New Alfa Romeo Giulietta 2016 facelift review
Is a new Giulia-inspired look and a raft of equipment upgrades enough to fire the Alfa Romeo Giulietta to the top of the hatchback class?
The facelifted Alfa Romeo Giulietta is fun to drive but lacks the all-round polish of today’s leading family hatchbacks. Improvements to equipment - especially the standard infotainment system - have massaged the value proposition and the 1.6-litre diesel engine offers low running costs. Despite this, shortcomings in interior quality, cabin space and ride comfort will be hard for buyers who aren’t besotted with the Alfa Romeo badge, or the Giulietta’s styling, to ignore.
Alfa Romeo has never had a problem designing a pretty car and the Giulietta hatchback is another in the long catwalk of Alfas at which one look is seldom enough.
Of course, there’s more to creating a great family hatchback than sculpting some aesthetically pleasing metalwork to clothe it in. It’s in some of these other key areas where the Alfa Giulietta has stumbled in the past.
That’s partly why Alfa Romeo has brought the Giulietta in for a facelift. This revised car boasts increased equipment, so all versions have air-conditioning, a leather steering wheel, the D.N.A driving mode selector and the Uconnect Live infotainment system. There are also new upholsteries, and new alloy wheel designs. Then, on top of all that, Alfa couldn’t resist making the Giulietta a bit prettier, just for good measure.
The Giulietta front end now reflects that of the new Alfa Giulia saloon. The cleaner front end with its honeycomb grille and reshaped headlights create a refreshed look that the Giulietta probably didn’t need, but now it’s firmly on the same page as its bigger sister in the fashion stakes.
So it still looks good, but has the Giulietta improved elsewhere? Inside, the addition of the Uconnect system on all models is a welcome move. It takes the form of a responsive five-inch touchscreen with an intuitive menu system and big, clear graphics. DAB radio and Bluetooth connectivity are built in but you need to pay £1,050 or upgrade to Tecnica trim to get sat-nav with voice recognition and the more impressive 6.5-inch screen.
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The Giulietta’s interior design isn’t as eye-catching as its exterior, and while the dash top materials and instrument cluster look good, the quality of the plastics used around the gear lever and on the door inserts is below the class standard.
There was also little a facelift could do to help the Giulietta’s practicality shortcomings. At 4,351mm long and 1,798mm wide it struggles to match top mainstream hatches like the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra for space. Adults in the rear will find headroom and legroom is tight although space in the front is adequate. Rivals like the Audi A3 and Mercedes A-Class are streaks ahead when it comes to interior quality, too.
On the road, things take a turn for the better because the Giulietta has that lust for a corner that you want in a sporty hatchback. It stays flat and displays decent levels of grip as you round the bends, although this comes at the expense of a ride that’s on the firm side. The car hops along over undulations but stops short of becoming harsh.
Generally, the Giulietta feels compact and nimble on a twisty road and would be better still with more precise steering. Even in Dynamic mode the steering doesn’t give the feeling of connection to the road that you get from the suspension.
Our test car came with the 1.6-litre JTDM-2 engine. This entry-level diesel is a little gruff at idle, reasonably refined at speed and has a smooth power delivery. The 118bhp unit matched to Alfa’s TCT auto gearbox delivers a 10.2-second 0-62mph sprint, official economy of 74mpg and emissions below the 100g/km barrier, so there’s little to dislike here.
The twin-clutch transmission shifts smoothly and dabs on the steering wheel paddle shifters will quickly knock it down a few ratios. The standard DNA driving mode selector is less accomplished, with its adjustments to steering, throttle, brakes and the ESC system making little difference to the way the Giulietta drives. At least the chromed switch looks good.