£19,660 - £29,635 Price range
41 - 74 MPG
The Alfa Romeo Giulietta is a stylish small family car that has set out to rival hatchbacks such as the VW Golf, Ford Focus and even more upmarket cars like the BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A-Class. The strongpoints of the Giulietta are its great looks, smart interior and broad choice of engines.
The brand released a subtly updated Alfa Romeo Giulietta in 2016 with blink-and-you’ll-miss-it styling changes and a new engine and gearbox combination.
Inside the Giulietta is similar to any other Alfa Romeo – stylish and sporty. Build quality leaves much to be desired, while passenger and luggage space are sub par, too. The Giulietta suffers in terms of ergonomics as well – reviewers are not satisfied with the pedal and steering wheel position – so it’s worth test driving the car to make sure you can get comfortable behind the wheel.
To drive the Giulietta is less exciting than the looks might suggest. There are three selectable driving modes – that alter the car’s responsiveness – but they are criticised for being too gimmicky. A firm ride and direct steering offer great control on twisty roads, but make the car too unsettled in the city. The Ford Focus offers a much better balance between driver thrills and comfort.
All of the available engines are powerful and feel great when pushed. Diesels are recommended as they are fast and frugal. The new-for-2016 automatic gearbox is praised by reviewers for its quick and smooth changes.
Standard equipment is generous across all specifications and the entry level Progression model gets a five-inch touchscreen with DAB (digital) radio, electric windows and air conditioning. Rear parking sensors are a worthwhile optional extra because rearward visibility is poor.
In general, the Giulietta’s interior is everything you’d expect from an Alfa Romeo. It’s eye-catching and well laid out but there are certainly parts that are a little way off the class best. Build quality is certainly one area where it lags behind: testers noted that even brand-new models seemed to have rather flimsy materials and tell-tale signs of rattling trim. The likes of the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus are better – not to mention the more upmarket BMW 1 Series and Audi A3.
For those looking for a more sumptuous feel, you won’t find any leather upholstery until the second highest Exclusive specification. Overall, though, there are plenty of toys even on the entry level Progression model, including a five-inch touchscreen with DAB (digital) radio, electric windows and air conditioning. It might be wise to stretch to the Distinctive model thanks to its standard-fit parking sensors – rearward visibility is poor so you’ll need the help. Large door pillars don’t make the view much better out of the front either.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta passenger space
There isn’t much enthusiasm among critics for the amount of passenger space on offer. The plunging roofline means the headroom isn’t great and there’s not an awful lot of rear legroom either. Many critics criticise the weird pedal layout, saying they vary in height, are too close together, and that there’s precious little space to rest your clutch foot on long journeys. Some also felt the steering wheel sits too far away from the driver. Rivals are definitely more ergonomically friendly.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta boot space and storage
In terms of outright volume, the boot is 30 litres short of the Volkswagen Golf’s, but 34 litres bigger than the Ford Focus’s. Sadly, the high loading lip makes the space on offer much less practical. The rear seat backs fold, but not completely flat, and overall volume only expands to 750 litres.
Beyond the boot, cubby holes are hard to come by in the rest of the cabin. The door pockets are fairly small, and there aren’t any specific spaces on the dash to store a mobile phone – a 21st century requirement rivals cater for.
Every Giulietta comes with Alfa Romeo’s DNA driving type selector – approximately abbreviating for Dynamic, Natural and All-Weather. Depending on which mode is selected, the responsiveness of the engine, the weighting of the steering and the level of intervention of the electrical driver assists are altered. Some reviewers suggest, however, it’s all a little gimmicky or, worse, a waste of money. In any case, Dynamic mode is not suitable for city streets – the ride is too harsh.
It’s a fairly decent car to drive enthusiastically down twisty roads though. That firm ride has a positive trade-off in terms of body control, so there’s little in the way of roll and, although testers say the steering has little feel, it is at least direct and fast, offering a sense of agility. With the right engine, it’s actually pretty eager between the bendy bits, and the brakes are strong and responsive too. The ride remains firm, whichever driving mode you choose, so if you’re looking for outright comfort, the Citroen C4 is a better choice.
There’s not really a slow Giulietta in the range, but it’s not all good news.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta diesel engines
The entry level 1.6-litre diesel returns a class average 0-62mph sprint of around 11 seconds while posting fuel economy figures in excess of 70mpg and qualifies for free road tax. Its hushed nature is appreciated on the motorway and combined with the new automatic gearbox the 1.6-litre Giulietta drives quite smoothly.
The driver can control the speed and severity of the auto’s shifts using the DNA selector. Testers report the transmission is hesitant to kickdown unless in the most aggressive Dynamic mode. With 118hp and a 0-62mph sprint of around 11 seconds it’s about class average in terms of performance.
A sprightlier option is the larger 2.0-litre diesel, which still returns a claimed 67.3mpg in 150hp form, while the 175hp version hits 62mph from rest three seconds quicker than the 1.6.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta petrol engines
The 1.75-litre petrol Quadrifoglio Verde range topper has the same 240hp engine and six-speed twin-clutch transmission you can find in the Alfa Romeo 4C sports car it should be enough to worry Focus ST and Golf GTI drivers.
The reviewers’ favourite seems to be the 1.4-litre petrol though, in both entry-level 120hp and tweaked 170hp forms. They’re said to be smooth and aurally pleasing when pushed, though fuel economy is down in the mid-40mpg unless you specify the twin clutch automatic gearbox.
Critics appear to be quite fond of the 1.4 petrol motor in the Giulietta. Not only are reviewers impressed with the power and performance on offer, but they also praise the real-world characteristics of the engine, with greatrefinement and useful efficiency.
With up to 170 bhp on tap, there are no real issues with the performance of the Giulietta. The linear power delivery goes down well though, uncommon in a small turbocharged engine with a fair bit of power. Critics are also fans of its abilities in everyday circumstances – it’s quiet and refined at cruising speeds, and the very clever MultiAir technology means the Alfa can return up to 55 mpg with the TCT dual-clutch auto.
Overall, the Giulietta with the MultiAir motor is a very capable car – it offers affordable running costs with the performance of a much larger engine. The diesel units do extra efficiency, but the general consensus is that this 1.4 TB is the pick of the Giulietta range.
To that end, combined economy is 70.6 mpg and buyers will pay £20 in annual VED. Performance isn't too bad either, with an 11.3-second 0-60 schlep and 115 mph flat out.
Unfortunately, there's no word on refinement - so check back soon when hopefully we'll have some in-depth reviews of the car.
Being the flagship of the Giulietta range, the feisty Quadrifoglio Verde, or 'Cloverleaf' version of Alfa’s stylish hatch certainly has a lot of weight on its shoulders. Unfortunately, more weight than it can take - the Alfa scores unimpressive reviews.
With a 237-horspower engine and dual-clutch transmission snatched from Alfa's 4C sports car, the QV simply promises greater thrills than it delivers. It doesn't have the chassis to really exploit its power and lacks the compusure of many rivals. It does have good grip and plenty of traction, but several rivals offer similar performance with much better handling characteristics.
As one reviewer puts it, the QV is a "left-field" choice. Buy it if you like what Alfa Romeo offers, but there are better cars available elsewhere.
For 2013, Alfa Romeo introduced a new variant of the 2.0 JTDM engine to the Giulietta range, replacing the previous 140-horsepower unit.
With 148 horsepower and as much as 280 lb-ft of torque in Dynamic mode, there's "decently quick" performance on offer - 0-60 in 8.8 and 130 mph flat out. Economy is good too at 67.2 mpg. This drops to 64.2 mpg if you opt for the TCT dual-clutch transmission - though both are competitive figures given the performance on offer. They're also said to return decent real-world economy.
While flexible and punchy, it isn't quite as brisk as Volkswagen's equivalent, but critics say it's largely refined provided you don't stray too close to the red line. For several testers, it's the pick of the range - and the relatively low score is more a reflection of the Giulietta itself than the engine.
The Giulietta was not only rated five stars when tested by Euro NCAP back in 2010 but scored the best rating for any small family car that year and one of the best ratings of any kind.
A whole suite of electronic driver aids – stability control, electronic brake distribution, vehicle dynamic control (which underpins the DNA driving selector) and an electronic differential – complement the six airbags and active anti-whiplash head restraints to make the Giulietta one of the safest cars you can buy.
That being said, the Euro NCAP test is far tougher these days, so more modern rivals such as the Golf will likely be a better choice if safety is top of your list of priorities.
Stylish looks are at the heart of the Giulietta’s appeal and that’s evident when you see the standard equipment available on the base level Progression trim – it comes with 16-inch alloy wheel, LED lights front and rear, and a rear spoiler.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint
Sprint trim comes with eye-catching kit such as 17-inch alloy wheels, anthracite grille, mirror housings and door handles; a sporty looking rear bumper with oversized exhaust pipes, and tinted rear windows. It gives much of the looks of the top-specQuadrifoglio Verde, but without that model’s more expensive price and running costs.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta Quadrifoglio Verde
The Quadrifoglio Verde (or QV for short) is the quickest model in the Giulietta range and shares its 240hp engine with the Alfa Romeo 4C sports car. It has a quick-changing dual-clutch gearbox that gets the car from 0-62mph in just six seconds.
Look for the red brake calipers, cloverleaf badges, 18-inch alloy wheels and lowered sports suspension to spot the hottest Giulietta in the range.
Alfa’s Giulietta might well be a flawed gem. The level of standard equipment and safety rating make it a nice place to sit and a secure spot in which to chauffeur your kids about. A good job, too, because the rear seats are only really any good for kids, particularly on longer journeys.
At the same time, it’s not as comfortable for drivers on longer journeys due to the awkward pedal box and centre console and, although it feels like a sporty Alfa to drive, it is not as impressive a point-to-pointer as one might expect. Still, at the end of the journey you get to look back at what you’ve just parked with satisfaction…