Back in the old days, Alfa Romeos could be sold on looks alone. But those days are long gone. Now the Italian company wants their cars to be known for their sophistication, technology and driving fun. And, the new Giulietta is sent off for this mission.
From the outset, the five-door family hatchback, now in its third generation, seems to have put things back into perspective for a company once plagued with slow sales. It is undoubtedly stylish and practical. Alfa’s Reliability seems to have also improved markedly of recent times, as some of the reliability surveys have shown.
The Giulietta is offered in three engine options – a base 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel in the mid range and a high performance 1.8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol equipped in the Golf GTI rivalling Quadrifoglio Verde (QV), tested here.
Price (excl. on roads) ranges from $24,550 to $35,250 for the 1.4T and 2.0DT, while the QV comes in at $39,150.
Design & Comfort
There is always something about Alfa’s design that you don’t get in other cars. They just look very special, and the Giulietta QV is the only car in its class where using the word beautiful to describe its styling is appropriate. From the neat front-end and smooth flowing shoulder crease to the striking elongated rear light clusters and hidden rear door handles, the Giulietta is stylish yet sporty from every angle. We especially like the bright silver wing mirrors and the design of those 18-inch alloy wheels.
Inside, however, things are a little disappointing. While there’s no shortage of Italian flair across the cabin, its execution is rather clumsy. The layout of the buttons and switchgear on the dashboard is not very functional nor user friendly. The centre arm rest is too high and at a position that can be obstructive when changing gears, although it can be lifted and stored away. We also find the A-pillars to be too thick, affecting visibility when cornering.
There’s plenty of space for the front occupants but rear head and legroom are a little scarce compared to most rivals in its class. The door pockets are tiny and the 344-litres of boot space is still no match for the Golf’s. However, the sculpted sport seats up front are very comfortable and provide good support.
Performance & Handling
The QV boosted four-pot’s 173kW of power peaks at 5,500 rpm, 1,000 revs before the redline. Accompanying the linear power delivery is 340Nm of torque available from as low as 1,900 rpm. Putting those power onto the tarmac is a slick close-ratio six-speed manual gearbox with a light clutch driving the front wheels. The dash to 100 km/h is claimed to be 7.2 seconds, while the we managed a best of 7.3 seconds.
There is nothing really special about that engine, but it’s in the handling department where the QV really shines. Built on an excellent chassis tied to a beautifully balanced suspension setup, this thing is amusing to drive.
Just beyond the shifter is a switch called DNA. It offers three mode of driving – All Weather for going through slippery surfaces or snow, Normal for a smoother, softer throttle response suitable for daily driving, and Dynamic for a much more enthusiastic drive.
Forget about the rest of the modes and flick to Dynamic. The throttle response is instantly sharpen, the steering assistance is reduced for better feedback and the brakes are firmed up thanks to “Pre-Fill” – a feature that pressurises the brakes before the driver actually hits the brake pedal so as to improve braking response time.
The sharper handling and an electronic self-locking differential at the front axle allow the QV to charge through corners following strictly to the driver’s intended line of travel. It grips extremely well and only pushes wide at the tightest corners under too much entry speed. Dynamic mode also fixes the normally spongy brake feel to provide a much more progressive pedal response. The steering however, can be a little sharper.
While there is no doubt the QV is remarkably capable around the bends, its engine and exhaust notes can’t quite fit the same bill. The engine sound lacks character and the exhaust is too muted for a hot hatch. Perhaps there is a plus side of this because in daily commute, the QV is as civilised and comfortable around town as it is fun in the back roads.
Recent Alfa Romeo models have shown better quality and the Giulietta continues that trend. The doors shut with a solid feel. Most switch gears are well-weighted and have a robust feel to them, while fit and finish are up to class standard.
The quality of materials in the cabin however is still a bit lacking. Some lower section plastics are scratchy and the big plastic piece that dashes horizontally across the dashboard feels cheap.
Alfa Romeo claims the Giulietta QV zips an average of 7.2 litres of fuel per 100km. On test, the 1.8-litre turbo four returns an average of 10.3L/100km with almost equal split of urban and freeway kilometres. Admittedly, the right pedal is given a good prod during some spirited runs but that’s still on the high side and a substantial increase over the claimed figure.
The Giulietta QV is comprehensively equipped. Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, sports lowering suspension, side skirts, Brembo brakes up front with red painted calipers, leather bound steering wheel with red stitching, cruise control with speed limiter, Bluetooth, aluminium pedals, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear parking sensors and Bose® hi-fi system. However, the lack of a colour touch screen for the infotainment system at this day and age is a disappointment.
The 2013 Alfa Romeo Giulietta QV is a competent and well balanced performance hatchback that has now proven itself to be a worthy alternative to the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Ford Focus ST. It offers a rewarding driving experience through a sharp chassis and well sorted suspension setup, only hampered by the lack of soundtrack. There is also no automatic option, which can be a deal breaker for some.
|Price (Excl. On-Road):||From $24,550 (1.4T) to $39,150 (QV 1.8T)|
As tested: $39,150 (QV)
|Warranty:||3-year or 150,000km|
|Engine:||1.4-litre 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol (FWD)|
88kW @ 5,000rpm, 206Nm @ 1,750rpm;
|2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo diesel (FWD)|
125kW @ 4,000rpm, 350Nm @ 1,750rpm;
|1.8-litre 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol (FWD)|
173kW @ 5,500rpm, 340Nm @ 1,900rpm; (tested)
|Transmission||6-speed manual (tested) or 6-speed Dual-Clutch Automatic (not available for QV)|
|0-100km/h (QV)||Claimed: 7.2 seconds; Tested: 7.3 seconds|
|Fuel Consumption (Combined):||5.2L/100km (1.4T auto); 5.7L/100km (1.4T manual); 4.5L/100km (2.0DT); 7.2L/100km (1.8T QV). Tested: 10.3L/100km (1.8T QV)|
|Body:||5-door hatchback; 5 seat|
|Dimensions:||Length: 4351mm, Width: 1798mm, Height: 1465mm, Wheelbase: 2634mm|
|Kerb Weight||1,290-1,350 kg|