Car buyers come in three different types. The first regards a car as nothing more than a domestic appliance. The second buys a car not just for functional reasons but also as an object of some desire. These people will often buy German or Japanese cars, not because they are better (sometimes they are not) but because conditioning makes such buyers think they are.And the third group? These are the buyers who genuinely understand what is good about a car, who appreciate it for what it is, who can identify with the designers’ and engineers’ intentions. They care less of what others think, and more of their own relationship with the machine. It is for these buyers that an Alfa Romeo should exist. The Italian company is 100 years old this year, and to celebrate they have given us the Giulietta, a stylish replacement for the worthy but ageing 147.
Alfa used the name Giulietta before, between 1954 and 1965 for a three box saloon. The new Giulietta comes only as a five-door hatchback, but like other recent Alfas with rear passenger doors, it disguises them by concealing the handles. The handsome 156 was the first Alfa to do this, and the Giulietta also reprises the way that car’s waistline ridge fades out and reappears half way along the flank. Apart from this, the horizontal tail lights and the way the front grille “shield” is slightly recessed, the Giulietta, from E19,950, looks like a bigger, more grown-up more stylish Alfa Mito. There’s much use of aluminium in the new suspension, including a sophisticated multiple-link system at the back. Stung by much criticism of the Mito’s stodgy, anaesthetised steering, Alfa Romeo has placed the motor for the Giulietta’s electric power steering on the steering rack instead of on the column. This should overcome the snags of excessive resistance to quick movements and the smothering of subtle changes in weighting. Inside, a pair of typically Alfa cowled instruments is set on a dashboard shaped around horizontal, curved lines. It’s maybe a touch over-styled but has the merit of not looking like any other car’s facia. Interior space is as you would expect from a Golf-sized car.
ON THE ROAD
Alfas should be about handling and ride just as much as performance, and the Giulietta’s distant Alfasud ancestor delivered the kind of handling that topped the class for years. But none of the Sud’s successors have got close to it. But this is not what you notice first about the Giulietta’s manners if you’re used to current Alfas. Instead, it’s the ride quality, the wheels enduring ripples with a cushioned pliancy lost when the 33 came along. Better still, it’s right up there with the Golf and Focus in terms of bump absorption.
The Giulietta is very well composed and if it feels less eager to bury its nose into an apex than some, upping the pace soon uncovers a benign, willing, grippy and entertaining chassis that can easily be steered with the throttle in Dynamic.
The steering’s better than many for an electrically assisted set-up too, even if its resistance is less liquid than that of the new Ford C-Max, which shares its innards with the 2011 Focus. Strong brakes complete the pleasing dynamic repertoire, its most serious failing in daily driving being excessive road noise, which spoils the excellent engine and wind noise suppression and is loud enough, on Pirelli Cinturato P7s at least, to slightly spoil the motorway experience. My only criticism of the Guilietta concerns the driving position. I found the pedals too high and there was no space to rest the left foot. Not a problem for short journeys, but it is uncomfortable on long motorway runs. Wonder if this is an issue in the left hand drive cars.
My test car was powered by the 1.6 litre JTD Lusso engine developing 105 bhp and 236 lb/ft of torque. That is sufficient grunt to give a 0-100km sprint time of 11.3 seconds with a quoted top speed of 115mph/185kph. Urban cycle fuel consumption is 51 mpg (5.5 lt/100 km), Extra urban 75 mpg (3.7 lt/100 km) giving a combined cycle average of 64 mpg (4.4 lt/100 km). With emissions of 114gm/km, the Guiletta resides in Band A and the annual tax of E104.
FOR THE VET.
The Guiletta range consists of two petrol and two diesel models, and four different levels of trim. The entry level 1.4 petrol is listed at E19,995 while the top of the range 2.0 JTD Veloce is a cool E31,295. The Alfa has a good boot (and spacesaver) and has space enough for an urban practitioner. For the rural vet, the boot capacity is marginal.
The Giulietta is the best Alfa since the Alfasud and probably the best Alfa todate. It competes in the M1 segment, the most popular and arguably the most competent class of cars on the road. The big beasts of the class include the Focus, Astra and Golf. The Guiletta is right up with this trio, a real sign of progress by the Italian company. A classic case of a car that goes as well as it looks.