In-depth reviews

Alfa Romeo Giulietta review - Engines, performance and drive

‘DNA Switch’ features ill-judged drive modes, and the ride is compromised for UK roads

The Alfa Romeo Giulietta has a blend of comfort and performance that's genuinely effective, and it's at home on the motorway, uneven city streets and winding country roads. Noise is well controlled in the cabin and the car corners like a hot hatch, resisting body roll well. 

The Giulietta gets what Alfa calls its DNA 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 isn’t supple enough to soak up many of the worst bumps on UK roads, and together with questionable cabin ergonomics it means the Giulietta isn’t the most comfortable car to live with. 

Engines

Twin-clutch (TCT) models get the option of paddle shifters mounted behind the steering wheel for manual gear changes if you want a sportier drive. While this was available on older 168bhp petrol and 173bhp diesel engines, the 118bhp diesel is the only one offered with an auto now. It’s a decent gearbox, shifting smoothly when cruising and quick to drop a few ratios if prompted to do so by the paddles but it’s up against some stiff competition from other twin-clutch autos on the market. 

If you want a relatively quick diesel Giulietta, then your only choice is to search the used market for the 173bhp diesel. With lots of low-down torque on offer, it manages 0-62mph in 7.8 seconds. The more popular 1.6-litre 118bhp unit takes 10.2s to do the sprint or 10s if you stick with the manual gearbox. Either way it feels reasonably lively without making much noise. 

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 it's keen to rev. 

For fans of the hot hatch there is the Veloce, 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 quite as snappy when driving quickly as those in the Veloce's main rivals, nor is it as smooth to shift when pootling through town. 

Next Steps

Which Is Best

Cheapest

  • Name
    1.6 JTDM-2 120 Sprint 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £22,374

Most Economical

  • Name
    1.6 JTDM-2 120 Sprint 5dr TCT
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £23,574

Fastest

  • Name
    1.6 JTDM-2 120 Sprint 5dr TCT
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £23,574

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