What is it?
This is an extra model to the recently freshened Giulietta range, featuring a new version of the 1.4-litre MultiAir petrol turbo engine with 148bhp.
It slots into the sizeable gap between the existing 118bhp 1.4 and the 170bhp 1.4 MultiAir, and is called Sprint in a nod to the 1954 launch of the car bearing the same name.
Although the original was an exquisitely pretty coupé, it was the first of a whole family of Giuliettas that transformed Alfa Romeo from a small-scale, high-end, specialist car-maker to what today we would call a premium manufacturer.
The new Sprint is vastly less significant than the first, but it does feature this new(ish) engine, essentially a remapped version of the current 168hp 1.4-litre unit.
Detail changes specific to the Sprint include anthracite door mirrors and door handles, some rather sexy alloys - especially in burnished grey - a diffuser-equipped rear bumper, sill extensions, privacy glass and some badging.
Inside there’s faux carbonfibre trim – absurdly, in a soft-feel material – Alcantara seats and a sports steering wheel. Not much visual difference, then, but the new 148bhp engine is a more than worthwhile addition.
What's it like?
As with the best Alfas, this engine is a bit of a gem. It’s smooth, likes to rev, is fairly lively and issues a subtle background noise that’s genuinely redolent of Giuliettas of the past.
It doesn’t rev that high, 6500rpm being the faintly strained limit, and there’s a distinct power-step at 2200rpm when the turbo pulls harder - but despite this, the MultiAir is rarely short of useful pull.
Couple this to a decently accurate gearchange courtesy of the 6-speed manual transmission, and you have a civilised powertrain that encourages you to make good use of it.
The Giulietta’s suspension is quietly impressive, too. Alfa claims to have made no changes since launch, and there’s none specific to the Sprint, but this car rides with agreeably commotion-free suppleness, only the occasional sharp-edged bumps causing muffled clunks. And this was on the optional 18-inch rims rather than the standard 17-inch units.
The chassis also delivers decently keen turn-in, plenty of grip and good on-the-limit behavior, the combination of finely tuned ESP and a standard-fit, Q2 electronic differential tightening the car’s line through hard-charged, tight twists without intrusive interventions. It’s far from a riot to drive, but it’s satisfyingly capable.
The steering is less fulfilling. It’s too heavy when the Alfa’s DNA switch is shifted to Dynamic, usefully enlivening the throttle, but because the modes aren’t individually selectable, you can’t have what Alfa calls ‘natural’ steering without a dulled accelerator. Of the two modes we prefer natural, the steering scoring for its weight and accuracy, if not for its numbed road feel.