Alfas should be about handling and ride just as much as performance, and the Alfa Romeo Giulietta’s distant Alfasud ancestor delivered the kind of handling that topped the class for years. But none of the Sud’s successors have got close to it. The Giulietta, however, promises to change all that with its new platform and suspension hardware.
This is backed up with plenty of electronic hardware – including the electronic Q2 differential, which emulates the mechanical version by braking individual wheels – and Vehicle Dynamic Control, Alfa’s take on ESP. This system cannot be turned off, instead providing All-weather, Normal and Dynamic programmes that switch throttle maps, alter steering effort and modify the thresholds at which the VDC intervenes to contain a slide.
But this is not what you notice first about the Giulietta’s manners if you’re used to current Alfas. Instead, it’s the ride quality, the wheels enduring ripples with a cushioned pliancy lost when the 33 came along. Better still, it’s right up there with the Golf and Focus in terms of bump absorption.
The Giulietta is very well composed and if it feels less eager to bury its nose into an apex than some, upping the pace soon uncovers a benign, willing, grippy and entertaining chassis that can easily be steered with the throttle in Dynamic.
The steering’s better than many for an electrically assisted set-up too, even if its resistance is less liquid than that of the new Ford Focus. It firms up in Dynamic, but feels more sensitive, at moderate speeds, in Normal.
Strong brakes complete the pleasing dynamic repertoire. The Cloverleaf isn’t the sharp, focused hot hatch we were expecting, but provides rapid progress with a degree of comfort we’ve not been used to from recent hot Alfas.
As with performance, the best compromise in ride and handling within the Giulietta range is the 168bhp MultiAir version. Reducing the weight over the front axle gives the petrol car an advantage on turn-in over the diesel whilst maintaining its good levels of damping control.