Andy Goodwin road tests and reviews the new, 2014, facelifted Alfa Romeo Giulietta and finds it’s just as charming as ever.
The Alfa Romeo Giulietta has had a mid-life facelift, but like the Golf it competes with, the changes are so slight even current owners will need to strain their eyes to spot them. The interior has also had a revamp, with better materials and a new infotainment system, while the popular 2.0 litre diesel gets an upgrade for improved performance and economy. Pricing isn’t official yet, but a Sportiva with the new diesel should cost around £25,000, placing it in contention with the Golf and premium hatchbacks like the Audi A3, BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A-Class.
“A water gauge marked ‘Acqua’ looks so much more exciting, at least to these eyes.”The Giulietta is arguably the prettiest family hatchback, with the strongest sense of style. So, while its minor facelift could be seen as a bit lazy, this is still a great looking car. Really study it and you’ll find a revised grille and headlamps, while three new paint colours (Moonlight Pearl, Anodizzato Blue and Bronze) and alloy wheel designs are available.
New trim adorns the seats, dashboard and doors, with shiny bits finished in a scratch-proof paint to make it harder wearing. We’re fans of the interior, it feels special somehow, with attractive dials often labelled in Italian, because a water gauge marked ‘Acqua’ looks so much more exciting, at least to these eyes.
Did we mention the slinky LED rear lights? OK, you don’t really want to focus on practicality with an Alfa, and there is some form over function here. The rear seats – accessed by hidden rear door handles – aren’t particularly spacious, with less knee and head room than you’ll find in a Golf. The boot is also down a bit on the competition, with 350 litres playing between 360-380 litres in the 1 Series and Golf, as well as quite a high and narrow loading lip. It’s also a bit stingy that rear parking sensors are only included in the top Exclusive trim level, particularly as rear visibility is fairly limited.
Performance & handling
There’s a fair bit of choice, with 1.4-litre petrol engines of 105, 120 and 170bhp as well as the 1.75-litre, 235bhp engine found in the Cloverleaf hot hatch. Diesel offerings include a 1.6-litre with 105bhp and 2.0 litre with 150 or 170bhp. We tested the 150bhp diesel which is popular with British buyers and found it offered decent performance, making it a good all-rounder, reaching 62mph from rest in 8.8 seconds.
Taut suspension and quick steering is designed to appeal to driving enthusiasts, but the ride still soaks up bumps pretty well. A Q2 differential is fitted as standard, sending power to the outside front wheel if understeer is detected. The Giulietta stays flat in corners, and feels agile, with far better steering and body control than its smaller sibling, the MiTo.
“The Giulietta is more fun to drive than basic Golf, and rides better than the A-Class.”The Giulietta is more fun to drive than basic versions of the Golf, and rides better than the A-Class, but purists will still love the 1 Series for its rear-wheel drive set-up. If you are interested in the Cloverleaf, it might be worth holding on, because rumour has it the tweaked all-aluminium version of its engine developed for the Alfa 4C sports car, could be making an appearance in the Giulietta.
Economy & environment
All versions of the Giulietta are fitted with stop and start technology and have low missions and fuel consumption, which make them affordable to run. There’s nothing class-leading though; the 150bhp diesel emits 110g/km of CO2, while the equally powered Golf emits 106g/km and the BlueMotion version emits 85g/km of CO2. The greenest Giulietta is the 104g/km 1.6-litre diesel, which can return 70.6mpg.
Equipment & value
The biggest change is the addition of a Uconnect infotainment system, with either a 5 or 6.5-inch touch-screen. DAB digital radio will be standard with Sportiv models in the UK, with the stereo and media connections being controlled from the central screen. Sat-nav will be optional, and the system also features Bluetooth with SMS text-to-speech technology and a one-step voice entry for inputting an address. The Harman-made 6.5-inch system in our test car was clear and easy to use.
The Giulietta scored five stars in Euro NCAP crash testing, with a particularly impressive 97 per cent score for adult occupants. It’s fitted with six airbags, ESP, three-point seatbelts with double pretensioners and anti-whiplash seats.
The Giulietta is an attractive hatchback, which in typical Alfa fashion manages to be desirable despite losing out to some of its rivals when you weigh up their comparative specs. The Golf is the car you’d buy with your head for its ruthless efficiency and rock-solid resale values, while the BMW 1 Series appeals to the driving enthusiasts Alfa wants to win over. The 1 Series has rear-wheel drive and the availability of serious performance if your wallet can stretch to a 125d or even an M 135i. But for some, the 1 Series will always be an ugly duckling, and we wouldn’t blame those buyers if they were won over by the charms of the Giulietta.
Model tested: Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sportiv
Engine: 2.0-litre JDTM-2
Acceleration: 0-62 in 8.8 seconds
Top speed: 130mph
Emissions: 110g/km CO2
Price: £25,000 (est)