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Alfa Romeo Giulietta

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7/10

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Alfa Romeo Giulietta 2.0 JTDM 150 Driven

Driven December 2013

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Sometimes you go to a restaurant that serves ‘interesting' food. You wouldn't eat it every day: it's just a stimulating alternative for once in a while. But if you're in the market for a new diesel hatchback, we'd advise you to view a car that's too interesting or leftfield with suspicion. After all, it's not like you'll have a dozen diesel hatches in your garage. You won't be able to drive the interesting one on special occasions but do the everyday grind in your Focus or Golf.

You might imagine the Giulietta suffers this way. After all, Alfa has just introduced a sports car, the 4C, that is as interesting and exciting as anything from Blumenthal's kitchen. And as unpalatable for everyday.

Maybe that's why you don't often see a Giulietta. Too many people just get scared off by Alfa's spiky reputation, and assume that behind those striking looks lies a car that's got more rough edges than a bag of hacksaws. But they're wrong. The Giulietta is a reasonably sanitary vehicle, properly thought through and solidly assembled.

It wasn't totally without drawbacks, but most are being addressed. New for this year are front seats that have more support and adjustment. The interior door trims have been improved. And at last there's a properly integrated nav and media system.

This uses a 6.5-inch touchscreen, surrounded by a useful set of hard keys. The graphics aren't the very nicest (they're a bit American, which is no surprise as it's related to the Chrysler systems), but it works well. The music sounds good too, fielding a nicely spacious and tight stereo image. My only gripe is that it makes the Giulietta cabin a bit more generic than it was, because there's no longer room for the beautiful row of harpsichord-key switches that ran along the dash above the climate controls.

Also new for this year is an efficiency bump to the mid-power diesel engine. It's a 2.0, now up to 150bhp from 140. Economy is better too, with CO2 emissions dropping by 9g/km to 110.

It's a willing and peaceful engine, and pretty happy to rev for a diesel. And a good engine reminded me the Giulietta still handles more saucily than most hatches: the steering is sharp and talkative, and you can use the throttle to get a real sense of which tyres are leading the attack.

Paul Horrell

Verdict: An interesting hatch in the right ways. Sensible but desirable, and fun to use. Updates this year are small but effective.

Stats: 1956cc turbodiesel four, FWD, 150bhp, 280lb ft, 67.3mpg, 110g/km CO2, 0-62mph in 8.8secs, 130mph, 1320kg, £25,000 approx

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