MAMMA MIA: ALFA ROMEO’S GIUILETTA HATCH­BACK GETS A SLEEK NEW LOOK

The Gi­uli­etta is one of the best-look­ing hatchs around, but is its driver and pas­sen­ger ex­pe­ri­ence as good as ri­vals? We put it to the test to find out

Belfast Telegraph - NI Carfinder - - Front Page - FIRST DRIVE DARREN CASSEY ALFA ROMEO GI­ULI­ETTA

WHAT’S NEW? Alfa Romeo’s de­sign­ers must have put in a lot of over­time to re­vamp the lovely lit­tle Gi­uli­etta. For what was an al­ready hand­some car has be­come pret­tier still.

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. LOOKS AND IM­AGE

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 have 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.

That at­trac­tive face hides an in­te­rior that bor­ders on the dull side. How­ever, the touch­screen Ucon­nect in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem fit­ted as stan­dard across the Gi­uli­etta range is one of the cabin’s re­deem­ing fea­tures.

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.

SPACE AND PRAC­TI­CAL­ITY

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 five­door car.

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-ofthe-road. With 350 litres worth of ca­pac­ity on of­fer, the Alfa comes with more stor­age room 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.

BE­HIND THE WHEEL This is where the Alfa re­ally 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 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 steer­ing wheel is too big, too.

VALUE FOR MONEY Opt for one of Alfa Romeo’s JTDM-2 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 16-inch al­loys, an 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.

WHO WOULD BUY ONE? 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 some foibles, it is still en­tirely like­able, and rather fun to drive. With the right en­gine, it’s pretty eco­nom­i­cal, too.

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