Alfa Romeo Giulietta
Price: From £17,500
The Giulietta is priced from c. £17,500 to £25,000, although beware, this can rise to £30,000 if you get greedy with options, and, it must be said, there are many tempting options to tease your wallet. Wide-ranging rivals include the new Ford Focus as well as models from the premium brands like Audi’s A3 and BMW’s 1 Series.
The model tested, as seen in these pictures, was the 2.0 litre diesel model with the highest power setting of 170 BHP (Brake Horse Power- a measure of the power of a car’s engine; the higher the number, the greater the power) in ‘Veloce’ ( Italian for ‘fast’) specification.
In keeping with the title, this specification emphasises the fast nature of the car with sports suspension (firmer ride to give better handling), sports seats (supportive to hold you in place) and, in this case, an attractive 18 inch alloy wheel design. As tested, the car you see in these pictures was £29,000.
Manufacturers are often criticised for producing cars that all look the same, so Alfa Romeo should be congratulated for making the Giulietta stand out. The car looks positively expensive and typically Italian with its traditional front grille shield set amongst attractive headlights that feature the soon to be mandatory LED Daytime Running Lights (high intensity lights that are permanently on to improve visibility when driving).
The car also incorporates Alfa Romeo’s modern trademark of hiding the rear door handle into the rear pillar to create a coupe type illusion.
It also has to be said that the car needs the bigger wheel option to enhance the design, otherwise it can appear a bit dumpy in profile (from the side view) as it is bigger than you perhaps expect it to be.
The rear of the car is complimented by LED (Light Emitting Diode – small individual bulbs which discharge a high intensity light) taillights that help to mark this car out from the crowd.
Inside you’ll find all the traditional Alfa Romeo traits – sunken instrument dials with a focus on the speedo and rev counter – to emphasise the sporty pretensions once more, in case you had any doubt.
This is combined with metal racing style pedals and a swooping dashboard which features retro toggle switches, a matt-chrome highlight and a sporty three spoke steering wheel. It’s a special place to be and these little touches mark the interior out from the ordinary.
The poor quality reputation that Alfa Romeo has been saddled with for so long should finally be put to bed. This is a car that feels well-made and reassures you that you have bought a high quality product. It feels tight and taut with no rattles experienced over our ‘challenging’ road surfaces.
These qualities are also evident inside with the use of high-grade plastics that are nice to the touch, uplifting use of chrome highlights, switches that feel like they will actually last the life of the car and beautiful smelling Italian leather seats which, lets be fair, makes any interior feel special.
It should also be noted that Alfa Romeo have spent a vast amount of money in recent years in improving their UK dealership network so that it matches the high standard of their latest car models.
Given that this is an Alfa Romeo, the drive needs to be entertaining. Thankfully, it is. This car, with the gutsy 2.0 diesel engine, really delivers as it gives the driver the best of both worlds; a decent shove when you need to call upon power (accelerating from a roundabout) and a lazy torquey engine (an engine that can accelerate in any gear) which is very useful on the motorway.
The engine has real power from low down in the rev range. What does this mean? Well, it means you barely need to change gear for over-taking manoeuvres. This equals greater fuel economy as you are not working the engine as much.
But it is not enough for an Alfa Romeo to have a strong engine. To be worthy of the brand, the handling needs to be precise and entertaining too. And it largely is. The car turns in to bends energetically and is balanced in the corners, meaning that there is little roll and regular adjustments do not have to be made to the steering when piloting it around bends. However, the caveat to all of this is a little button known in Alfa Romeo speak as the D-N-A switch, translation, the Giulietta’s Vehicle Dynamic Control.
In English, this means that you can change the car’s personality by altering its throttle response, steering sensitivity and electronic stability programmes. Dynamic mode (D) gives a greater throttle response, stiffens the steering and primes the brakes to provide ultimate stopping power. The Normal mode (N) is for every-day driving. The steering is nicely assisted (not heavy to operate), but the price of this is a lack of communication (difficult for the driver to ‘feel’ what the front wheels are doing). However, this mode optimises fuel consumption. The final mode, All Weather (A), is used for difficult grip conditions, snow to you and me.
Now that the technical bit is done, all you need to know is that if you want your Giulietta to be enthusiastic and to live up to its sporty nature, switch to D mode. This significantly changes the car’s personality; the engine becomes more vigorous and surges along with real enthusiasm and is combined with steering that is heavier, meaning you feel more connected to what is going on at the front wheels. However, what really matters is that it puts a big smile on your face, which is what driving an Alfa Romeo is all about. When you want to settle down, put the car into N mode and relax.
This car features a six speed manual gearbox. The sixth gear means it cruises at low revs on the motorway improving fuel consumption. It could be a bit more precise to use, as sometimes you are not sure what gear you are actually in, but being a powerful diesel, the beauty is you rarely need to change gear anyway.
It must also be noticed that the car is incredibly refined as it rides smoothly over our horrific road surfaces. You would think sitting on the larger, low profile wheels (gap between the alloy wheel and tyre itself is smaller than with normal alloys) that the suspension would have its work cut out to keep the ride smooth, but this never came across. It rides beautifully and not even BMW can manage this rare balance. Not something you would perhaps associate with Alfa Romeo but a welcome surprise if you plan to use this car to commute every day.
Be in no doubt that this is a very safe car, confirmed by the fact that it is actually Europe’s safest compact car, having recently received the 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating. This is Europe’s New Car Assessment Programme, an independent body that assesses the safety performance of cars sold in Europe.
The car contains a multitude of safety features. Deep breath: Six airbags, three point seat belts with load limiters (helps to spread impact load over the whole of the torso), collapsible pedal and steering wheel units, anti-whiplash system (seats that tilt in a controlled manner to absorb impact in the event of a rear end collision) and ISOFIX mountings for child seat protection (international standard for attachment points for child seats) making it secure to fit child seats.
As mentioned earlier, using LED lights on the car not only makes the car look modern and stylish, the tiny bulbs allow for quicker illumination too, five times faster than standard filament bulbs in actual fact.
You may think, “So…what’s the point?” Well, think about this – If you’re travelling at 70 mph on the motorway, your LED brake lights will have reached full intensity seven metres earlier than standard bulbs, giving more time for the driver behind to react. See, maths does not always have to be deadly dull!
The Giulietta has been designed from the outset with the goal of being a family car and it shows. It is offered only as a five door hatchback (lift up boot which incorporates the rear glass, providing easy access) and this added practicality means head and legroom are generous whether you are travelling in the front or back.
The boot, although sufficient, could do with being a bit larger for a family car, but thankfully the rear seats do fold down to create a larger load carrying area.
From a young family perspective, as previously mentioned, the car features ISOFIX child seat mountings meaning that car seats can be securely fixed into place. There is also the option of rear tinted glass windows (privacy glass as it is known) which means little ones can be saved from having the sun shining directly in their eyes, a god-send on a long journey.
Naturally when you buy a car, the heart is usually easily convinced but to make a sensible proposition, it is worth putting your head at ease too.
To the business side of things, and first things first, residual value (the cost your car can command when you come to sell it). This has not always been a traditional Alfa Romeo strong point, however, this time the positives are there. The Giulietta will never be a volume seller in the same way as a Ford Focus and this will keep supply relatively low in the market, helping to strengthen residual values. It must also be said that Alfa Romeo’s previous newest model, the MiTo, currently enjoys best in class used values. Combined with the above, this bodes very well for the Giulietta.
Looking now at the costs you will incur during ownership:
Fuel economy – In spirited driving, it returned a healthy 46 MPG (Miles per Gallon, a measure of fuel economy), although this particular model is rated at 60 MPG under general driving.
Insurance – For the Giulietta, the Insurance Group is middle of the range 25 out of 50 (the higher the insurance group the higher your premium is likely to be, 50 being the highest).
Company car users – Thanks to low emissions (124 grams of Carbon Dioxide per Kilometre driven), the Benefit-in-Kind charge is an attractive 18%, perhaps a surprise when you consider the powerful nature of the engine.
Annual car tax is also relatively low at £95 for 12 months.
To summarise the Giulietta in a few words would be to say that it is “stylishly refined”.
It is stylishly different to stand out from the competition with its typical Alfa Romeo detailing, but it is combined with a refinement that has not been typical of previous Alfa Romeos with its soothing ride quality. That is not to say that Alfa Romeo has moved away from building driver orientated cars, the Giulietta can certainly be entertaining, just make sure you select ‘D’ on the D-N-A switch.
Given the price range of the Giulietta (c. £17,500 – £25,000), it is within range of more expensive mainstream offerings from Ford, Volkswagen but also premium brands like Audi and BMW.
Audi A3 From £17,170-£39,900.
Pros: Benchmark for build & interior quality, class leading second hand values.
Cons: An old model when compared to the Giulietta, replacement due to be shown next year
BMW 1 Series From £18,025-£27,170
Pros: The driver’s choice and offering best in class diesel engines
Cons: Very limited room in the back when compared to the Giulietta, expensive when you start adding options.
Volkswagen Golf From £13,610 – £31,680
Pros: Refinement and given eternal popularity on used market, strong resale values.
Cons: A little staid when compared to the Giulietta and not as fun to drive.
New Ford Focus From £15,995 -£25,095
Pros: Brand new model with lots of innovative features. Reports state confident handling and great ride quality.
Cons: Some reviews have suggested that it is not the driver’s car it once was, which previously, was its Unique Selling Point (USP) within the market. I hope to drive this car shortly. I will then report back my findings in full.
A big thank you to Guest Alfa Romeo who supplied the Giulietta for me to test.
Please do contact me if you would like to discuss any of the above in greater detail or would like to enquire into purchasing options. As ever, let me be your personal guide to choosing your next car.