From £17,0196
Revised Giulietta boasts an upgraded cabin, a new engine and a tweaked exterior design, but its rivals remain more competent overall

Our Verdict

Alfa Romeo Giulietta

The Alfa Romeo Giulietta has its flaws, but its dynamic capabilities and stylish looks are enough to keep it in contention

18 March 2014

What is it?

A revised version of Alfa Romeo's long-standing Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf and Vauxhall Astra rival.

Besides myriad cosmetic tweaks, including a new grille and alloy wheel designs, the Alfa benefits from a host of interior upgrades - most notably the addition of an all-new 'Uconnect' media system, redesigned seats and different trim panels.

A new 2.0-litre 'JTDm-2' diesel, more powerful and cleaner than the previous 2.0-litre unit, has also joined the Alfa's engine range. It uses new injectors, ones which can fire up to eight times per combustion cycle, resulting in more efficient combustion cycles.

Output from the turbocharged 2.0-litre diesel is rated at 148bhp and up to 280lb ft, some 10bhp and 22lb ft up compared to the older unit, which is sent through the front wheels via a six-speed manual transmission.

Alfa claims 67.3mpg on the combined cycle for this 2.0-litre diesel Giulietta, and an appealing low emissions rating of 110g/km of CO2 - 4.5mpg more and 9g/km less than the outgoing engine.

Performance appears adequate on paper too, with a claimed 0-62mph time of 8.8sec and a top speed of 130mph, marginal improvements of 0.2sec and 3mph compared to the previous Giulietta.

Trim levels have also changed for the 2014 model year, with the new range comprising of 'Progression', 'Distinctive', 'Exclusive' and 'Sportiva Nav'.

We tested an Exclusive variant which comes as standard with dual-zone climate control, cruise control, sports suspension, a 5-inch Uconnect multimedia system with DAB and Bluetooth, USB and aux-in connectivity.

A range of cosmetic upgrades also feature in the Exclusive model, including tinted glass, 17-inch alloys, 'darkened' headlights, aluminium sports pedals and side skirts.

Prices have increased slightly trim-for-trim compared to the previous generation, but Alfa counters this by claiming that the kit levels have increased even more so; for example the Exclusive trim adds £2000 worth of kit for a hike of £920, compared to the Veloce model it supersedes.

What's it like?

A noticeable improvement over the previous model, that's for sure. Alfa's interior tweaks have helped lift the interior ambiance and feel considerably, and it's a lot more interesting to look at than the likes of the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra.

Up front you'll find relatively comfortable seats with plenty of support, lots of space and adequate visibility. The steering wheel adjust for rise and reach, and it's not difficult to find a suitable driving position, but the wheel has contours that may not agree with some. There's no clutch footrest, or clear space alongside the clutch, which could prove tiresome on longer trips - and the brake and accelerator are positioned quite close together.

A modicum of storage spaces - such as a decently sized glove box, stowage tray in the centre arm rest and slender door pockets - will prove useful to many but the lack of a place to put your mobile will frustrate many. The problem is exacerbated further by the positioning of the USB and auxiliary connection ports in front of the gear lever, which means that cables can end up trailing all over the cabin.

Move into the back and you'll find a tolerable amount of room - there's just about seating for three adults but headroom for the outer occupants is limited; a Focus or Golf is more comfortable in the tail.

A large 350-litre boot - some 34 litres bigger than a Focus' - and a space-saver spare-wheel serve to improve the Alfa's usability. The new Alfa Uconnect system media is easy to use too, and quick to respond to inputs.

While the interior is a generally presentable and appealing place to be, it's when you look a little closer that its long-term appeal becomes questionable. There are disappointing finishes in places, including a sharp plastic edge to the lip of the glovebox, while some areas have been left seemingly unfinished - around the steering column shroud, for example, there are roughly-cut fabrics and unfinished plastic edges.

On the move there's little wind noise but a considerable amount of road noise persistently reminds you that you're travelling. The new diesel engine is a smooth affair though, offering up a decent amount of punch until you hit around 3500rpm, after which it tails off.

A swift and slick six-speed manual gearbox make it easy to keep the Alfa surging along, however, and it's also quite content to potter along in higher gears, with its torque permitting for prompt acceleration. It's a comparatively refined diesel engine too, although the stop-start system can be a little sluggish, and its performance doesn't feel at odds with the Alfa's sporting nature. It returned an indicated 50mpg during testing too, which bodes well for long-distance users.

Through corners the Giulietta delivers a precise and stable feel, with plenty of front-end grip, lots of traction and surprisingly little steering corruption from the peak 280lb ft that's sent to the front wheels. The car's ride can admittedly be a little busy, increasingly so on rougher roads, but it never crosses over into becoming outright uncomfortable - and with 'sports' suspension it's not entirely unexpected, either.

Braking performance is strong and easily controlled, and it's pleasing to see a conventional mechanical handbrake in lieu of the increasingly common and sometimes frustrating electronic equivalent.

Alfa's DNA switch - offering 'Dynamic', 'Natural' and 'All weather' modes - does make a notable difference to the way the Giulietta performs, with a sharpening of responses as you move up from All Weather to Dynamic. If you enjoy driving in a spirited fashion, you'll probably put it in Dynamic and leave it be.

Should I buy one?

There is a lot to like about the Alfa Romeo Giulietta. It looks the part, it feels suitably sporting and its 2.0-litre diesel engine delivers a stout blend of performance and economy.

There are faults, such as the occasionally rough ride and poor finish in places, but for those seeking an enjoyable hatchback these issues will most likely fail to noticeably detract from the Alfa's overall appeal.

If it were less expensive than its direct rivals then it would bear further consideration for other buyers - a tradeoff of style and fun over outright substance for a discount, perhaps - but at its current price it's difficult to justify.

For comparison, a well-equipped and similarly performing Seat Leon FR TDI - which is arguably just as sharply styled - would set you back a lesser £21,565, compared to the Alfa's £22,170.

While the likes of the Leon, Golf or Focus would admittedly be not as involving to drive as the Alfa, they would probably prove the more sensible long-term bet thanks to their better finish, interior space and refinement.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta 2.0 JTDm-2 150hp Exclusive

Price £22,170; 0-62mph 8.8sec; Top speed 130mph; Economy 67.3mpg; CO2 110g/km; Kerb weight 1320kg; Engine 4 cyls, 1956cc, turbodiesel; Power 148bhp at 3750rpm; Torque 280lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual

Join the debate

Comments
12

18 March 2014
' A revised version of Alfa Romeo's long-standing Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf and Vauxhall Astra rival.' In a nutshell describes what is wrong with Alfa Romeo. If they designed, made and marketed the marques' models properly it should read , ' Alfa Romeo's long standing Audi A3, Mercedes Benz A Class , Volvo C30 or BMW 1 series rival'

18 March 2014
Hello concinnity. It'll be interesting to see what they do this year - looks like there could be some big changes. At least this round of revisions has started things moving in the right direction, and the 4C's certainly generating the right kind of interest in the brand.

19 March 2014
As nice as it is, it reminds me too much of the Fiat Bravo, which can be brought for considerably less.

19 March 2014
autocar wrote:

...There's no clutch footrest, or clear space alongside the clutch, which could prove tiresome on longer trips - and the brake and accelerator are positioned quite close togethe...

autocar wrote:

...There are disappointing finishes in places, including a sharp plastic edge to the lip of the glovebox, while some areas have been left seemingly unfinished - around the steering column shroud, for example, there are roughly-cut fabrics and unfinished plastic edges...

The Giulietta sounds like a really good hatch in some ways, but why is it that so often Alfa can't seem to get some of the basics right?

I really don't get it! Korean makers like Kai and Hyundai have been in business far shorter than Alfa, and they have got the basics right. Why can't Alfa do the same?

19 March 2014
Why do you mention the new sports seats (the main reason I haven't bought one yet, the seats were lacking side support), Uconnect,etc but not have any pictures to show??

19 March 2014
Hello paul896. Unfortunately Alfa didn't have shots of the new interior (these pictures are of the cars being tested at the event) of the matching car but they will be sorting some out in due course. You can, however, see some of them in our previous road test here: http://www.autocar.co.uk/car-review/alfa-romeo/giulietta/first-drives/2014-alfa-romeo-giulietta-first-drive-review

19 March 2014
have been raised. 1. Alfa Romeo positioning alongside A3, 1-Series, A-Class instead of Focus and Astra. 2. Why hasn't Alfa sorted out the rather petty issues holding back it's offerings despite its immensely richer heritage compared with upstarts like Kia and Hyundai? The latter perhaps answers the former!

19 March 2014
Can imagine it would make for a theatrical hire car, being an Alfa in a foreign country and all. Only realised why you actually see any on the road at all quite recently- the finance packages Alfa offers do seem attractive, especially compared to the more aspirational offerings from Audi,BMW...but Christ it's dull looking, even if it were branded as a Fiat nevermind an Alfa. Shame VW/BMW couldn't take on board Alfa, such a wasted brand.

19 March 2014
So nearly but no cigar ? The price and a sub golf quality interior would not put me off or even the rear accommodation from a car in the class bellow but no place to rest your clutch foot and poorly positioned pedals can really start to grate after a while and it still has awkward looks. Shame.

20 March 2014
Andrew 61 wrote:

So nearly but no cigar ? The price and a sub golf quality interior would not put me off or even the rear accommodation from a car in the class bellow but no place to rest your clutch foot and poorly positioned pedals can really start to grate after a while and it still has awkward looks. Shame.

I wouldn't get too hung up on interior quality, I have one, my wife now has a new Golf and I came to the Alfa from a Volvo V60 and I don't feel I'm stepping down when getting into the Alfa, of those three it's the Alfa I'd rather be in every time. The V60 didn't have a foot rest in the foot well either and the rear accomodation is on par with the V60 too. It's also probably has the best riding/handling combination of any hatchback I've driven for some time and that includes having a Focus Zetec before the Volvo.

And then you need to experience the 1.4 multiair engine, near diesel economy and enough performance to keep pace with any hot hatch out there.

There's not alot wrong with the Giulietta other than ignorance/prejudice from car buyers who simply head to the default marques without sampling what's actually out there first. Along with alot of the motoring press who can't get there heads out of Fords/BMW's backsides and make their decisions based on nothing more than a couple of hours twatting around some back roads.

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