From £17,0197
Petrol-powered facelifted Giulietta comes with a responsive engine and sharp styling, but it is hampered by a slow transmission and high price

What is it?

The facelifted version of Alfa Romeo's Audi A3 Sportback and BMW 1-series-rivalling Giulietta hatchback, in petrol-powered form.

We found plenty to like about the facelifted model when we first saw it at the Frankfurt motor show towards the end of last year. While visual changes might be small – encompassing new alloy wheels, a revised grille and updated headlights – the big talking point was the addition of a new JDTm turbodiesel engine. 

While the new diesel delivers an interesting blend of torque and economy, this 170bhp 1.4-litre MultiAir option remains the highest-powered petrol engine in the range. It's coupled to Alfa's dual-clutch automatic transmission and was joined in our test car by steering column-mounted paddle shifters which, dissapointingly, cost an extra £260. This engine is also expected to take the majority of sales, with Alfa citing a current sales split of 58 per cent in favour of the petrol.

In terms of looks the Alfa is as striking as ever. Its front-end styling is focused around the large central grille, while the circular headlights give the car an impish charm.

Inside, Alfa has lifted the overall quality of the cabin with new materials and comfortable sports seats. Our test car came in top-spec Sportiva Nav trim, which comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, sports suspension, front parking sensors and painted brake calipers on the outside, while the cabin gets leather and Alcantara trim, a leather steering wheel, a stop-start system and Alfa's new Uconnect 6.5-inch infotainment system with navigation.

This variant's list price is £25,785, but options including metallic paint, an upgraded sound system and the aforementioned steering-column mounted paddles pushed the total price of our car to £27,375.

What's it like?

An improvement over the old model, to be sure. The overall fit and finish of the cabin has come on in leaps and bounds, but there are still a few too many hard plastics for our liking. The seats are comfortable and supportive, and while the new leather sports steering wheel is an improvement, its contours won't suit all drivers. The Uconnect infotainment system works well in practice, but it looks out of place in the Giulietta.

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Elsewhere in the cabin, the comfortable centre armrest of our car provided good storage space, but it doesn't make up for a lack of storage elsewhere. Indeed, some fixtures, such as the auxiliary and USB audio jack, feel too far out of reach. Other instruments, like the cruise control stalk, are completely obscured by the steering wheel from taller drivers.

There's plenty of space in the front, though, and provided you're not crossing continents, adults should fare relatively well on the rear bench. Road noise is an issue at speed, and something we expect would become obtrusive over longer journeys.

To the business end of this car, then, and the good news is that this 1.4-litre engine feels sporty and engaging to drive. It's a little loud, particularly under load, but for the most part it's responsive, with a large surge of torque upwards of 2500rpm. We wouldn't favour Alfa's TCT dual-clutch automatic over a manual transmission, because it's sometimes slow to respond even with the driving mode switch to Dynamic. The column-mounted paddles make short work of manual changes, but they don't feel like a premium option.

That said, in Dynamic mode the Giulietta feels like the sporting hatchback Alfa promised. The throttle response is decent and it feels fast. As we noted in our first drive of the diesel model, keen drivers will probably stick with Dynamic mode for most journeys, although the car's Natural mode does come with notably better fuel economy. Alfa reckons the car can acheive 55.4mpg on a combined cycle, coupled with CO2 emissions of 119g/km.

Through corners the Alfa remains stable even at high speed. There's also a pleasing level of feedback through the steering wheel, and the brakes respond well.

Should I buy one?

Even though the prospect of owning an Alfa Romeo might hold appeal for some, the Giulietta's downfall comes with its cost. At £25,785, this Sportiva Nav model is priced in the same territory as premium rivals from Audi and BMW, and those models offer a better fit and finish inside, although admittedly in some cases without the added driver engagement of the Alfa.

Fans of the brand will seldom care about cabin quality, however, and those opting for a Giulietta will find it an engaging, enjoyable drive with good everyday practicality and great looks. Our advice would be to shy away from the TCT transmission, though, and opt for the manual version instead.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1.4 TB MultiAir TCT Sportiva Nav

Price £25,785 0-62mph 7.6sec Top speed 135mph Economy 55.4mpg (combined) CO2 119g/km Kerb weight 1310kg Engine 4 cyls in-line, 1368cc, turbocharged, petrol Power 170bhp at 5500rpm Torque 184lb ft at 2500rpm Gearbox 6-spd dual-clutch automatic

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Soren Lorenson 5 June 2014

I love Alfa's but...

I cannot get over the looks of this thing. The front looks great and the cabin is nice but the side and rear look pretty much like a Fiat hatchback (funny that). It's just a bit squat and dumpy.

I owned a 156 for a number of years which was totally reliably and a classic design. This is not a classic design. I wish Alfa would build another car I would like to own.

kendwilcox47 5 June 2014

Stop Gap.

For me this car is ok as a stop gap car,the cost is so mad it hurts.but can
we please have a new car with a new look.
macaroni 5 June 2014

OK

I stand corrected, said the man in orthopedic shoes.

Shame on Autocar, get your spec sheets updated!

Motormouths 5 June 2014

The Audi A3 1.8T has 180PS.

The Audi A3 1.8T has 180PS. The previous model had the 160PS unit.

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