We all meet people we don’t get on with very well at first but who end up among our best friends. It’s the same with cars.
My first acquaintance with the latest rendition of Alfa Romeo’s sporty little Giulietta was not a pleasant experience. In fact, it verged on the dangerous.
Whenever I went for the brake, my foot accidentally caught the edge of the accelerator too, causing the engine to race suddenly.
The source of the problem was the offset of the steering and the placement of the stylish drilled aluminium foot pedals. Italians tend to have small feet, while I have big ones; they also have long bodies and short legs. I have the reverse. The car was clearly designed to suit them, not me and my like. To further compound matters, in right-hand drive versions of this little car everything is canted to the left to accommodate the wheel arch.
However, just as one adjusts rapidly to the foibles of friends in the making – friends who can eventually become lovers – it took just a day for me to adjust to the Alfa. From then on, driving became pure enjoyment and a beautiful friends hip was well and truly underway.
The taut, muscular lines bode well and, with the rear door handles cleverly hidden in neat recesses behind the rear windows, the Giulietta looks like a stylish coupé but is in reality a practical five-door hatchback. And it has the added bonus of a deep luggage hold with a 350-litre capacity.
Big twin chrome exhaust pipes and hip-hugging seats, the latter stamped with the familiar Alfa logo, bode well for the car’s sporting intent and out on the road it displays pin-sharp responsive steering, and crisp and nimble handling – qualities aided by Alfa’s unique DNA System. This allows the driver to select from a range of driving modes to suit the weather conditions and road surfaces. The chosen option is then flashed up on the dash-top mounted sat-nav monitor.
Once you are used to those quirky pedals, it’s a very safe vehicle too, earning a compact car class leading 87 out of 100 Euro NCAP five-star rating.
Alfa’s have always been noted for their delightful exhaust noises. They are now clean running as well as responsive. There are six engine options, from 1.4 to 2.o litre capacity, with a choice between three Euro 5 petrol units amd three Multijet diesels.
There’s a choice of trim and such standard features as six airbags, daytime running lights, stop/start, electronic parking brake with hill-start assist, all-round electric windows, heated mirrors, air-conditioning and 60/40 split rear seats are all on the tick list. The range-topping Cloverleaf versions offers even more goodies.
The interior can be described as cosy rather than spacious but none of the occupants complained on a long haul up north that enabled the Alfa to show its paces on a mix of motorways, busy A-roads and twisting country lanes.
By the end of the week it was a true Romeo and Giulietta story. Alfa are back in the business of making seriously good cars.