Alfa Romeo Giulietta review
Distinctive styling and strong petrol engines set the Alfa Romeo Giulietta apart from the pack
The Giulietta is as stylish as we've come to expect from Alfa, and is available in four models, each comes well equipped and there are four efficient engines to choose from. A 1.4-litre and a 1.75-litre unit make up the petrol range, then there are 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre JTDM diesels.
The interior mirrors the stylish exterior design, with a striking balance between easy-to-use simplicity and eye-catching elements. However, the build quality isn’t up to the standards of the Golf or Focus and nor is the Giulietta as practical as its main competitors.
You’ll have to pay more for the Giulietta than you would for a comparative Volkswagen Golf or Ford Focus, but all models come fitted with air-conditioning and all-round electric windows as standard. The DNA drive system is also available in all cars.
The base-model Turismo is very basic with the otherwise standard alloy wheels swapped out for cheap-looking plastic wheel trims. Lusso and Veloce models are much more luxurious, with the mid-range Lusso offering the best combination of standard equipment, coming with dual-zone climate control, cruise control and Alfa's Blue&Me Bluetooth and MP3 connectivity system but options like these and textured leather seats and sat-nav touchscreen are fairly pricey nonetheless.
Our choice: Giulietta 2.0 JTDm Multijet 150 5dr
The Alfa Romeo Giulietta was facelifted in 2014 and refreshed with a tweaked front bumper, a chromed grille and matt grey fog light surrounds. Different alloy wheels, more colour choices and higher quality interior trim were also added.
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.
The interior meanwhile, is rather reserved by comparison. Sturdier seat bolsters, better-quality leather on the steering wheel and anti-scratch paint finishes improved things at the time of the last facelift but the Giulietta just isn’t up to VW group levels of quality.
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 come and is available with a semi-automatic gearbox with optional paddle controls mounted behind the steering wheel. It does get a bit loud at times but produces only 110g/km of CO2.
The 1.4 litre TB 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. 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 aroun, 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 merely pootling through town.
The Giulietta is available with a D.N.A switch, which alters the throttle response and steering weight between three driving modes - dynamic, normal and all-weather - is 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 'normal' driving mode.
The suspension on the Alfa Romeo Giulietta is soft enough to soak up most bumps on UK roads, though the pedals are positioned a little too close together and there's no space to rest your left foot. 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 is difficult to use while on the move. Rear passengers may have an uncomfortable time thanks to the reduced headroom due to the coupe-like styling.
Alfa Romeo actually climbed six places in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, showing improvement in its reliability record, slowly shedding its long-held reputation. There have been no major recalls or reported problems for the Giulietta either, but while the materials used are suitably high quality, some of the fit and finish is a bit shoddy, with the odd rough and cheap panel.
The Giulietta's safety credentials, however, 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 test, so it's as safe as the other cars in the sector.
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 loading heavy or bulky items 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.
But despite the five-door layout, there's a surprising lack of passenger space on the rear seat and legroom is tight. Matters don’t improve in the front, either, with barely enough room for the pedals, let alone occupants, which results in an uncomfortable driving position. 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 by the higher spec models which feature parking sensors, and the sporting dials can be hard to read.
The Giulietta's engine range is reasonably economical but also offers decent performance. The 1.6-litre JTDM diesel is the cheapest option, returning a healthy 64.2mpg in combined fuel economy and emitting 114g/km of CO2.
The pick of the range is the new 2.0-litre Multijet diesel, which delivers either 148bhp or 168bhp 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 67.2mpg. Both turbocharged diesels are fitted with fuel-saving stop-start technology as standard.
There are also a choice of two turbocharged petrol engines, the 1.4 litre TB unit as found in the Mito, returning 44.1mpg in combined economy and emitting 147g/km of CO2 and the top-of-the-range Quadrifoligio Verde, with a 1.75 litre TBi that returns 37mpg .
The Giulietta comes with a standard three-year/unlimited mileage warranty.