Alfa Romeo Giulietta review
Distinctive styling and strong petrol engines set the Alfa Romeo Giulietta apart from the pack
The Alfa Romeo Giulietta is the Italian brand's answer to the Volkswagen Golf, so it's a sensible family hatchback given an injection of style and some neat interior design touches. It's available as a five-door and the rear door handles are hidden in the window frames to give the appeareance of a coupe. The Giulietta marks another big step forwards in terms of interior build quality for the brand, too. Each of the four trim levels are well equipped, and the MultiAir turbocharged petrol engines are both powerful and efficient. It's far from perfect, though, with a compromised driving position and dull dynamics.
Our choice: Giulietta 1.4 TB MultiAir 170 Lusso 5dr
The Giulietta has few competitors in the style stakes. 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 door handles help it stand out. All versions get Alfa's D.N.A drive select system as standard, and only the entry-level Turismo does without alloy wheels. It's just as attractive inside, with a curved dash that sweeps away from the driver, and a row of retro rocker switches for the electric windows. Build quality feels pleasingly robust, but the Giulietta's interior can't compete with the class best.
There are three different engines to choose from: one petrol and two diesels. The 1.6-litre diesel is the slowest in the range, taking 11.3 seconds to go from 0-62mph. The 2.0-litre diesel is offered with either 138bhp or 168bhp and is more lively but can be quite noisy, lacking the refinement and raspy character of the smoother 1.4-litre petrol turbo. The off-set pedals make it difficult to get comfortable behind the wheel, though, and despite having a reasonable amount of grip, the steering offers almost no feedback to the driver. The 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.
The Alfa Romeo Giulietta is one of the safest cars in its class, scoring a full five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash tests – it was also awarded an impressive 97 per cent for adult protection. All models get six airbags and ESP as standard. This model was meant to mark the end of the brand's patchy reliability record, and so far no major problems have been reported. Alfa Romeo finished 23rd overall in the 2012 Driver Power survey, which shows progress. That said, the fit and finish of some of the interior components raises concerns that it won't be as reliable as a Volkswagen Golf or Honda Civic.
Interior space wasn't Alfa's highest priority whwn it was designing the Giulietta, and it shows. With an class average 350 litres of boot space with the rear seats in place, the boot is adequate. But despite the five-door layout, there's a surprising lack of passenger space on the rear bench and leg room is tight. The small back window restricts visibility when parking, while the high-loading lip can catch on larger objects being lifted into the boot. It's a similar story up front: there aren't many cubbies for loose items and the pedals are offset from the driver.
Every engine available offers a good balance of performance and economy. The most efficient is the 1.6-litre diesel, which returns 64.2mpg and an emissions figure of 114g/km. The turbocharged petrols both come with stop-start systems as standard. The lower-powered version - which does without Alfa's efficient MultiAir valve technology - is the least economical, managing just 44.1mpg and 147g/km, which means that company car drivers, especially, would be best to avoid it. Mid-range Lusso versions offer the best balance of equipment, with Bluetooth, dual-zone climate control and cruise control all included, while top-spec Veloce models get sporty extras like side sills, aluminium kick plates and sports suspension.