Alfa Romeo Giulietta review: Pretty, fun to drive and an Alfa badge

Alfa Romeo put the Giulietta under the knife earlier this year, updating the hatch's already rather pretty face in the process.

MOTORING Road Test 093367

A new honeycomb grille features prominently on the car's nose, while piano black bumper inserts and revised headlamps have also been introduced. Under the hood, the Italian manufacturer's 118bhp 1.6-litre JTDM-2 diesel engine can now be paired with its six-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission.

However, while our test car featured this engine, we had to make do with the standard six-speed manual - which is by no means a complaint. The Giulietta has always been quite the looker, and Alfa's most recent updates only serve to maintain this.

The aforementioned new grille design and black inserts on the bumper has been introduced by Alfa to emphasise the car's close ties to its new Giulia saloon - which is arguably one of the best-looking cars to go on sale this year.

Unfortunately though, that attractive face hides an interior that is largely dull and now starting to feel quite tired as well. However, the touchscreen Uconnect infotainment system fitted as standard across the Giulietta range is one of the cabin's few redeeming features.

However, while the Giulietta's interior may be a bit of a let-down when you compare it to the car's exterior, at the end of the day you will still be driving around in an Alfa Romeo. The Alfa badge has always adorned something that is a bit special, and on the Giulietta this is no exception.

Even though the Giulietta might look like a three-door coupe thanks to hidden rear door handles - a classic Alfa styling cue - this is in-fact a five-door car. However, you shouldn't let that fool you into thinking there are bags of space in the back.

That dramatic roofline does cut into rear headroom somewhat, and legroom isn't as abundant as you think it might be from a family hatch. As a result, adults might find the Giulietta a slightly uncomfortable car to sit in on longer journeys - although children should be more than catered for. Isofix mounting points also help to accommodate child booster seats.

When it comes to boot space, the Giulietta is rather middle-of-the-road. With 350-litres worth of capacity on offer, the Alfa comes with more storage rooms than a Ford Focus' 316-litre boot can offer, but less than a Volkswagen Golf's 380-litre boot. However, if you fold the rear seats down you will increase the Giulietta's capacity to 1,045-litres.

This is where the Alfa starts to make sense. The 1.6-litre, 118bhp diesel engine on our test car felt like it had a fair bit more tug than its numbers suggested and through the corners the Alfa's nicely weighted steering made the car a fun one to pilot. It doesn't roll too badly either, and Alfa's D.N.A drive mode switch (which lets you choose between Dynamic, Natural and All-Weather driving modes) is fun to play with, if a little gimmicky.

Take the Giulietta away from twisting country roads and plonk it on a motorway and you'll find it copes relatively well. The cabin is fairly insulated from wind and road noise, and the car doesn't feel too nervous or twitchy at higher speeds.

However, there are a couple of flies in the Alfa Romeo's ointment. The pedals are really quite close together and the seats aren't hugely comfortable - making for a slightly awkward driving position. The biggest issue, though, is the car's steering wheel. Thanks to its large, chunky size, a significant portion of the speedometer is blocked from view - specifically, the part between 30mph and 80mph. This made trying to catch a glimpse of your speed an annoying process at best and a dangerous one at worst.

Opt for one of Alfa Romeo's JTDM02 turbodiesel engines and the Giulietta will be a fairly inexpensive car to run. Even the most powerful 2.0-litre, 173bhp diesel car still returns a claimed fuel consumption figure of 65.7mpg on the combined cycle.

The 118bhp, 1.6-litre diesel engine we had in our test car carries a claimed combined fuel economy figure of 74.2mpg and returns 99 grams of CO2 per kilometre, meaning that it is exempt from vehicle excise duty.

All Giuliettas come with a fairly good level of standard equipment too, which helps justify the slightly expensive £18,700 price tag for the most basic car. Standard kit on the entry-level Giulietta includes a 16-inch alloys, a Uconnect infotainment system with a five-inch touchscreen, DAB radio, Bluetooth and smartphone connectivity and LIVE services for internet access. LIVE services are smartphone enabled and carry features such as music streaming from Deezer and TuneIn, Facebook check-in and Twitter connectivity.

The Giulietta will appeal to anyone who is in the market for a family hatch that is both good looking and slightly left-field. Even though this car does have its many foibles, it is still entirely likeable and rather fun to drive. With the right engine, it's pretty economical too.

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