It’s six years since Alfa Romeo first launched the 147 replacement, the Giulietta. Two facelifts later, the latest which is the subject of this review, and the Giulietta is a car that still can hold interest because a) it’s an Alfa Romeo, a brand with mythical status for a lot of petrolheads, and b) it’s still drop dead gorgeous, which is never a bad thing as you’re getting older.
There’s nothing quite like one of these on the road: the long bonnet, plunging v-shaped grille, offset number plate, and a curvy behind signed off with a flamboyant rear light signature. Changes for 2016 include a honeycomb mesh grille at the front like the one on the new Giulia saloon, but the other updates are so subtle that they’re not even worth talking about. Up until the launch of the new Renault Megane a few weeks ago you could say it was the best looking hatchback on the market. Now I’m not so sure, but the Alfa badge still counts for something and keeps it a step ahead of its more mundane brethren.
It’s not such a positive spin however inside the Giulietta. The actual cabin layout is not bad at all and the uConnect touchscreen might be small but it still ticks the infotainment box, so important in new cars these days. There are swathes of gun metal grey dash finishes and Alcantara trimmed seats so it feels almost posh. The quality of the materials at the tops of the door panels and down around the centre console has been improved since I last drove the Giulietta in 2014, but the overall fit and finish falls short of premium.
Another weakness is that the driving position is not immediately comfortable, requiring a fair bit of adjustment and still feeling odd for a good while thereafter until about Day 3 when you’ve adjusted to the Alfa way of doing things.
But with pricing starting at €22,950 for petrols and €25,400 for diesels, the Giulietta is in the reach of more mainstream hatchback buyers than say the Audi A3, BMW 1-Series and Mercedes-Benz A-Class, so certainly on lower specced models you could overlook these foibles.
Alfa has used this facelift to shake up the trim levels and you can now choose from Giulietta, Super, Super Sport and Super Lux. Standard equipment includes alloy wheels, Bluetooth, air con, electric windows and mirrors, while Super adds front fog lights, cruise control, dual zone climate control, rear parking sensors and some updated styling inside and out. The Super Sport model on test had 17” alloys, sportier bumpers, side skirts, a carbon look dashboard, Alcantara trimmed seats, aluminium pedals, rear privacy glass and a sports suspension. Super Lux adds a leather interior and a larger uConnect system with navigation.
Cabin space is adequate for a five seat hatchback – not the best but not the worst either. The boot comes in at 330 litres so it’s now on the small side for this class falling about 40/50 litres short of the Opel Astra and Volkswagen Golf, but still larger than the Ford Focus.
The engine range kicks off with a 1.4-litre (120hp) petrol engine while 150hp and 170hp variants are also available. There is also a 1.6-litre (120hp) diesel and a 2.0-litre diesel (150 or 175hp). For the first time the automatic gearbox can be specced with the 1.6-litre diesel.
The Giulietta has quite a sporty character on the road. There’s a good deal of steering feel and it goes where you want it to without feeling too loose through bends. The suspension has a firm edge to it so there is the odd thud over potholes, ramps and other obstacles, but it’s definitely not uncomfortable.
All Giuliettas come as standard with the Alfa DNA driving mode selector, with three different settings (D for dynamic, N for natural and A for all weather). It alters the throttle response, traction control and steering weight depending on the mode selected. Dynamic mode is the one we’re most interested in but it’s only really useful in certain situations, for example, a boost in throttle response when overtaking. In town or when pulling off, the throttle is just too sensitive in this mode to make smooth progress without doing gigantic kangaroo jumps forward!
But the Giulietta is still fun to drive in the normal setting and the 2.0-litre (150bhp) diesel feels really quick. The engine can be heard at idle and stopping and starting around town but it’s not too bad at all and this is a mostly refined car for cruising in. It also returns fuel economy in real world driving not too far off the claimed economy of 56mpg.
The Alfa Romeo Giulietta is a bit of a mixed bag. Whether it’s good value or not depends on the way you look at it. The engines are strong and frugal, it’s a nice car to drive and the Alfa badge and dramatic styling are very seductive. The cabin quality and few ergonomic idiosyncrasies are probably the weakest points for the Giulietta. But the entry level pricing is actually very competitive so if you can live with a few pitfalls you’ll probably still feel like a winner behind the wheel of the Giulietta.
Model Tested: Alfa Romeo Giulietta 2.0JTD 150hp Super Sport
Price: €30,500 (Range starts at €22,950)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo diesel
0-100km/h: 8.8 seconds
CO2 Emissions: 110g/km
Motor Tax: €190 per year