares a platform.

And that’s where things get tricky and where Italian politicians have become perturbed by Alfa Romeo’s latest model. Fundamentally it is allegedly law – despite the insistence of Alfa’s CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato that it isn’t –  that if a car is to be called Milano, it has to be built in Milan. Just as Parma ham has to come from Emilia Romagna and Champagne can only be called Champagne if it’s from the Champagne region of France. The result here is that the Polish-built new small crossover from Alfa Romeo must have a change of identity, from Milano to Junior.

Alfa Romeo is expectedly quite put out by this legal strong-arming, with its feisty sharp-toned release reading that the name is being changed despite its belief that it’s legal and “that there are issues much more important than the name of a car”.

“The Alfa Romeo team would like to thank the public for the positive feedback, the Italian dealer network for their support, journalists for the enormous media attention given to the new car and the Italian government for the free publicity brought on by this debate.”

The Junior name has come from public suggestions, with this being far from the first time Alfa Romeo has taken this tactic. The Duetto of 1966 got its name by public vote, as did the MiTo hatchback of 2008.

“We are perfectly aware that this moment will remain engraved in the history of the brand,” Jean-Philippe Imparato, CEO of Alfa Romeo said in a statement.

“It's a great responsibility but at the same time it's an exciting moment. The choice of the name Junior is completely natural, as it is strongly linked to the history of the brand and has been among our favourites and among the public's favourites since the beginning. As a team, we are choosing once again to share our passion for the brand and make the product and our customers the priority. 

“We decided to change the name, even though we know that we are not required to do so, because we want to preserve the positive emotion that our products have always generated and avoid any type of controversy."

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Alfa Romeo Junior (FKA Milano): Everything you need to know

There’s a new Alfa Romeo in town which gives us yet another opportunity to wax lyrical about a car that has the potential to save the company although as an electric SUV, the new Junior (FKA Milano) could do just that. Alfa Romeo claims it will offer class-leading dynamics, up to 240PS (177kW) and four-wheel drive. Oh, and there’s a hybrid version too – here’s all we know so far.

Alfa Romeo Junior price and release date

Alfa Romeo hasn’t confirmed prices for the new Junior but expect it to start from around £36,000 – or about £1,000 more than an EV Jeep Avenger – when it goes on sale in the summer. High-end Veloce models will likely top £40,000. Expect first deliveries in the autumn. 

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Alfa Romeo Junior (FKA Milano) performance, range and battery capacity

The Junior will be offered as a hybridised petrol and a pure electric but as the latter serves us the core of the range we’ll focus on it first. You get two electric models to choose from, both of which get a 54kWh battery that can be charged at speeds of up to 100kW, a 10-80 per cent charge should take less than 30 minutes. 

It’s the top-of-the-range Junior Elettrica Veloce that grabs our attention. It comes fitted with a 240PS (177kW) electric motor that drives the front wheels through a Torsen limited-slip differential. The Veloce has faster steering than the standard car and sits on stiffer suspension that’s 25mm lower with beefed-up brakes – 380mm discs at the front – sitting behind a set of 20-inch alloy wheels that are a modern twist on the company’s traditional ‘phonedials’. 

Alfa only quotes a 255-mile range for the entry-level 154PS (113kW) Elettrica, expect the Veloce’s range to be significantly shorter. Both EVs come with a free wall charger and a charging card that gives you access to 600,000 charging stations Europe-wide. 

If that’s not enough to allay your fears, worry not, there will also be a petrol-electric Junior called the Ibrida (hybrid in Italian of course) which has a 134PS (99kW) petrol motor – the same PureTech unit that does the rounds elsewhere in the Stellantis Group – although this time mated to a 28PS (21kW) that accommodated inside a six-speed automatic gearbox. 

According to Alfa, the Ibrida will be able to run on electric 50 per cent of the time in town, which should do wonders for city fuel economy, but no MPGs have been quoted yet. The Ibrida will eventually be offered with four-wheel drive with a 28PS (21kW) electric motor spinning the back wheels, but no more details have been confirmed. 

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Alfa Romeo Junior (FKA Milano) styling

At the Milano’s online unveil, company execs mentioned styling guiding principles such as the brand itself, its sport Italianess and its heritage but above all else the Milano is said to have human-like qualities. Its headlights are eyes, its shapely wheel arches are muscles and, well, we forget the rest. 

The point is, like most Alfa’s, the Milano is a sharp looker with a black roofline that disguises its boxy SUV shape rather well, leaving you instead to dwell on the curvaceous lines of the lower window line, bookend by piercing head and tail lights.

If we were to take issue with one area it would be the odd cutout grille that silhouettes the famous Alfa badge. Those in the know will also see the car’s Jeep Avenger heritage shining from below the sheer Italian coat. As the Jeep won last year’s European Car of the Year, perhaps that’s not such a bad thing.

 

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Alfa Romeo Junior (FKA Milano) interior, practicality and trim levels

Inside, you get the usual pair of 10.25-inch screens, with the driver’s display sitting under a cowled hood that’s been a trademark of sporty Alfa Romeos for as long as we can remember. 

You get a characteristically sporty three-spoke steering wheel and air vents modelled on the company’s Cloverleaf insignia.

The centre screen sits lower, providing separation from the driver’s interface and you get a surprising number of conventional buttons – a Volvo CX30 this is not. According to Alfa, the central screen will be easily customisable which should make it relatively easy to customise to your liking. 

In terms of space, we’ve yet to sit in the car but, if the Jeep Avenger is anything to go by, back seat space should be fine for tall adults and Alfa tells us the car has a 400-litre boot comparable to a regular family hatchback. 

You’ll be able to have your Junior with a choice of three trim levels: Techno, Premium and Sport. 

Techno models get infotainment with gesture control, an electrically operated tailgate and matrix LED headlights. Premium models get a posher interior complete with electrically adjustable massage seats. Sport models, meanwhile, get the previously mentioned 20-inch wheels and Sabelt sports seats covered in Alcantara. 

Entry-level Elettra and Ibrida models will also be offered with launch edition Speciale trim, which buys you 18-inch rims, red paint, ambient interior lighting, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and keyless entry and go.

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