It's nice to be back in an Alfa Giulietta again. It's the anti-Golf. There's none of your German reserve and smoothed perfection here. The Alfa looks brilliant. I mean, a Golf looks brilliant too, but it's easy to miss. The Alfa snares your eye.
First drive: new Alfa Romeo Giulietta
Taken at face value it's hard to see why they don't sell more of them... Paul Horrell reports
It looks fractionally better than ever now, but spotting the facelift is for advanced students only. The changes for this year are inside. In come very good new seats, improved dash and door trims (they weren't too shabby before) and a badly needed choice of new touchscreens.
The standard setup has a 5-inch screen with all the connection and media you'd want. Step up to the 6.5-incher and get a reasonably advanced navigation. But it swallows up one distinctive feature of the original car, a fetching row of lever switches beneath where the radio was.
The big-selling engine, a 2.0 diesel 140bhp, has been uprated to 150bhp. It's good, with fine refinement for the class and a nice willing attitude around most of the dial. Extra soundproofing for the facelift helps its cause. The key numbers are strong: 8.8 seconds to 62mph and 110g/km.
The one I drove had something called a QV Sportiva pack. This brings low suspension, 18-inch wheels, big brakes and more embracing seats. That brings a pretty firm ride for the class, and probably not an option worth ticking in bumpy Britain with an engine like this. Save it for the turbo nutter 1750 QV. Anyway, the car doesn't complain when it's punished like this, proving that its structure is sound.
And the Giulietta does have nice steering and handling, quick to answer and pretty well free of slop or understeer. There's a keen edge to it and a feedback that's a breath of fresh air.
I can't think of a mid-power diesel rival I'd rather have. Taken at face value it's hard to see why they don't sell more of them. But then you realise it's a bit silly being an Alfa dealer because they have just two models (three-door MiTo, five-door Giulietta) to sell. And the 4C, which is really just for talking about, not for selling in more than tiny numbers.
Why wouldn't the Alfa shops give up and switch to Skoda? And without dealers, there are no sales.