In order to ensure maximum appeal, Alfa has wisely taken the decision to offer up a variety of diesel and petrol engines for the Giulietta.
The entry-level 1.4 puts a good case for itself forward and it gives the Giulietta a fair amount of poke. The 1.4-litre Multiair petrol turbo is impressive, with the seemingly impossible combination of strong power and torque, lively performance and extremely frugal Euro 5 emissions standards.
If you’re looking for a focused hot-hatch then you’ll be mildly disappointed by the Cloverleaf. If you’re looking for a useful, rapid family hatch that feels a bit special and also has the power and poise to be entertaining as required then this could well be the answer to your car-buying prayers.
Alfas are all about go, and the more powerful version of the Alfa Romeo Giulietta’s 2.0 JTDm engine doesn’t disappoint, with 236lb ft of torque from 1500rpm (and 258lb ft at 1750rpm in overboost) producing instant, solid shove almost regardless of engine speed. Performance is effortless over roads of all kinds, infusing this Giulietta with just the kind of zest that you’d expect from an Alfa.
The lower powered 2.0 JTDm unit sacrifices quite a large helping of power and torque for modest economy savings, although company car drivers will like the lower running costs. The 1.6 JTDm engine is perhaps the most appealing in the range, delivering perky performance and appealing running costs.
On all versions, triggering the dynamics via the DNA lever sharpens throttle response to such an extent that you must be delicate not to provoke surging jerks, and there’s often a driveline thump when you release the pedal. Though less crude than the Mito’s DNA management, the result is a system best left in Normal if you value fluent progress, even if it makes the engine feel slightly strangled.
When it’s warm, the gearchange is smoothly satisfying, but from cold both first and second resist selection, a rare flaw these days and one that occasionally surfaces at other times. The stop-start, which kills the engine just before the car halts (good), causes a bit too much tremor on shutdown and start-up. The high-compression, transversely arranged engine is the partial cause (the power unit rocks more), but other diesel front-drivers stop and start less obtrusively.
The Giulietta is also available with a dual-clutch transmission on the more powerful petrol and diesel models. Called TCT, it paired very well with the 168bhp diesel, providing slick and smooth changes. Unfortunately, it was less successful with the equivalent MultiAir petrol, making it feel sluggish. In both installations, our initial reservations about the stop-start system remained.