Alfa Romeo Giulietta Review

New hatchback entrant to the Middle East brings passion with a punch

By Shahzad Sheikh

Alfa Romeo Giulietta UAE launch drive

You have prejudices. I’ll prove it.

You’re looking at these pictures right now and you’re thinking – ‘what a gorgeous car, but it’s an Alfa, so there’s no point buying it. It’ll be flimsy. It’ll break down. The automatic gearboxes are rubbish. And a weedy 1.4-litre engine? You kidding? My donkey is quicker.’

Okay perhaps you’re not thinking the last bit about the mule. But you get the gist. Well these are all preconceptions, and some of them could even have been valid – ten years ago. But Alfa’s asking for a clean-slate fresh start in the region and it intends to squash your discriminations. Well most of them anyway.

[Read our exclusive interview with Jerome Monce of Fiat-Chrysler from Turin, about how Alfa will make a better job of it this time in the region.]

Alfa Romeo Giulietta UAE launch drive

Styling, interior and space

First things first though. The looks. Yeah it really is pretty, right? Great proportions, curvy lines, sweet details and there’s some great play with the light – especially during the softer dawn or dusk period.

How about inside then? Still appealing, if more conventional. Simple, effective and mostly easy to comprehend controls, although perhaps the pop-up screen on the top of the dashboard is not quite as intuitive to operate – and we seemed to struggle to get the digital boost gauges and g-meters to display.

Seating position wasn’t too bad either, the typical Italian bugbear of a long-armed, short-legged driving style all but absent – well I’ve got long legs and I was perfectly comfortable. Although forget sitting behind me though, the seat encroaches into the rear legroom leaving space only for kids. For regular adults it’s fine, but taller folk might still find headroom a little challenging.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta UAE launch drive

Engine and gearbox

Now about that engine. Yes it’s only 1368cc, and yes it’s obviously a four-cylinder. But the 1.4 MultiAir Turbocharged unit produces 170bhp at 5,500rpm (my old 1988 E30 BMW 325i used to produced 170bhp from a 2.5-litre straight six!). And peak torque is 184lb ft at an amazingly accessible 2500rpm.

With a kerb weight of just 1310kg, that provides a 0-100kph acceleration time of 7.7seconds and a top speed of 218kph – verified by an esteemed colleague! And yet combined fuel consumption is just 5.2L/100km.

And then there’s the all new double-clutch six-speed autobox (dubbed TCT for Twin Clutch Transmission) which can be driven as a full auto, or using the stick-shift, or paddles where fitted, for manual control. It’s a far cry from the clunky automated manuals that Alfa has persisted with in the past.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta UAE launch drive

It’s also a lighter, more efficient dry clutch system which has been extensively tested in hot-weather conditions and the only time it was found to have the potential of overheating was when the car was held on the accelerator on an uphill incline. Not to worry though, because the Giuliette has hill-hold assist, so you can just hold it on the brakes and move over to the accelerator when you’re ready to go.

A further trick up its sleeve is the DNA system which offers three modes, Dynamic, Neutral and All-Weather, which affects throttle response, stability systems, steering effort and gearchange characteristics.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta UAE launch drive

On the move

Right, okay, it’s got plenty of up-to-date mechanical goodness then. But you’re not wavering from your conviction that this thing must be slower than an aimless tortoise on a hot day with a predisposed predilection for despondency.

I’m comforted by the familiar feel of slightly mushy pedals from the Alfa, but even that should not be mistaken as some kind of allergy to energetic momentum. There is perhaps a momentary pause as the Turbo arrives to the party, and then the hatch just shoves forward like someone’s just batted it to the boundary.

Obviously you shouldn’t go Porsche-baiting in this car, but the acceleration time is six-tenths quicker than a Golf 1.4 TSI, and only one second slower than a GTI. In the real world, it frankly feels nearly as quick.

Hit 2500rpm and the torque thumps in, though there’s not much point in redlining it. Keep it on the boil using the stick shift, whacking it up and down through the gears, or better still, opt for the Sportiva pack that includes paddleshifts.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta UAE launch drive

And when you’re on it, definitely take over the gear-changing duties for yourself, as you’ll really benefit from the better control without suffering the hesitation and jerky changes of old, though it will override some of your more aggressive commands. Left in full auto around town though it is perfectly acceptable.

Then there’s the grip and handling. Understeer is minimal thanks to a torque transfer system that sends more go to the outside wheel on cornering and the handling is incredibly faithful and precise, so much so that it gives you the confidence to push harder and go faster than you’re ever likely to have been in a 1.4-litre hatchback.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta UAE launch drive

Switch over from the 16-inch wheels to the optional 18-inch Alfa Cloverleaf-style wheels and the ride definitely gets more jittery and harder, but still remains comfortable whilst you get even more grip, precision and stability with far less tyre squeal. Frankly though, the basis chassis is so good, that it might be worth keeping the smaller wheels for a better ride, without losing too much in dynamic ability.

Most importantly of all it’s fun, driveable, and remarkably potent. Twice we ran it hard up the hill from Kalba on the East Coast up to the tunnel on the top of the mountain road. This tortuous stretch can sometimes leave even some sportscars breathless, but the Giulietta never once felt slow, underpowered or out of its depth, in fact it seemed to relish the run. Equally, despite the long-travel feel, the bite from the brakes is very positive and reassuring.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta UAE launch drive

Verdict

Before we conclude, and because we’ve been going on about how quick and entertaining this car is, let’s just tackle concerns about its strength – stringent EuroNCAP crash safety tests found it to be the safest hatchback ever tested by them, it is claimed.

And as for reliability and durability, here’s the most surprising fact; traditionally Alfa used values plummet the moment you drive it away from a showroom – and that was true all over the world. According to Eurotax however, after 12 months the new Giulietta retained 66.9% of its value in Spain and 68.% in Italy – which is probably not surprising considering its home territory.

On the other hand the normally remorseless-on-Italian metal UK market has had a significant change of heart with the retaining of an astonishing 77.5% of the new Alfa’s value. That’s not to say that will be replicated here, there’s a long trek for it to raise its image and perception amongst buyers in our region – but it all starts here and now.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta UAE launch drive

Okay maybe you’re not hatchback sort of buyer, in which case you could either wait till they decide whether or not to bring the Dodge Dart here, or instead try a V6 version of the Dodge Charger (one of our very favourite saloons) – well Fiat and Chrysler is one group now, after all.

But if you’re in the market for a hatchback and don’t want a want something from the cheaper, Korean end of the market, and the Golf is too obvious – and let’s face it, a tad dull – then the Giulietta is the way to go.
Just imagine this:
‘So what do you drive?’
‘I have an Alfa Romeo Giulietta’ you reply haughtily.

It’s officially the coolest hatchback you can buy. Definitely worth the attention of enthusiasts looking to downsize with style.

Specs
Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1.4 Turbo MultiAir
How much?
Giulietta 1.4 Turbo Multiair 170hp Distinctive TCT – AED101,400 ($27,600)
Giulietta 1.4 Turbo Multair 170hp Exclusive TCT – AED116,900 ($31,900)
Engine: 1.4-litre four-cylinder, 170bhp @ 5500rpm, 184lb ft @ 2500rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel Economy: 5.2L/100km
Performance: 0-100kph 7.7 seconds, Top speed 218kph
Weight: 1310kg

Let us know what you think of the new Giulietta below

 

One response to “Alfa Romeo Giulietta Review”

  1. Todd says:

    Sorry, don’t like it’s ‘face’ – the eyes are too big and busy. The 156 was gorgeous… but this one? Also, yet another manufacturer thinks that we all want manumatics in the GCC… (but you tease us with the press photo of the manual). Arghh!

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