"The Alfa Romeo Giulietta is stylish, as an Alfa should be, but it's also well made and good to drive."
Alfa Romeo's Giulietta is easily the best family hatchback the company has ever produced, essentially its rival for the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf. Stylish and striking for the sector, buyers have plenty of choice at their fingertips, with the Giulietta available in four models, each of which is very well equipped, and with three engine choices on offer – a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol and 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre diesels - that promise good efficiency. The inside nearly matches the outside for looks, striking a nice balance between user-friendly simplicity and eye-catching style. Some of the build quality leaves a lot to be desired, however, the driving position isn’t great and in reality it simply isn’t as practical as many of its competitors. The Giulietta is available as a five-door, with the rear doors handle built into the windows to make it look more like a coupe.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
All engines in the Giulietta are relatively frugal without compromising on performance that much. The 1.6-litre diesel is the most economical engine on offer (and cheapest to tax), returning 64.2mpg and emitting 114g/km of CO2, while both turbocharged engines come with stop-start as standard. The lower-powered version is less economical, returning 44.1mpg and emitting 147g/km, partly because it doesn’t have Alfa's MultiAir valve technology. The Giulietta comes with a three-year/unlimited mileage warranty, however, and Alfa's dealer network is improving all the time.
Interior & comfort
Inside, the Giulietta is nice and quite, shutting out wind, road and tyre noise while at cruising speeds. It glides over poorly surfaced roads, ably handling any potholes and bumps. However, poorly positioned pedals make it hard to get comfortable behind the wheel – the footwell is cramped, so the pedals are placed too close together and there's nowhere to rest your left foot when not operating the clutch. Also, the pedals are too close to the driver, while the steering wheel is too far away, regardless of how much you adjust the wheel and seat. Thick door pillars and a tiny rear window make it hard to see out the back, and the attractive curved dashboard takes too long to figure out thanks to a muddled layout. Plus, anyone actually sat in the back will find less headroom than in a Ford Focus.
Practicality & boot space
You wouldn’t really expect interior space to be top of Alfa Romeo's list when it made the Giulietta – and you’d be right. The boot only offers 350 litres of space and has a high load lip, so loading heavy objects is pretty awkward. All models do come with 60:40 split-folding back seats, but rear storage – and space in general for that matter – is pretty tight. And it's the same in the front, with not enough room for the pedals, an uncomfortable driving position, a positively miniscule storage cubby in the central armrest and an average-size glovebox. The view out of the back (or lack of) makes parking hard, and some of the dials are hard to read.
Reliability & safety
So, does the Giulietta banish Alfa Romeo's abysmal reliability record? Well, Alfa did come 23rd in the 2012 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey and no big problems have surfaced so far. But while the materials used are suitably high quality, some of the fit and finish leaves a bit to be desired and raises concerns when compared to rivals like the Honda Civic or the VW Golf. The Giulietta's safety credentials, however, are top drawer. It scored the full five stars and an impressive 97 per cent adult occupancy rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety test, so it's as safe as virtually any car on the market – except perhaps a Volvo.
Engines, drive & performance
The most impressive aspect of the Giulietta is its effective blending of comfort and performance. It performs equally well on twisty winding roads and on bumpy city streets, proving fun to drive and able to iron out imperfect road surfaces. All versions come equipped with Alfa's DNA system, which debuted in the MiTo supermini, offering three driving modes – Dynamic, Normal and All-Weather. Dynamic is the sportiest setting, making the steering heavier and the accelerator more sensitive, but it isn’t very effective, not quite giving enough extra performance while making the ride less comfortable. Normal and All-Weather speak for themselves. Twin-clutch models come with a semi-automatic gearbox that's fitted with optional paddle controls behind the steering wheel. The 2.0-litre comes tuned to produce either 138bhp or 168bhp, but can be a bit noisy, while the 1.6-litre diesel is the slowest in the range. Grip is good, but the pedals aren’t quite central, which makes it hard to get a good driving position.
Price, value for money & options
The Giulietta may be more expensive than a VW Golf or Ford Focus, but all specs come equipped with air-conditioning and all-round electric windows as standard. The DNA drive select system is also available in all cars. The entry-level Turismo model does look very basic, the otherwise standard alloy wheels replaced by cheap-looking plastic wheel trims. Lusso and Veloce models feel plusher and sportier, however. The mid-range Lusso offers the best balance of standard equipment, coming with dual-zone climate control, cruise control and Alfa's Blue&Me Bluetooth and MP3 connectivity system.