FALLING IN LOVE WITH ALFA ROMEO'S GIULIETTA
IT has been far too many years since I tested an Alfa Romeo and was able to look back and think `Wow, that is some car.’
But that was my reaction after climbing out the all-new Giulietta 1750; this car is absolutely amazing, a complete triumph and I am delighted to be able to say that about an Alfa.
Built to take on the Ford Focus/VW Golf etc, the Giulietta is the first Alfa to use brand new underpinnings called the Compact Chassis (which can be scaled up or down? - for use elsewhere in the Fiat/Alfa/Chrysler family) and it is just heroic. This is the foundation for a truly great car and easily the best thing to wear the Alfa badge in many a year.
Let’s start on the outside. I really don’t think these pictures do justice to the styling and to my eyes the car looks a lot better in the metal. There is homage to earlier Alfas in the front end detailing and the overall result is of a well-proportioned, sophisticated shape. Put it next to the Focus or Golf and they suddenly look rather old fashioned and decidedly unsubtle...
The interior has a premium, upmarket appearance too and is comfortable in either the front or back where there is room for adults although a central arm rest would have helped for those in the back. My only gripes are the lack of room in the footwell around the clutch and the speedo is not as at easy to read as it perhaps could be.
There is the usual petrol/diesel mix in the engine range including the 170 bhp 1.4 MultiAir which has the best fuel consumption/emissions for a petrol engine of this output. I tried the most potent engine on offer, the 1750 TBi which packs a lot of advanced technology into its 1742 cc’s. It packs a lot of power too, some 235 bhp in fact.
This is a new engine and demonstrates again that FPT (Fiat Powertrain Technologies) has to be considered among the world’s best for its advances in conventional, non-hybrid, combustion. Anyone who’s ever driven a MultiAir unit will confirm that.
The 1750 is a gem and delivers tremendous performance. The first time I opened it up properly I had to check that the speedo was displaying in mph, not kph, so rapidly did it swing around into licence-losing territory.
So far, so good but the jewel in the Giulietta’s crown has to be its chassis which manages to combine the competing roles of giving a really smooth ride with great handling and steering response better than anything else in the sector. When you consider that includes the hitherto undefeated champion that is the Ford Focus, you can see the scale of its achievement.
It’s not just that a car out-rides/out-handles a Focus, it is the fact that is an Alfa Romeo doing it that is the cause of the surprise because of all Alfa’s failings in its recent models, it is the chassis department that has consistently been the biggest let down.
Well the Giulietta gives the best possible riposte to that with a class-leading chassis that is a total delight to drive. I put it through its paces over dips and crests which would have soon exposed any shortcoming in the damper settings and I aimed it into corners revelling in its turn-in characteristics. I recall one sequence of corners which flowed one to the other by way of a couple of bumps and crests requiring excellent stability and a faithful response to my steering and throttle inputs if we were to get through at the speed I was asking of it but the Alfa sailed through. It is so responsive that it is really easy to get it settled and balanced for a bend and manage its line through, testament to a great handling car.
But at the same time it is immensely civilised. I was in the Cloverleaf version which has slightly stiffer suspension but I was amazed at the ride quality, from B roads to motorways, and that is every bit as important as the handling.
This Alfa is a great package. Every element works brilliantly individually the engine, the chassis, the steering, the styling and yet it is more than the sum of its components. It feels very well developed and my first impression of it after a relatively short drive is that it is a total joy to drive and Alfa has produced a winner.
Given that one in four cars sold in Europe comes from this sector of that market, this could be quite significant....
Alfa Romeo Giulietta
Price from £16,995
Car tested 1750 TBi Cloverleaf
0 to 60 6.8 seconds
Top speed 150 mph
MPG 26 urban, 49 extra-urban, 37 average.
CO2 177 g/km