2012 ALFA ROMEO GIULIETTA REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Small hatchback
Price: $40,990 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy claimed: 4.5 l/100km | tested:6.6 l/100km
When it comes to cliches about Italian automobiles, there’s a list as long as your arm.
But the world has shrunk, and global tie-ups are now so strong that surely the Alfa Romeo Giulietta can deliver Japanese reliability and German engineering, while offering the soul of a red-blooded Italian... right?
That’s what you’d hope.
And, yes, with the Giulietta you get some of that.
After a week in our hands, this Golf-challenger had a few surprises - both good and bad - and while it’s not perfect, it’s certainly not short of that red-blooded appeal.
Quality: There’s a sense of style at work inside the Giulietta that is a genuine cut above class competitors.
Thanks to slim-line ventilation, broad sweeping surfaces across the dash and quality silver-painted accents, the Alfa Romeo interior looks special.
Get to know the controls a little better however and the user experience isn’t as good.
Loose, notchy HVAC controls, plenty of hard surfaces (including elbow-grinding door trims), and inconsistent feel between switches, buttons and knobs spoil the perception of quality.
Easily visible body-coloured door frames also aren’t up to scratch in a semi-premium contender.
The key too is also surprisingly flimsy, feels cheap, doesn’t fold completely closed and as your first physical introduction to the car, it's utterly disappointing - trivial, but first impressions count.
Comfort: The fabric trim of the Giulietta may not look especially inviting in photographs, but in reality it is both comfortable and durable. The front seats strike a nice balance of moderate grip and long-range comfort.
The steering wheel seems incredibly high and, despite height and reach adjustment, always feels lofty.
Rear seats are as comfy as the front, if slightly flatter, but putting one six-footer behind another led to threats of violence. There’s footroom aplenty, but knee space is desperately lacking, even with the front passenger seated knees-up to the dash.
Equipment: Standard equipment includes multi-function trip computer, cruise control, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, fold away front armrest, dual zone climate control, automatic lights and windscreen wipers, 17-inch alloy wheels, Blue&Me voice-controlled Bluetooth and multimedia system and an eight-speaker CD/MP3/RDS radio audio system.
Storage: Inside there are limited storage opportunities, with just a small space in the centre armrest and an open pocket at the base of the centre stack. Door pockets are compact and cup and bottle holders are limited.
The boot offers a good amount of space and can be expanded via the split folding backrest, but there’s a high loading lip to lift past, not ideal for lugging prams and porta-cots into.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: This is no entry level diesel, the relatively high output of Alfa Romeo’s 2.0 litre JTDm engine sees it square off almost precisely against Volkswagen’s Golf GTD.
The Giulietta produces 125kW of power at 4000rpm with 350Nm of torque on hand from just 1750rpm.
Translated into the on-road experience, this means the Alfa can get up and go if the situation calls for it.
There’s a brief moment of lag from a standing start, but that huge wallop of torque then takes over and the Giulietta does a very impressive hot-hatch impersonation.
Around town, on light throttle, things are calm and quiet and can be very frugal. The real joy is toggling the DNA controller, this three mode system (Dynamic, Normal, All-weather) offers a near-perfect sport mode.
Unfortunately, Dynamic mode and its accompanying lust for revs reveals a thirsty side to the Giulietta, but for the reward we think its worth it.
It transforms performance, sharpening throttle response and gear shifts - and the electronic aids - and gives the Giulietta real hot-hatch ‘hammer’ on the road.
Refinement: For noise and vibration the Giulietta JTDm is a definite winner, remaining hushed and smooth across a variety of speeds and surfaces. Getting the best out of the TCT transmission is another story.
During low-speed driving, the jerking, juddering and lurching from the transmission were tedious. Curiously the gearbox seemed to often operate in a lower ratio than we would have selected too.
Most curious however was the propensity to change back into fifth-gear once the cruise control was set.
You’d reckon 100km/h on the freeway is a definite sixth gear job, but as soon as the cruise was set the transmission would select the lower gear and stubbornly stay there.
Suspension: While the suspension is always firm, it’s not uncomfortable. There’s a clear sporting bias to the ride and handling of the Giulietta, but matched with levels of comfort well suited to patchy Australian roads.
The suspension hardware consists of MacPherson front struts and a multi-link wishbone rear end featuring aluminium arms.
Braking: Four-wheel disc brakes measure 305mm up front and 264mm in the rear. On the road they provided strong, controllable stopping free from jerkiness.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars
Safety features: Front, side and curtain airbags, VDC including ABS brakes, Anti Slip Regulation, hill hold and brake assist, front seatbelt load limiters and pretensioners, adjustable head restraints in all positions,
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km
Service costs: Servicing costs vary. Consult your local Alfa Romeo dealer before purchasing.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Volkswagen Golf GTD ($41,790) - This high-output diesel Golf plays the sporting card, borrowing much of its look inside and out from the petrol GTI.
It is a hoot on the open road, but despite identical engine outputs it is fractionally slower and thirstier than the Giuliatta. (see Golf reviews)
BMW 118d ($46,193) - While you pay more for the BMW the spec sheet is still fairly strong. The engine is down on power and torque but the terrific handling well and truly makes up for that, being the sole rear-wheel-drive car in its class. (see 1 Series reviews)
Opel Astra Select Diesel ($33.990) - Opel’s Astra, like the Golf, is fighting for the same slice of Euro-hatch market share.
In Select specification it puts itself close to the Giulietta for equipment whilst offering swoopy exterior styling to match the Alfa’s Italian flair and is rewarding on the open road. (see Astra reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
It is still true: the purchase of an Alfa Romeo is an emotional thing. There’s no denying the Giulietta has rid itself of the ghosts of Alfa’s past, but there are still too many little niggles for TMR to wholly recommend this car.
The on-road experience is delightful; when shown a piece of mountain tarmac the Giulietta JTDm comes alive. Spend an hour in this car and it will set your blood running.
But its the commuter side of things where things aren’t as good.
The gearbox that changes back into fifth gear with cruise control activated, the jittery TCT gearbox, and a couple of hours on test where the car refused to lock using the remote - these are the things that prospective buyers will need to think long and hard about before purchasing.