Good news has been very thin on the ground for the Alfisti for what seems like a decade. Sure the stunning little Alfa 4C has been a bright and shining light in a dwindling range as Fiat-owned Alfa’s masters dithered about what to do next, but there’s not been much for the fan to buy after the demise of the lovely 159.
This is a great pity, because when the Giulietta first launched, it was very, very promising. With the recent launch of the Giulia, we thought it worth revisiting the Italian answer to VW’s all-conquering Golf.
The Giulietta Distinctive is second step in a four car range topped by the Quadrifoglio Verde hot hatch. Starting at $33,000 for the six-speed manual, you get dual-zone climate-control, heated and powered front seats, refrigerated glove box, leather trim, eight-speaker stereo with Bluetooth and USB, keyless entry, front and rear parking sensors, cruise control, selectable driving mode, power windows and mirrors, auto headlights and wipers and tyre pressure sensors.
A further $2000 will land you in a twin-clutch automatic. Metallic paint is $500, an upgraded sat-nav called UConnect is $1500 and a sunroof will set you back a further $2000.
There’s a lot of Alfa 4C and 8C in the Giulietta and the style works a lot better than it does on the sad-looking MiTo. There are some lovely shapes in the Giulietta – open the rear doors and look at the shape of the aperture. Very cool and probably very expensive to make.
The Distinctive picks up 16-inch turbine alloys and some very Italian chrome work on the windows. The nose is dominated by that big Alfa shield, with the upward sweep of the shield’s lines continued unto the bonnet. The rear view is pretty good too, with adventurous and distinctively shaped taillights that look great at night.
The inside is solidly built and swathed in surprisingly lovely leather. The Tabac colour of the interior may not be to everyone’s taste, but we grew to like it during our time with us. Most of the materials are really good but the dashboard structure is already starting to look its age and the graphics in the instrument pack were good when it launched but look a but tired now.
There’s nothing of substance wrong, though, and it’s a nice place to be.
Six airbags, ABS, traction and stability control, brake force distribution, brake assist and tyre pressure sensors add up to a five star ANCAP safety rating.
Alfa Giulietta Distinctive comes standard with a five-inch UConnect screen. It’s quite easy to use once you learn the slightly odd interface. The eight speakers give out good clear sound and the sat-nav is quite good, with reasonable detail and easy-to-enter address finder.
ENGINE / TRANSMISSION
Under the stubby bonnet is a 1.4-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder. The Italians really know how to make a small, efficient engine and this one is no exception, with 125 kW and 250 Nm of torque. It will take you to 100 km/h in 7.8 seconds and deliver a claimed 5.7 litres per 100km on the combined cycle.
Driven as Turin expects you to, you’ll see mid-8s.
If an Alfa doesn’t have a good engine, you can forget about it being an Alfa. The 1.4-litre turbo is a good engine. It hands you its impressive torque figure at just 2500rpm, sometimes announced with a chirp from the front wheels, something you’ll have to get used to if you like putting your foot down.
It’s quite an engaging car, more so than the Golf, but ultimately less capable. The six-speed manual is good fun to use and with a short clutch and long-ish throw, delightfully reminiscent of the sort of thing Alfa used to do, but without the negative effects of the old days.
The chassis isn’t as willing as the engine. In this softer, non-QV tune, the front tyres and the road have a slightly fractious relationship. Put your foot down out of a corner and there’s a bit of chirping and squirming. There’s a silver lining to this as it means the electronics aren’t over-interfering, letting the driver get on with the job of keeping things in check at the lower end of the scale.
Front seat passengers can really enjoy their time in the Giulietta, it’s comfortable and airy and quiet. The rear passengers don’t get the greatest deal in small car. The rear legroom is very tight, you’ll have to slot even relatively short people in rather than allow them lounge. If you can get someone over five-foot-six in there, they’ll no appreciate the lack of headroom the diving roofline affords. It’s the only real problem with the car.
SUMMING UP 3.5/5
The Giulietta was a bit of a hit at launch, hitting the ground running when it came to the competition. The problem is, it hasn’t kept up, not helped by VW’s irritating habit of producing excellent updates like Golf VII.
On its own, though, you’ve got a car that stands out, looks good and has that emotional connection with a car company that is easy to love and getting easier by the day. In other words, it’s the most interesting car in its segment. It’s a good car, so if you can live with pixelly graphics and something that needs a bit more attention than the average car when you’re behind the wheel, this is the car for you.
LIKES: Cool looks, lovely interior, good engine
DISLIKES: A bit slow, front grip a little lacking, falling behind