(from the Driving & Motoring Weekly Guide, 1975)
1975 Triumph Dolomite review
Archie Vicar tests three sporting saloons
Photos by Nigel de la Warr
Small sporting saloons are becoming an important if quite tiny part of the market place. Naturally, the large family car will always remain the most popular choice for the suburban motorist and business-man on the move. But, for the fellow who likes energetic driving and who also needs to chauffeur his wife and children about from time to time, there are three cars offering an alternative to the much loved Ford Cortina, the humdrum Vauxhall Viva and dull Morris Marina.
The Triumph Dolomite, Alfa Romeo Giulia and Lancia Fulvia are three similarly conceived cars to tempt us into more lively motoring. Each has a sleek and well-tailored body enclosing four seats and a choice of powerful engines. We took a trip to Canley, near Coventry to inspect the latest version of the Triumph Dolomite and to compare it with Lancia´s evergreen Fulvia and Alfa´s standard-bearer, the Giulia.
The Dolomite is part of Triumph´s fiendishly comprehensive model range of small cars. Lately front-wheel drive has become almost acceptable for small cars, and Triumph have indeed had a bit of a stab at this format for the 1300, the 1500 . However, as the old saying goes, the only way forwards is backwards. The new Dolomite (890 lbs weight) is a clever mixed blend of bits of Triumph´s small cars and pilfers freely from the firm's engineering past. It sports the elegant, longer body of the front-driven Triumph 1500, but the oily bits are mostly inherited from the rear-wheel drive Triumph Toledo (reviewed November 1971). This means it has a simple live rear axle with coil springs in the interest of simplicity and higher profits. This is an inspiring example of BMC thrift and shows clearly that rear-drive has some legs yet.
Standing up against the Dolomite is Lancia´s refined Fulvia, launched in 1963 and updated only five years ago with the 1298 cc engine and 5 speed gearbox. Effective Girling calipers and pads replaced the shoddy Dunlop system attached to the earlier cars. [See page 34-36 for more details on Girling´s new brake pad compounds - Ed.] . The handbrake design is also new (for 1970) and deploys separate drums and brake-shoes operating on the rear wheels. This and other small modifications show that Fiat, who now own Lancia, are determined to keep this great marque healthy in these increasingly competitive times. Carried over also is the crisp and smart bodywork, which reminds one of a small Mercedes. Plenty of chrome embellishments and a very refined driver´s compartment certainly enunciate Lancia´s distinguished pedigree. I´ve managed to lose my little Fuvia brochure so I can´t quote the vehicle´s weight, except to say, in Rolls-Royce style, it is "adequate.” The Fulvia´s driven wheels are located forward of the driver´s ashtray.
Finally, Alfa Romeo are still investing heavily in their rear-while drive Giulia to maintain its dominant position as the sporting saloon preferred by serious and enthusiastic drivers. On sale in one form or another since the unification of Italy, it seems no-one can topple the Giulia from its position on the sales charts or in the hearts of red-blooded drivers. Some might whisper the name “BMW” here but one can expect little from this frankly marginal company who have long struggled with their boxy and evil-handling saloons. The Giulia tested here has a powerful 1.6 litre engine which must move a mere 2,200 lbs.