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The Top Gear car review:Alfa Romeo Giulietta
For:Great looks, a sharp driver and some interesting engines
Against:Not as solid as the German rivals, only available as a five-door
1.6 JTDM-2 Lusso 5dr
Alfa’s sporty branch is back with this spicy Giulietta. Can it do justice to its name?
The spiciest Giulietta is confortable and fast, but not fun. There are better hot hatches.
Quadrifoglio Verde. Not a cheese pizza, but a game stab at hot-hatchery
An interesting hatch in the right ways. Sensible but desirable, and fun to use. Updates this year are small but effective
Once, an auto Giulietta was a total no-go zone, but the modified TCT ‘box changes all that
An Alfa that doesn’t try to whip the wheel out of your hands. Not quite a RenaultSport beater, but it does comfort better
Can Alfa’s new Giulietta out-Golf the Golf? No, not really.
What we say:
Everyone should own an Alfa at some point in their lives. This one's a good place to start
What is it?
A hugely important play for Alfa Romeo in Europe, the Giulietta is tasked with bringing the Italian firm into the top flight, up against the all-conquering VW Golf. Despite best intentions, and Alfa’s glittering heritage, it’s failed in this challenge to date – so Alfa’s having another go with a facelifted version. Which, sensibly, leaves the face well alone: a car as pretty as this needs no surgery. The improvements come inside, under the bonnet and on the road. Is it all enough?
The Giulietta was a pretty decent drive at launch, and this one enhances things a little more. It still can’t match class-leaders such as the VW Golf and, surprisingly, the Seat Leon (‘the Spanish Alfa’ beats the real Alfa – oh, the irony), but is still quite a sweet thing to drive for those more interested in entertainment than comfort. Play around with the Alfa DNA switch and you can make it feel almost hot hatch sharp (the Q2 electronic differential function is a worthwhile addition here): the final polish is inevitably lacking but it’s still pretty fun. The firm ride isn’t as bad as it could be, either.
The fizzy engines are where the real fun lies, particularly the wonderfully revvy 1.4-litre MultiAir. Even the entry level Giulietta comes with a 120bhp version of this fine motor. The 2.0-litre JTDm-2 diesel has been improved for 2014 as well, with the 175bhp TCT version making a surprising Golf GTD chaser.
On the inside
Initially it is hard not to be impressed by the improvements in perceived quality that Alfa has made for the Giulietta. It looks like a properly premium hatch at a glance, while maintaining that tactile, charismatic Alfa individuality that rivals such as the Renault Megane have lost by going all Germanic.
Previously, the detailing let it down. Such as, not being able to have a proper sat nav/infotainment system. All cured here, and the snazzy touchscreen setup is one of the best out there. Quality has been lifted too, although most rivals remain far from worried (and even maybe puzzled at how Alfa’s able to make parts of it feel like they have come straight from the 1990s) It’s also worth mentioning that the Giulietta only comes as a five-door, but the rear two have hidden handles, so you get practicality and looks in the one package here.
Engines help enhance the Alfa’s ownership proposition, not just the drive. The 1.6-litre JTDM-2 is a particularly great all-rounder, with superb CO2 stats. In facelifted guise, it’s very economical. All are surprisingly well priced: no, it’s not perfect, but as less than £20k gets you a decent turbo petrol or diesel, surely you can forgive a few flaws in a hatch this pretty?