Alfa Romeo Giulietta review
The Alfa Romeo Giulietta is one of the prettiest hatchbacks around. It’s fun to drive too but quality and practicality issues let it down
On its looks alone the Alfa Romeo Giulietta appears unbeatable, but you don’t need to scratch far beneath that stylish surface to uncover some serious compromises.
Those pretty lines and an energetic driving experience backed up particularly well by the turbo petrol engines count in the Giulietta’s favour. It’s hindered, however, by occasionally average ride quality and – more crucially for a car with such obvious sporting intentions - poorly judged drive mode settings for the D.N.A system that fail to satisfy the enthusiastic driver.
The overall picture for the Giulietta isn’t helped by a cramped interior with poor quality plastics in places and an awkward driving position. The reflections of owners we’ve surveyed over reliability and build quality don’t inspire much confidence – although residual values are holding up well.
The Alfa Romeo Giulietta has been for sale at Alfa dealers for nearly 10 years now. It has gone through a number of configurations in that time, and if you're a compact hatchback buyer who wants some sport to go with your practical family car, it could be for you.
However, as it's been on sale for so long, it's not a cutting-edge machine - it wasn't really a class leader when it was brand-new, either. It's a car that has relied on its looks to paper over the shortcomings it has in other areas, and really you'd need to be a diehard Alfa fan to consider one over a number of rivals that outclass it in nearly every area.
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Used car tests
Many rivals have gone through wholesale generation changes during the Giulietta's time on sale. The Ford Focus is on to the Mk4 version, the Vauxhall Astra the Mk7, and the car that's closest to the Alfa's philosophy, the SEAT Leon, is also newer, but that's considered an older car in the class these days, having been launched in 2012. Another compact hatchback with a bit of a sporty edge is the Mazda 3, but while the Mk2 Mazda 3 launched in the same year as the Giulietta (2010), the Mazda is now on to its Mk4 variant.
Back to the Giulietta, the line-up in 2019 comprises standard, Sport and Super trims, while the Veloce hot hatchback (formerly Cloverleaf) was offered up until 2018. That car came with a 1.75-litre turbo four-cylinder engine with a healthy 237bhp, although it never really had the handling to compete with cutting edge hot hatchback rivals.
The range now uses either a 1.4 TB 120hp petrol or a 1.6 JTDM-2 120hp diesel. These both come with 118bhp, while the Giulietta has a conventional front-engine, front-wheel-drive layout. Both engines come with a 6-speed manual gearbox as standard, while the diesel can be had with a 6-speed TCT auto, but only in Super trim. The standard car only comes with the 1.4 petrol engine.
Whichever engine you choose, they're not as efficient as newer units found in rivals, although the petrol motor has a sporty character that's fitting for the Giulietta. All cars feature Alfa's DNA switch, which adjusts the car's performance, ranging from sporty to efficient driving depending on which option you choose, although all three settings demand compromises of one sort or another.
Inside, the Alfa looks smart, but it's not the most spacious compact hatchback. There's just one body style, a five-door hatchback, leaving you little choice if you want more practicality or an even sportier looking model with an Alfa badge.
In this review
- 1Verdict - currently readingThe Alfa Romeo Giulietta is one of the prettiest hatchbacks around. It’s fun to drive too but quality and practicality issues let it down
- 2Engines, performance and drive‘DNA Switch’ features ill-judged drive modes, and the ride is compromised for UK roads
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsDiesel and petrol models offer good efficiency, and depreciation isn’t too bad either
- 4Interior, design and technologyThe Giulietta’s sexy exterior styling is only slightly marred by less than class-leading interior quality
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceA cramped interior and awkward driving position are the price you pay for that swoopy styling
- 6Reliability and SafetyOwners we asked aren’t enthused by the Giulietta’s build quality or reliability, but safety is well covered