If you’re piqued by the sporty looking Italian-market test car pictured, it’s worth noting that its spec approximates the UK-market Speciale trim that can be paired with mid-range Giulietta engines such as the 168bhp 1.4 Multiair but not the 1.6 diesel. Highlights include 18in alloys, sports suspension, Brembos, styling accents inside and out and seats in leather and Alcantara.
All Giuliettas also now feature smartphone integration for online services, accessed via a central touchscreen, and all TCT-equipped cars get paddles on the leather steering wheel. The sporty interior trim adds character to a familiar cabin that’s nicely finished, solidly assembled and ergonomically respectable, but not quite Volkswagen Golf sensible.
But you may be more interested in the new hardware combination. The 1.6 JTDm TCT’s figures stack up very well. On standard-fit 16in alloys it’s good for 74.3mpg and 99g/km of CO2, matching the manual version’s impressive stats.
It’s 0.2sec slower to 62mph, at 10.2sec, but the engine feels more lively than that, pulling robustly between 2000rpm and 4000rpm without much turbo lag. While peak torque is a middling 207lb ft in the ‘DNA’ drive selector’s Normal mode, it rises to a more convincing 236lb ft in Dynamic, which also adds weight to the steering and energises the gearbox’s shift patterns.
The engine idles fairly gently and remains smooth as revs rise, gaining significantly in volume over 3000rpm. But it’s not an unpleasant noise as small diesels go, and low-rev, high-speed cruising comes quietly and without nasty on-throttle drone.
It finds a happy ally in a TCT gearbox that doesn’t upshift too early in Normal mode, in which it efficiently blurs its way through ratios, while it swaps gears more snappily in Dynamic. Paddle-borne shift requests are answered quickly, and there’s none of the overly sensitive throttle response some beefier engines suffer in DNA’s peppiest setting.
The respectable pace all this produces makes for swift progress on country roads, but there’s little engagement to be found from the steering. Turn-in comes quickly enough, and there’s good steering weight through fast corners, but there’s quite a bit of body roll and the helm feels slightly wooden in Dynamic mode. And while the brake-based front differential raises the limit of grip, the chassis feels inert rather than playful.
That will suit many fleet drivers just fine, however, as will the pliant ride that only comes unstuck over transverse ridges, although there is notable road noise, even in the base example we tried with 16in wheels.