This Giulietta charms with its tuned 1.4-litre engine, but suffers from poor interior choices and numb steering feel

What is it?

This is an extra model to the recently freshened Alfa Romeo 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 Alfa Romeo 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. 

Refinement is fair to good - coarse surfaces fire road noise into the cabin, but wind noise is contained and the engine’s growl calms at a cruise.

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Should I buy one?

The ‘should I buy’ question usually prompts a familiar answer when it to comes to Alfas - which is that if you fancy something slightly different from the ubiquitous mainstream, a car with a bit of character, then it’s worth serious thought if you don’t mind living with a few flaws and a thinner dealer network. 

That broadly holds true here. Except that this 148bhp Sprint is almost certainly the sweet spot of the range. 

It provides a fine balance of abilities, is reasonably well priced and has just enough character to counterbalance the low-grade materials in parts of the cabin and the slightly limited rear room. 

It’s not the best in a class of car increasingly populated by clinically competent models, but it has enough verve - just - that this fact may be worth overlooking.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint 1.4 MultiAir

Price £20,490; 0-62mph 8.2 sec; Top speed 130mph; Economy 49.6mpg; CO2 131g/km; Kerb weight 1290kg; Engine 4 cyls, 1368cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 148bhp at 5500rpm; Torque 184lb ft at 2500rpm; Gearbox 6-speed manual

Add a comment…
Boulle 13 November 2014

This is just a horrible

This is just a horrible looking car to me, I think people only say it looks pretty because it has an Alfa badge but if it was any other manufacturer they'd say it has dumpy styling with an owl face. This is just a big Fiat, not an Alfa. Let's hope the Alfa reboot finally takes off. The Alfas of the late 90's to late 00's were stunningly beautiful (and underrated) machines - this isn't.
Carmad3 6 November 2014

Alfa Romeo

Nice looking car but not one to buy with your own money. They depreciate faster than the Russian Rouble and breakdown with sickening regularity.
amarts 7 November 2014

It shows that it is hard to change perception......

Carmad3's comments were probably correct in the 80s and 90s but there are few cars today that are unreliable and hardly any that 'break down with sickening regularity'.

If you look at Warrant Direct's data then Alfa while not in the top - is still rated in the good level as are most cars...it actually scores much higher than Land Rover, Porsche & Bentley. Is it now time to say "Land Rover, Porsche & Bentley break down with sickening regularity"? In fact just look at Audi which only scores marginally better than Alfa...and to which i can testify - my Allroad was probably the most unreliable car I ever had, plagued by fuelling and suspension issues.

If you have a look at Parker's depreciation guide you'll see that the Giulietta has a decent depreciation rate and compares favourable with a number of cars. In fact just to destroy the myth about some marques..VW, Renault and Citroen have over 30% on some models and the Focus took a hit when Ford started dropping prices ......

KrisW 4 November 2014

@Leslie, three stars

I think you've got it the wrong way around. The review is positive, because the car is good, but there's always been a gap between what the text says and what the headline score is put down as.

Elsewhere, Autocar still include the Giulietta in their top 5 Premium hatches (i3, A3, V40, 1-Series, Giulietta, if you care), with, at 3.5 out of 5, the same score as the 1 Series.