From £17,0196
This Giulietta charms with its tuned 1.4-litre engine, but suffers from poor interior choices and numb steering feel

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

Richard Bremner Autocar
3 November 2014

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. 

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.

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

3 November 2014
My wife has a 120Tb, which is great, but I've never been that impressed with the 170Ma engine, so this might hit the spot.

Couple of questions about the article though; the dials picture clearly shows a diesel gauge, but no mention is made of a diesel version.

Also, the article talks of a "J2 torsen differential". Is this something new, or is it a misprint of the Q2 electronic diff?
As far as I know, no current Alfa has a Torsen diff.

I urge anyone to ignore the naysayers that prefer a "clinically competent" car, a Giulietta is a genuinely great car with a surprising dose of brio.

3 November 2014
What is it about Alfas? You can't quite bring yourself to say that it's rubbish. Yes it's pretty, but the engine is "strained" at the limit, the steering is "too heavy" and "numb", refinement is "fair to good" the cabin is made of "low grade materials" in parts and the rear room is "limited". I think I'd rather have a "clinically competent" rival.

 

3 November 2014
I'm willing to bet you haven't driven a Giulietta.

I have recently bought one, but only after extensively test driving the competition (1Series, Focus, Golf, A3, V40), so obviously, to me, it's the best car in its class.. for my needs, and to my tastes. But really it should be on anyone's shopping list if they're looking for something a bit better than a mainstream hatchback. Pretty much the conclusion of this review, really.

I can list out several shortcomings of each of those other cars I drove, but that doesn't make them rubbish.. it just makes them not as good as an Alfa Giulietta. To me.

If you stick to the path of least resistance, however, you will probably end up driving an Audi or VW. That's certainly not the best choice for everyone, but it's a choice that few will question. The clinical feel to these cars is because they're designed as a kind of "Least Objectionable Vehicle" - something that won't offend any potential buyer, but won't excite them either. That isn't the same thing as "Best", because "Best" is always a personal choice.

3 November 2014
@KrisW No I haven't driven one, but my point was the tone of the article. The car is obviously flawed hence only 3 stars. Yet Autocar desperately want to praise it anyway and imply criticism of it's rivals for daring to be better. Why is being good at what you do "clinical" whereas being not very good is "character".

 

3 November 2014
Leslie Brook wrote:

@KrisW No I haven't driven one, but my point was the tone of the article. The car is obviously flawed hence only 3 stars. Yet Autocar desperately want to praise it anyway and imply criticism of it's rivals for daring to be better. Why is being good at what you do "clinical" whereas being not very good is "character".

Your post would make perfect sense, if the same car with the engine from the 4C had not been entirely panned by Autocar, if you read that article, your ll see that your comments are entirely wrong.

7 November 2014
It is funny to see people jumping on this but without really reading the messages.

We have Richard Bremner ( a great journalist) who overall writes a good article and then makes a couple of silly points at the end which leaves you thinking ' so the car's cr@£?' He gives it 3 stars - which at a glance also says average.

We have Leslie - who reads this and who basically says "so why does Bremner says it worth trying if he's just implied that other cars are better? " Hence the comment .."what is it about Alfas?"

Perfectly reasonable in my mind.

Having driven the Mito and having driven Polos, Golfs, Corsas etc .. let me give you my unbiased opinion in simple terms as to why I would buy a Mito.

1. Great engine
2. Nice Gearbox - it does not hunt and struggle like the one in the Avensis
3. Good fuel economy
4. Peppy performance
5. Nice interior - yes you can talk about the pretend carbon fibre - its called plastic just like ever other dashboard - but it has a design style. It has a nice feel - does not have cheap plasticky feel of the Polo, Avensis and Corsa. (don't even talk about Renault, Peugeot and Citroen, Hyundai and Kia)
6. Looks - it does not look like it came out of roughly the same cookie cutter as ever other car not he road
7. They are reliable - judging by the cars that my friends have had they are great.

Al in all I reckon it is the equal of any french or german car ( consider Ford and Vauxhall german even though they are yanks) but with one difference. The Mito's residual value might be lower.

So its all about informed consent in a way.
You see...t's not a car for me - too small - but If I had to buy a small car, then I would ignore the depreciation, would ignore the french, germans and japanese cars and maybe stick it up against the Fiat 500 as an alternative.

For me it would be quite easy - why would I want to have a Polo, Fiesta, Renault F, Citroen, Avensis etc on my drive when a square terracotta flower pot would look better - at least get something distinctive.

3 November 2014
the pictures are of the 175bhp 2.0jtdm-2 automatic (!), which we clearly aren't getting in the UK.

Can Mr B confirm if he has actually driven a Sprint, or is just extrapolating some views based on other Giulietta's driven?

And really, the steering is too heavy in D mode??

3 November 2014
We DO get the Giulietta 2.0 JTDM2 TCT (auto) in the UK, macaroni, but youre right about the diff - no current Alfas have Torsion diffs anymore (the last was the GT). Interesting reading this review and comparing it to the review of the Cloverleaf a few months back, its like theyre talking about toally different cars.

3 November 2014
I know we get that engine, but in Sprint trim?
Also, that was definitely an auto, not a TCT box.

Leslie, flawed as in too heavy steering and a bit of road noise?
If any ePAS system is too heavy, then the driver must have muscular issues, and as for feel, well I have my 205gti for that.

If that price is correct, and I suspect it isn't, then this looks seriously good value to me.

3 November 2014
macaroni wrote:

I know we get that engine, but in Sprint trim?
Also, that was definitely an auto, not a TCT box.

Leslie, flawed as in too heavy steering and a bit of road noise?
If any ePAS system is too heavy, then the driver must have muscular issues, and as for feel, well I have my 205gti for that.

If that price is correct, and I suspect it isn't, then this looks seriously good value to me.

Ah, didnt realise you meant in sprint trim level, as for transmission, AFIK the only auto available is the TCT.

On the electric steering giving little feedback, this is not an Alfa problem, its an electric steering giving little feedback problem - most electric PAS systems offer little feedback, its a criticism often levied at electric steering on many cars, by many magazines.

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