Historically Alfa Romeos have been cars built with genuine love and passion but flawed in one way or another. Reliability has never been a strong point but these Italian beauties have always been styled from the heart. Alfa’s recent offering the Giulietta has been tasked with taking on the mighty Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf. Read on to find out how good it really is.
The Fiat group have made massive strides in the engine department over the past few years with their fruity TwinAir units and recently with their MultiAir technology. Fitted to our test car is a clever 1.4 litre, 4 cylinder engine that pushes out a healthy 170 bhp. What makes this award winning engine so unique is its variable valve actuation technology that electronically alters the amount of air making its way into the engine resulting in increased power and torque and reduced fuel consumption and emissions.
When fitted to the Giulietta with its healthy 184 lb ft of torque from just 2,500 rpm it manages to hurl the Alfa along with real gusto. It is also wonderfully flexible, easily cruising in sixth gear from 40 mph. The power on offer results in the 0-60mph sprint taking a shade under eight seconds which although not super fast, in reality feels much quicker. Its power delivery is smooth and lag-free and emits a satisfying roar under acceleration.
On the road
The driving experience is incredibly satisfying. Alfa has tuned the suspension to serve up plenty of thrills. It’s quite firmly sprung but still manages to soak up the lumps and bumps very well, only larger crests upset composure a little. The six speed gearbox has a snappy nature making it a joy to use and the steering is direct, pointy and nicely weighted although at times it can be a little vague.
It also writhes around a touch under hard acceleration. Throw it into a corner and the front end hunkers down with tenacious grip and superb balance. It feels very agile and neutral through bends making it great fun on twisty country roads.
Standard on all Giulietta’s is Alfa’s DNA system which has three different modes named Dynamic, Normal and All Weather. Essentially it alters the engines throttle responses and steering resistance, and is most effective in Dynamic Mode where the steering is a lot weightier and the throttle ultra-sensitive feeling much perkier thanks to the removal of the limiter on the torque curve that governs Normal Mode. That said the steering tends to still feel very artificial and around town the throttle can be a little too sensitive making pulling away smoothly difficult, economy also suffers a little as a result.
Despite the tantalising performance on offer I found the Giulietta’s economy to be outstanding returning nearly 50 miles per gallon on longer journeys and a still very respectable 40 miles per gallon around town. Road tax is also reasonable, falling into VED Band E resulting in an annual cost of just £120. At just under £22,000 the Veloce model you see here represents good value for money as it comes loaded with kit including leather seats, cruise and climate control, iPod and Bluetooth connectivity, electric front and rear windows, alloy wheels and parking sensors.
Every curve and swoosh of the Giulietta has been crafted with love making the Alfa a beauty to look at. The company’s shield grill takes centre stage between the teardrop headlights and clamshell bonnet. In profile the cars generous 18 inch wheels fill the arches and contrast well against the uncluttered flanks and sneakily hidden rear door handles. The pronounced hip crease leads straight into the trademark elongated led taillights. It gels together to create an eye catching hatch that few can match visually.
The cabin is equally delightful with plenty of Italian flair. Although the design is a tad busy its pleasingly racy with nostalgic toggle switches, brushed aluminium finishes and gorgeous ribbed leather sports seats. I also love the black roof lining which makes the cabin feel very intimate. Build quality is generally very good with well chosen materials including a rather odd mottled finish on the doors and plenty of metal effect highlights. Everything is logically laid out although it’s not without its foibles.
Although the individually hooded dials look suitably sporty the lettering on the speedo is very small and hard to read missing the vital 30 and 70 mph markers. Adjusting the drivers seat is also a chore as the knob is wedged between the door pillar with little room for most peoples hands.
Those expecting the Alfa to rival its competitors in terms of room are likely to be a tad disappointed. Space upfront is perfectly decent, but the rear is limited with restricted headroom and headroom isn’t much better, the cabin is also not really wide enough to seat three abreast. The Giulietta’s boot is a good 340 litres, ahead of rivals such as the Ford Focus, but is hindered slightly by a sizeable load lip.
Visibility is also quite limited due to the Alfa’s thick pillars and small rear window. The small window area also makes it difficult to judge the corners of the car especially when parking.
Although unlikely to topple the class leaders, the Giulietta still has plenty to offer family hatch buyers. The small Alfa is easily the best looking model in its class and serves up an engaging driving experience with an agile chassis. It’s cabin is well designed and although lacking in space is still a great place to spend time and comes with plenty of standard equipment in Veloce trim.
The star of the show has to be the absolutely stonking MultiAir engine that is smooth, punchy and brilliantly economical. It also offers plenty of performance in both Normal and Dynamic Modes. Overall there is a lot to like and those who can see past the Giulietta’s weaknesses will be getting a seriously talented car.
Price as tested: £21,810
Engine: 1.4 litre 16v 170bhp – 0-62 mph: 7.8 secs – Maximum Speed: 135 mph –
Economy: 36.2 mpg (urban) –61.4 mpg (extra-urban), 48.7 mpg (combined) – Emissions: 134 g/km (Band E) – VED (12 months): £120
Dimensions: Length: 4350 mm – Width: 1798 mm – Height: 1465 mm – Wheelbase: 2634 mm
*data from Alfa Romeo UK