Alfa Romeo Giulietta review
Attractive Italian design and punchy, turbocharged petrol engines are the highlights of the Alfa Romeo Giulietta range
Only available as a five-door, the Giulietta is as striking as you’d expect an Alfa Romeo to be, featuring neat design touches such as the firm’s famous triangular grille, hidden rear door handles and LED taillights.
The interior mirrors the Giulietta’s exterior, with a heavy focus placed on style. There’s a good balance between simplicity and head-turning design elements that add extra appeal, meaning the cabin is easy to use day-to-day, but still feels special.
However, as with many Alfa Romeo models, build quality is lacking and doesn’t match up to the standards set by the current Volkswagen Golf. It’s also not as well laid out as some of its more modern rivals, with limited space in the rear making the Giulietta feel cramped. Having first gone on sale back in 2010, the cabin is now starting to show its age.
There are six different trim levels to choose from starting with the entry-level Progressions model. Next up is the sporty Sprint specification, with the walk up to the top of the range QV Line model (excluding the Quadrifoglio Verde hot hatchback) completed by the Distinctive, Business Edition and Exclusive versions.
There are five power units on offer in the Giulietta range: two petrol and three diesel. Both of the petrols are 1.4 turbos, offering either 138bhp or 167bhp. The higher-powered version is also available with Alfa’s TCT twin-clutch automatic transmission.
Depending on trim level, Alfa offers a 105bhp 1.6 JTDm-2 turbodiesel, or a choice of 2.0-litre units, including a 148bhp engine and a more powerful 172bhp unit that comes with a six-speed TCT gearbox only.
With prices starting from £18,240 you’ll have to pay more for a Giulietta than many of its rivals, but all models do get air conditioning, all-round electric windows, DAB radio and Bluetooth as standard.
Our choice: Giulietta 2.0 JTDm-2 150 Business Edition
Engines, performance and drive
The Giulietta's blend of comfort and performance is genuinely effective, with the Alfa proving to be at home on the motorway, uneven city streets and winding country roads.
Twin-clutch models also get the option of paddleshifters mounted behind the steering wheel for manual gear changes if you want a sportier drive. This is only available on the most powerful petrol and diesel engines – the latter does get a bit loud at times but with 116g/km CO2 emissions is relatively efficient.
It’s also relatively quick, with lots of low-down torque on offer. The 2.0 JTDm diesel manual model will accelerate from 0-62mph in 8.8 seconds and is our pick of the range.
As for the petrol line-up, the 1.4 litre turbocharged petrol works better in Alfa’s smaller Mito as it can struggle with the comparative bulk of the Giulietta. It remains a charismatic unit though, and the more powerful 170bhp 1.4 feels punchy and keen to rev.
For fans of the hot hatch there is the Quadfoligio Verde, (Cloverleaf to non-Italian speakers), with the same engine found in the 4C sports car. Producing 237bhp, it has a Golf GTI bothering top speed of 149mph.
This makes it one of the fruitiest-sounding hot hatchbacks around, but it's far from the most entertaining to drive. The dual-clutch gearbox isn't as snappy when driving quickly as the QV's main rival, nor is it as smooth to shift when pootling through town.
The Giulietta is available with what Alfa calls its D.N.A switch. This alters the throttle response and steering weight between three driving modes: Dynamic, Natural and All-weather. Unfortunately, it feels like a gimmick and fails to provide a satisfying compromise between aggression and comfort, with too much weight in Dynamic mode and slack throttle response in the Natural and All-weather settings.
The suspension on the Alfa Romeo Giulietta is soft enough to soak up most bumps on UK roads, and together with questionable cabin ergonomics it means the Giulietta isn’t the most comfortable car to live with. The pedals are positioned a little too close together and there's no space to rest your left foot, while the steering wheel is also too far away, resulting in a less than perfect driving position.
Visibility out of the back is poor because of the tiny rear window and thick Golf-like C pillars. Also, the dashboard layout is muddled and can be difficult to use while on the move – plus the optional sat-nav unit is small and some times harfd to read. Rear passengers may have an uncomfortable time thanks to the reduced headroom due to the coupe-like styling and swooping roofline.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
The Giulietta's engine range is reasonably economical but also offers decent performance. The 1.6-litre diesel is the cheapest option, returning a healthy 70.6mpg combined and emitting 104g/km of CO2, meaning £20 a year road tax.
The pick of the range is the larger 2.0-litre turbodiesel, which delivers either 148bhp or 173bhp and a class-leading amount of torque from as low as 1,750rpm. The 2.0-litre also emits 110g/km of CO2, exceeding the older 1.6 litre diesel unit, with a claimed 67.3mpg. Both turbocharged diesels are fitted with fuel-saving stop-start technology as standard.
The 1.4-litre unit as found in the Mito returns 44.1mpg for combined economy and emits 148g/km of CO2, while the top-of-the-range Quadrifoligio Verde with its 1.75-litre TBi that returns 37mpg.
The Giulietta comes with a standard three-year, unlimited mileage warranty.
Interior, design and technology
The Alfa Romeo Giulietta was facelifted in 2014, refreshed with a tweaked front bumper, a chrome grille and matt grey fog light surrounds. Different alloy wheels, extra colour choices and a higher quality interior also helped improve the car’s appeal.
The Giulietta has very few competitors in the style stakes in this market. Rivals like the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf are far more conservative, and well finished details like the eye-catching front and rear LED lights, and hidden rear door handles help it stand out.
However, the interior is much more reserved than the exterior design. Alfa has addressed some of the old car’s flaws, with sturdier seat bolsters, better-quality leather on the steering wheel and anti-scratch paint finishes added, but the Giulietta just isn’t up to VW group levels of quality.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
Interior space wasn't Alfa's highest priority when it was designing the Giulietta, and it shows. Alfa’s are built for style, not practicality.
You only get 350 litres of boot space, plus a high load lip that makes putting heavy or bulky items in the luggage bay pretty difficult. Even if you fold down the standard-fit 60:40 split-folding back seats, the boot doesn’t expand that much and space is generally poor.
Despite the five-door layout there's a surprising lack of passenger space in the rear and legroom is tight. Matters don’t improve in the front, either, with a cramped feeling cabin. There's also a tiny storage compartment in the central armrest and an average-size glove compartment.
The poor rear view makes parking problematic, though this can be helped on higher spec models, which feature parking sensors. The stylised writing on the sporting dials can also be hard to read at a glance.
Reliability and Safety
Alfa Romeo recorded an average performance in our Driver Power survey last year, ranking in 21st position, just two slots behind VW. It seems as though the Italian brand’s reputation for questionable reliability is still alive and well, however, as Alfa finished fourth from bottom in our reliability results.
Still, there have been no major recalls or reported problems for the Giulietta, and while there are some high-quality materials used in the cabin, some of the fit and finish is a bit shoddy, with the odd rough and cheap panel.
The Giulietta's safety credentials are top notch. It secured the maximum five-star rating and an impressive 97 per cent for adult occupancy in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, so it's as safe as the other cars in the sector.