Review: Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1.6 JTDm-2 105bhp Exclusive
Alfa Romeo’s stylish five door hatchback has been spruced up for 2014 with some minor cosmetic surgery, some new colours and alloy wheel designs, and a mild interior update. More equipment has been added to the range and some more efficient engines. The aim is to make the Giulietta more competitive in the hotly contested medium sized hatchback segment.
Though you would be forgiven for thinking that Alfa Romeos have all but disappeared from Irish roads, there is something of an Alfa Romeo revival going on at the moment, with the arrival of the 4C sports car getting petrolheads all in a lather and also some updates to the Alfas with more mainstream appeal – the MiTo city car and the Giulietta hatch. For a car that’s been around since 2010, has Alfa done enough to keep the Giulietta fresh and desirable
You can watch my video review of the Alfa Romeo Giulietta here.
Much of the Giulietta’s charm lies in the way it looks. Alfa’s stylish five door hatchback has some tough competition in this popular segment with the evergreen Volkswagen Golf and the dynamic Ford Focus being the bestsellers. Yet the Giulietta chases them under the carpet in terms of style. The styling is evocative and dramatic all the way from the quirky off set number plate and classic Alfa V-shaped grille at the front, to the sculpted profile and those muscular haunches and distinctive LED rear light clusters at the rear. It’s a seriously classy looking car.
We expect luxury from an Alfa, and inside the Alfa manages to convince with the help of some very tasty tan leather seats fitted to the top spec Exclusive trim model. The seats are new too and are fabulous – very comfortable and supportive. These things matter!
Alfa has upgraded the quality of some of the materials and trims used in the cabin and there is a new steering wheel design. I wouldn’t say that the cabin is the last word in plushness, and you will still find some hard plastics lurking where Alfa thought we would never look (!). Still it manages to come off as classy and posh and the clean, modern design is easy to navigate.
Some of the switchgear, like the chunky temperature and fan control dials are borrowed from the Fiat 500L, but they work well in the Fiat and they work well here too. A touchscreen with Bluetooth and digital radio sits in the centre console and comes standard across the Giulietta range. It’s one of the best systems I’ve used – easy to navigate and pair up the phone to.
There are still a few frustrating things about the cabin. The driving position is a bit odd and it took me a while to get comfortable but there is lots of adjustment in the seat and the steering wheel so it’s just a case of taking the time to settle in. The driver’s armrest, standard on higher trimmed models, is hopeless because you can’t access the handbrake easily when you have it in the down position. Also there is no place to rest your foot when you take it off the clutch pedal. But look, I don’t know anyone who didn’t buy a car because there was nowhere to rest their foot when they took it off the clutch!
Space wise, the Giulietta is not the most spacious hatchback in this class but it is adequate. The rear doors don’t open out exceptionally wide but once in the back it’s really cosy and the classy feel continues with the high shoulder line of the car making it feel nicely private back there.
The boot is 350 litres, not the biggest boot in the class but again still perfectly acceptable, though the high load lip doesn’t make it the most practical. But the rear of the car looks so gorgeous, we can forgive it.
The test car was fitted with the 1.6 litre 105bhp diesel unit. Other engine choices include a new 2.0 litre 150bhp diesel and two turbocharged 1.4 litre petrols, one with 120bhp and the other with 170bhp – a real gem by all accounts. Sound insulation has been improved but there is still some audible engine, road and wind noise coming into the cabin – but it is not unpleasant. The 1.6 litre engine is punchy, refined and economical with an official economy of just over 70mpg, though 60mpg is a bit more realistic for day to day driving over a variety of roads.
The steering is light around town and then weights up when you get out on the open road. The level of feel is enough to make this car enjoyable to drive and matched to tidy handling and brakes that respond well for smooth control of the car, the Giulietta feels more sporty than sedate cruiser. The ride is not overly firm but there is very little body roll and loads of grip so it will please those who like a dollop of fun with their hatchback. Despite a sports suspension and 17 inch wheels on the Exclusive model I was driving, I still found the car comfortable – thought it was a bit jarring over very rough roads.
All models get the Alfa DNA driving selector that alters the steering and throttle response depending on the mode you select – ‘D’ for Dynamic, ‘N’ for Natural (formerly Normal) and ‘A’ for all-weather. There is a notable difference between Natural and Dynamic. In Dynamic mode, you get this little surge of power and the Giulietta turns into a bit of a racer with razor sharp throttle and weightier steering for more precision. You can have a bit of fun with it. But at low speeds, it’s like trying to control an overexcited dog on a lead – the throttle is just too eager! But it’s definitely fun to experiment with it out on the open road.
The 1.6 litre diesel comes with fuel saving stop start as standard and CO2 emissions are just 104g/km so you will pay €190 to tax it per year. Official economy is 70.6mpg.
There are three trim levels, Progression, Distinctive and Exclusive, which is the one we have here. All cars come with electric windows, LED daytime running lights and tail lights, air con, 16” alloy wheels and the aforementioned touchscreen. Go up to Distinctive trim for fog lamps, parking sensors and cruise control. Top spec models in Exclusive trim get 17-inch alloy wheels, new leather/micro-fibre upholstery, auto lights and wipers, electric-folding door mirrors, dark tinted windows, an electro-chromatic rear-view mirror, a rear arm-rest and electric front-seat lumbar support, sports suspension, sports leather steering wheel with red stitching, aluminium sports pedals and kick-plates, darkened headlight clusters, satin-effect mirror covers and side body skirts.
The Giulietta stands out for its style and seductive looks. The seduction continues inside with a classy, well-turned out cabin. Thankfully, the Giulietta does not disappoint behind the wheel either, and those who like a sporting feel will enjoy the tidy handing and that DNA driving selector.
But if we are talking about you spending your money on an Alfa Romeo, we need to talk about reliability. The good news is that the quality has improved in recent years but for extra peace of mind, all Alfa Romeos sold in Ireland come with a five year warranty.
With the petrol range starting at €22,500 and the diesel range starting at €24,500, the Giulietta is not the cheap option. But for those sexy looks, an extra bit of exclusivity and the prestige of the Alfa Romeo badge, the Giulietta is a refreshing alternative in the medium-sized hatchback segment.
Model tested: Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1.6 JTDm-2 105bhp Exclusive
Price: €28,250 (Giulietta range starts at €22,500)
Engine: 1.6 litre four cylinder turbo diesel
0-100km/h: 11.3 seconds
Economy: 70.6mpg (4.0l/100km)
CO2 emissions: 104g/km
Tax band: A3 (€190 per year)