Alfa Romeo is launching the new 2010 Giulietta to replace its 147 in the heartland mid-sized hatch. So the new Alfa Giulietta faces up to some pretty competent machinery, such as the VW Golf, Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra. What’s going on? I thought Alfas were meant to look great and be terrible to drive. Let’s hope this one drives better than it looks...
We assume you’re talking about the Giulietta's less than beautiful face on this new C-segment fighter. Granted, it’s bland and formless after the chiselled muscularity of the old 147, but we’ve got modern pedestrian crash legislation to thank for that. The Giulietta's snout is a grower anyway and the rest of the shape makes up for it. The chunky hind quarters mean you need to move up from the basic 16in rims but the rear three-quarter view is swoopingly fantastic to these eyes.The new 2010 Giulietta looks much bigger than the old 147
It is, but that’s because Alfa has replaced the 147 with two cars: the smaller three-door Mito and the five-door-only Giulietta.
The big hatch is fractionally bigger than a Golf with a generous 350-litre boot and a back seat that doesn’t quite offer best in class accommodation (the squab is too low and kneeroom only average) but is at least competitive.So what’s underneath the new Giulietta? A Fiat Bravo chassis? Hardly going to battle for top honours with that arsenal!
That’s why Alfa left it in the parts bin, instead developing an all-new lightweight steel platform that will underpin the next wave of Alfa Romeos – plus the next Fiat Bravo. Using high-strength steel means the finished car weighs 1365kg, little more than the smaller 147 and much less than Vauxhall’s porky Astra. It bodes well...But is the Giulietta any good?
Oh yes. For a start the Giullietta rides with a suppleness that’s been sorely lacking in recent Alfas, even on our optioned-out test car with its sportier dampers and 17in wheels. It steers crisply too thanks to a new fully electric twin pinion steering rack whose motor is mounted away from the steering column to minimise artificial sensations through the rim.
With just 2.2 turns between the stops it’s fast but never nervous around the straight ahead and with a realistic build-up of weight as the cornering speeds rise. And they really can rise: the Q2 electronic differential standard on every single model provides a staggering amount of traction, even on rain-drenched tarmac and the body control on our sport-equipped car was good.Sounds like the new Alfa Giulietta deserves a decent engine to make the most of it. What’s under the bonnet?
There are five engines at launch, all turbocharged and featuring direct injection. The bottom rung is a 1.4-litre with 118bhp that does 62mph in less than 10sec and achieves 44mpg. But add Fiat’s brilliant Multiair hydraulically operated valvetrain system and power climbs to 168bhp, the 0-62mph sprint drops to 7.8sec, fuel consumption improves by 5mpg and CO2 falls by 15g/km. This is an impressive motor but it’s been tuned to work hard in the mid range and doesn’t take kindly to you trying to introduce needle to red zone.
If you need more speed there’s the 232bhp 1750 TB, a Golf GTI rival that’s good for 62mph in 6.8sec and 150mph flat out. Or if 50mpg isn’t good enough there are a couple of diesels: a 104bhp 1.6 or 168bhp 2.0 JTDM common-rail diesels, Alfa claiming that the gap between the two isn’t as great as the numbers suggest. All are powered by a six-speed manual gearbox but there’s a dual-clutch option for most engines too. And every unit bar the 1750 gets start-stop as standard.Bit flaky inside though I’ll bet!
Have you driven an Alfa recently? I’m guessing not because while they’re often disappointing to drive, there are rarely letdowns when it comes to fit and finish these days. Perhaps the Giulietta isn’t quite up there with the Golf, but it’s not far off. There’s chunky soft-touch material on the dash top and doors; clear, hooded dials; and rubberised toggle switches instead of boring old pushbuttons. This is a place in which you’d be happy to spend a lot of time.
Gripes? The metal-look but really plastic gearknob feels cheap, uncomfortable and slippery; there’s not enough space in the cabin to stash mobile phones wallets and MP3 players; the front seats need more lateral support and the back seats, while competitive on space, are short on under-thigh support. But the front seat comfort, the range of driving positions available and the boot are a match for the Volkswagen’s.
It leaves the Golf behind for kit too. Climate control, six airbags, the Q2 diff and the DNA selector are standard across the range which starts at around £17k with the brilliant Multiair driven here costing more like £19k.Verdict
No more excuses? None needed. The Giulietta is the first Alfa Romeo in a long time that actually drives better than it looks. Of course being an Alfa it’s beaten in some areas by less interesting rivals.
But the Giulietta is fun to drive, stylish and cleverly engineered – exactly the car Alfa needs. And if the success of the far less accomplished Mito is anything to go by, it’s going to be a smash. Place a bet for this to become the European Car of the Year 2011.