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. Quality, packaging, performance and price all have to be a step up from Alfa of old, but it still needs to look as good and drive as well as we’ve come to expect from a firm with such design heritage and sporting pedigree. An unenviable task, then, but not a bad crack at it, this…
There is surely no more important an attribute to any Alfa, from the perspective of punter and factory alike, than the way it drives. The firm has almost always tried to respect its priceless racing heritage by making cars that, despite occasionally falling to bits in the showroom, are as compelling to drive as anything else on the market, and hopefully more so. And the Giulietta delivers. Ride quality and handling are right up there with the benchmark VW Golf, but there’s just that vital bit more feel and feedback here. Alfa’s ‘DNA’ system is present again here too, with the addictive option of flicking it into ‘Dynamic’ – the limited-slip differential is activated, engine torque increased and the steering sharpened up.
You have the option of ordering your Giulietta in Standard or Sport set-ups, and it seems senseless not to go for the stiff er suspension and bigger wheels of the latter. A fractional compromise in overall comfort means you get a more agile and sharper drive. We also like Alfa’s new TCT twin-clutch gearbox, bringing VW DSG-like self-shifting sophistication to Alfa’s able hatch.
On the inside
Initially it’s 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.
Sadly, though, after a bit of time in the car you do start to notice the difference between this and the bombproof interior finish of a Golf or new Audi A3. Vital touch points are fussier and more flimsy and there’s a general shortfall in quality of materials. It’s not bad enough to be a deal breaker though, and there’s a decent amount of space. 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.
Alfa’s latest range of engines is excellent, particularly the 170bhp 1.4-litre MultiAir, which is characterful yet frugal. The 1.6-litre JTDM-2 is a great all-rounder too, with impressive CO2 stats.