2.9.2016Alfa Romeo Giulietta review
The Alfa Romeo Giulietta has long been the most stylish car in the premium hatchback sector, and it has recently been refreshed. The aim of this fettling is to keep it up to date with both the rest of the competition and Alfa's own product range. With plenty of tweaks, has Alfa Romeo made the Giulietta good enough to match its looks.
Review by Chris Lilly
When thinking of Alfa Romeo's, a petrolista will automatically start drifting off and thinking of the company's famed V6 and V8 petrol units. However, in this rather more modern and practical of times, Alfa Romeo offers nothing with a cylinder count higher than four, and among that number are various diesels. It must be said, quite right too - especially as the engine line-up for the Giulietta range is very good. Under the bonnet of the test car is a 1.6 JTDM-II diesel engine, tuned more for economy rather than speed. Of the three power outputs available from the diesel - 120, 150 and 175hp - the model tested had the former. Anyone that thinks the car will be sluggish though would be mistaken. The Giulietta - aided by 320 Nm of torque - can get from 0-62mph in 10.2 seconds when fitted with a six-speed dual clutch TCT automatic gearbox, which is plenty for most drivers. It also feels faster than that in the real world as the engine's natural torque is able to deal with shorter, more common sprints with ease. Put your foot down in almost any gear and the Giulietta responds quickly; if you flick down a gear the Alfa will give you a decent shove in the back as it pushes forward too. There's nothing lightning quick about this specification of Giulietta , but there is ample real-world performance. This is made all the more so if you use the car's D.N.A. driving mode select system, which switches between sport, eco, and all-weather. Differences are quite dramatic, with 'Dynamic' holding the gears for longer and tweaking the traction control for example.
Alfa Romeo prides itself on its racing history, but thankfully, the Giulietta little easier to live with than a thoroughbred race car. The Giulietta's handling will be on the stiff side for some, though I found it just about right. The benefit of a stiffer set-up is that the Giulietta is more fun to drive on the open road, when a twisting B-Road stretches out in front of you. The Giulietta is keen to take on a corner, with loads of grip available considering this is one of the least sporty variants in the range. The steering doesn't transmit a lot of feedback, but it is sharp and precise, so you can have fun down that hypothetical ribbon of tarmac. Granted, that won't happen often so the Alfa has to be able to perform well elsewhere, and on the whole it does. Stretch the Giulietta's legs on a motorway and you will be wishing for a little more suppleness in the suspension, though the Alfa is far from uncomfortable on long journeys. In town, and the situation is similar. The Giulietta will cope with a car park or speed bumps fine, though there are more comfortable rivals out there.
Very - or should that be 'molto' - stylish, the Giulietta will turn the heads of even the least interested in cars. Considering the Alfa is a humble hatchback rather than a sleek roadster, that says a lot about how nicely designed the Giulietta is. With the recent refresh, Alfa Romeo has largely left the design alone which is excellent news. Slightly different headlights and grilles make the new version look a little more purposeful, but the Giulietta remains a beautiful car. Inside, the Giulietta is still a nicely designed vehicle, though this does mean there is a trade off in terms of practicality. Those in the front will feel as though there is plenty of space, but adults in the rear won't share their opinions. The rear isn't cramped, but neither is it spacious, and there are better solutions out there for those with a fairly grown-up family. Young families will be fine though, with the rear seats obviously being more than large enough for children. The boot space too is slightly smaller than some of the competition, though that load area is still practical.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
The Alfa is a comfortable car to sit in, which might be a surprise to hear considering the comments made on the car's suspension. The Giulietta has supportive and comfortable seats that will easily deal with long journeys. The car's TCT transmission plays a part in that, being a good match for the engine, and allowing you to forget about one aspect of driving altogether if you wish. Gear changes are smooth and pretty intuitive, with it being a rare situation for the Alfa to be in the wrong gear. Should you wish to take over the running of the cogs though, the TCT transmission responds eagerly. The rest of the controls work well, though without the same refinement as its German and Swedish rivals. Most of these rivals are newer cars though, with the Giulietta's refresh having to work around existing architecture etc as all model spruce-ups do. The infotainment system is probably the clearest indication of the Giulietta's true age, with the screen neither a fancy or as large as much of the competition. Alfa Romeo's UConnect system is standard and much improved with the Giulietta's changes, though it looks as though it has come from Alfa from it's sibling Fiat brand. This is in contrast to the likes of the Audi A3 and Mercedes C-Class, which give the impression the technology has filtered down from more expensive models.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
Alfa scores very highly in this department, a clear focus for the Giulietta range - this model in particular. The Giulietta tested officially emits 99 g/km CO2 - even with an automatic gearbox - and will return 74.3 MPG. In real world driving, the Giulietta performed well in terms of fuel economy, easily averaging low-60's MPG without any effort at all. A careful long-distance run recorded 67.2 MPG, while even giving the Giulietta a bit of a thrashing still brought up 49.5 MPG. Low CO2 emissions put the Alfa in VED Band A, meaning there is no 'road tax' to pay.
As is now the norm in this class, the Alfa comes with engine stop-start technology, and also displays telling you how fuel economy is going etc. What is less common is that Alfa Romeo fits its D.N.A. dynamic select as standard to each car, with 'N' standing for Natural. This tells the gearbox to change up sooner, optimises the engine management system to use less fuel, and reduces the drain from auxiliary systems such as the air conditioning. According to our calculations, the tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 35.
Well equipped across the board, the Giulietta provides all drivers with a leather multi-function steering wheel, five-inch UConnect infotainment system with DAB, USB, and Bluetooth, Alfa D.N.A selector, 16-inch alloys, electric windows, LED lights, and gear-shift paddles on TCT models. The Super specification adds the likes of cruise control, dual zone climate control, and rear parking sensors. The test car was fitted with the upgraded UConnect system at 6.5-inches, while the Visibility Pack - automatic headlights and wipers, condensation sensor, electric folding wing mirrors etc - and Lusso Pack - sports leather seats, 17-inch wheels, and aluminium trim.
The Giulietta isn't the perfect premium hatchback, and there are sportier, more comfortable, or more practical alternatives. However, I would certainly consider the Alfa if I were in the that market, as it provides a good all-round package, all wrapped up neatly in a very stylish design. There is more than enough substance to back up its style, and the Giulietta possesses a character that is important when you look to own a car. Other rivals have left me feeling nothing when handing the keys back, but I wanted to keep hold of the Giulietta despite its imperfections - and that says a lot about what it's like to drive.
Model tested: Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1.6 JTDM-II 120 Super TCT
Body-style: Five-rood premium hatchback
Engine / CO2: 1.6 litre diesel / 99 g/km
Trim grades: Giulietta, Super, Tecnica, Speciale and Veloce
On-road price: Range from £18,450. Price as tested £24,790 (inc. options)
Warranty: Three years / unlimited mileage
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 3.5 Stars