Is it a real Alfa? That’s the big question hanging over the new Giulietta.

For me, the new Mito isn’t, quite. Looks good, but doesn’t drive – and especially steer – as well as the old values led me to expect. However, the new Giulietta looks a better founded, more thorough effort.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta first drive, pictures and videos

Trouble is, as every Alfa enthusiast knows, there have been two previous cars with the Giulietta name of vastly different abilities. The ’55 original was a very advanced four-door saloon, the first Alfa to achieve volume sales, and it went on to spawn a family of sweet-natured sports cars. The second Giulietta was a hard-edged lash-up from 1977 whose main achievement was to show how far Alfa Romeo had fallen in 20 years. It didn’t go anywhere.

Luckily, this latest Giulietta is much, much closer to the first ancestor than the second. It has terrific steering and handling; attributes its chief engineer, Matteo Benedetto, describes as “quick reactions’. It pioneers a load of advanced chassis hardware that will be used to guide the Fiat Group’s future. It also has great performance: a key component is the new 1.4 litre Multiair petrol turbo engine whose extra-efficient breathing promotes old-style GTi performance, with new-style frugal fuel consumption and low CO2 emissions.

Of course, we won’t really know how good the Alfa is until it goes head-to-head on UK roads with the Ford Focus and VW Golf models that are its chief rivals. But you can already argue that it has more ‘special character’ than either of those two, and the omens for its having comparable performance - or better - are very good indeed.