Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

The Italian Stallion is back

The Giulietta is poised to put Alfa Romeo back on a pedestal. But, says Jim McCauley, while the car’s spirit clearly hails from Italy the build quality is very much German

Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCT

In the 1950s Alfa Romeo caught the imagination of the driving public with the attractive and sporty handling Giulietta.

Yet the name faded and was only resurrected last year with the launch of their new C-segment contender, a car that not only relaunched the historic name, but also re-established Alfa as a manufacturer of quality cars.

The signs of regaining lost ground were signalled by the Alfa 156 while the compact Mito set the showrooms alight as the company took on the mainstream opposition. Last year sales rose in excess of 30pc, with the highest number of new cars registered in more than a decade. The quality improvements were further acknowledged when Alfa moved into the Top 10 of the JD Power Satisfaction Survey.

The Giulietta is built on an all-new platform and of the five engines offered initially with the manual gearbox, the two best sellers are now available with the new TCT twin-clutch automatic transmission. Test choice was the 1.4-litre MultiAir petrol model, which with its fixed geometry turbocharger outputs 170bhp. Alfa’s MultiAir technology boosts power and torque compared to a similar sized traditional engine while lowering emissions and improving fuel consumption.

Now mated to a six-speed automatic transmission developed in-house, there are further benefits to economy and emissions as well as performance.

Test choice was the Lusso model, the lower of the two specification levels available which nonetheless offers a comprehensive list of equipment. On-road, and the 1.4-litre engine is a sharp performer, taking the car from rest to 62mph in just 7.7 seconds with the mid-range sprint from 50 to 75mph taking 6.5 seconds. Across the rev range, the gearbox snaps authoritively from gear to gear, the benefits of a dual-clutch system which always has the next gear in readiness for imminent change.

On to winding B roads and the new era of Alfa becomes apparent — the solidity of the build quality despite the lightweight construction of the car. Bumps are absorbed without resonance or rattles while handling precision surpasses any emotion for the marque to objective comparisons with the segment leader. The car is very much in Golf territory and while the spirit may remain Italian the build quality is very much German.

Driver choice extends the appeal of the car with the option of manual override on the gearbox via the gear select lever, but a necessary extra is the steering wheel mounted paddles at £260. However, standard on all models is Alfa’s DNA system which provides two alternative settings to the default ‘Natural’ one. The console mounted switch will adjust the car’s settings towards comfort if left in ‘N’ but move the settings to greater performance capabilities in ‘Dynamic’. In ‘A’ (all weather mode), performance is adapted to ensure maximum vehicle stability. The system modifies the response of the gearbox, engine control unit, brakes and stability control system as appropriate.

Styling-wise, the Giulietta combines its roomy five-seater practicality with Italian elegance in a car that makes a significant advancement for Alfa in terms of performance and quality. Among its accolades are the fact that it is the lowest CO2 emitting automatic petrol engine in the C segment as well as having the highest horsepower to BIK percentage for a petrol engine in the same segment.

Equipment-wise, the Lusso specification includes six airbags, dual-zone automatic climate control, LED running lights and tail-light units, stop/start technology, rear parking sensors, automatic lights and wipers, and electronic handling support packages that also include a hill-holder function. The model also features Alfa’s ‘Blue & Me’ Bluetooth hands-free voice recognition communications system.

While the name may be from a past model, the new Giulietta has no other links to the past, heralding a serious move into the mainstream C segment in terms of top-line performance as well as environmental and economy achievements. It will in particular appeal to the company car user with its low BIK rating, but first and foremost are, like the original, its stunning good looks.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCT

Engine: 1.4-litre turbo-petrol, 170bhp @ 5,500rpm. 250Nm torque @ 2,500rpm.

Transmission: Six-speed dual-clutch, automatic/sequential

Drive: Front-wheel drive

Performance: 0-62mph (100km/h) in 7.7 seconds; max, 135mph (218km/h)

Fuel on combined cycle: 54.3 mpg (5.2 l/100km)

CO2: 121 gms/km; VED Band D for annual car tax of £95 from second year

Trim: Lusso

Price: £21,855

Insurance: ABI Group 23 (in 50 Group ratings)

Warranty: Three-year/unlimited mileage

Benefit-in-Kind: 15%

Euro NCAP: Five-Star

Available extras: Steering wheel paddle, £260; special paint, £490; refrigerated glove box, £20

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