As part of its Centenary celebrations, Alfa Romeo chose to run a handful of Giulietta née Milano née 149 hatchbacks as sponsor vehicles in the 2010 Mille Miglia. Topcar was invited to drive one of them along the 1600km route from Brescia to Rome and back again. And what a privilege it was, but not just for the opportunity to get up close to cars as glorious as Alfa’s 6C 1750 Gran Sport, Jaguar’s C and D-Types and several Bugatti Type 35s, but the chance to examine the new Giulietta in depth.
Alfa’s have seldom been hard on the eye, and the nuova Giulietta is no exception. The front end is a little controversial, but necessarily more mature than the Mito. One Italian onlooker I spoke to compared the headlight detailing to that of the Ferrari California. He has a point, though it’s clearly not intentional. It’s best viewed from the rear three quarter angle, where the very distinctive LED treatment accentuates width and Latin character. It’s only available in a five-door bodyshell, with Alfa’s signature hidden rear door handles.
The Giulietta rides on what is essentially an all-new platform with a re-engineered McPherson strut front suspension setup and a completely new multi-link rear design. Unsurprisingly, it’s the rear end that impresses most, endowing the latest Alfa with a dynamic fluidity that at the very least matches it’s Golf and Focus rivals. Push really hard into a corner and the supple rear end just floats, remaining resolutely unflustered and predictable. Fling it through a fast twisty mountain section, and you’ll be amazed at how little the car demands, but that doesn’t mean it’s uninvolving. Where the torsion beam-equipped Mito is easily unsettled, the Giulietta is just so balanced for a family hatch. Very welcome is steering that feels less synthetic and more accurate. At the front, Alfa’s understeer-quelling Q2 electronic diff doesn’t take much of a back seat, making its presence felt on occasion. You can actually feel the outside wheel accelerate, helping you around the bend.
As for the ride, our car wore lowly 16inch boots and the standard ‘comfort’ suspension setup, a stiffer ‘sports’ setup is optional, making the handling performance even more noteworthy. Compared to the Mito, it rides more quietly and is far more compliant, but without having the Golf on hand, I reckon the NVH falls slightly short of the fantastic German’s benchmark. Still, there’s probably not much in it.
Where the Giulietta has the Golf soundly licked is in interior style and creative flair. There’s very little that is derivative. Where the Polo is mini-Golf, the Alfa’s dash design speaks a unique-to-Giulietta language, far removed from the Mito. You don’t find retro toggles, swathes of brushed aluminium and classically ribbed leather seats in the Golf’s cabin. Sure the fit and finish isn’t quite as precise, especially lower down, but it’s exciting to look at with character to spare.