The 5-door hatchback version was launched in 1983, and a station wagon version (initially badged Giardinetta, later badged SportWagon) was introduced the following year as the same time as a four-wheel drive version of the hatchback. The hatchback was styled by the Centro Stile Alfa Romeo, Ermanno Cressoni, while the station wagon was designed by Pininfarina.
The 33 became renowned for its nimble handling and powerful boxer engines, but also became equally well-known for its unreliable electronics and tendencies to rust (a frequent complaint on Italian cars in general at the time). Another issue was its braking and increased unsprung weight — the Alfasud's inboard front disks (mounted on the gearbox) had been moved to the more common outboard disks (mounted on the wheel hubs). The rear disks of the Sud's four-wheel disk arrangement had also been replaced with drums from the Nissan Cherry, as used on the Arna.
The 33 has a unique place in Alfa Romeo history - nearly 1 million of these cars were produced internationally.