IT’S EASY TO get excited about a new Alfa Romeo. The Italian centurion has a way of turning even the most mundane of family hatches into something that borders on the exotic. The new Giulietta is no exception. Every crease, line and Centro Stile-designed curve invites the eye to caress it a moment longer. Like the bonnet’s concave/convex surface entertainment, the way the grille almost severs the bumper like it was dropped from a height into molten plastic, the variable subtlety of the hip crease line or the way the rear lamps light up with a calligraphic LED flourish when braking. Not only does it tick the emotional design box for a C-segment five-door, it owns the box.

But that’s not enough. As media mogul Rupert Murdoch points out, ‘In motivating people, you’ve got to engage their minds and their hearts’. Engaging hearts is an Alfa Romeo speciality, engaging minds is something they’re working very hard on. And the Giulietta proves it.

You open the door to a cabin that blends retro (ribbed seats, chrome ball gear knob, toggle switches) with achingly-cool contemporary (soft-touch moulding, piano black audio panel nestled within a dark-tinted brushed aluminium panel). It’s a master-class in layering, architecture, material choice and visual appeal, demanding to be touched and rewarding with a surprising tactility that’s easy to fall in love with.

It’s not all romance though, as those with longer legs may find the centre console permanently engaged in a sparring match with their left knee. Plus, the main glovebox hinges seem flimsy and the steering wheel should be more special than a re-jigged Mito affair. Latte-to-go lovers will find the cup holders more piccolo than grande in size. Perhaps Italians prefer you drink your coffee where you bought it. You may have trouble storing other things too, for despite the presence of lidded dash top and central armrest hideaways, the interior still conspires to leave you shortchanged on visible storage for everyday detritus (house keys, wallet, cellphone). The Giulietta also falls short on rear seat squab length, while access to the split rear bench isn’t the most generous – chief culprit being the coupe-like window graphic that curves dramatically downwards. The boot’s not massive, but matches the Golf’s 350 litres. It’s roomier up front and the beautiful leather and ribbed microfibre seats offer comfort and grip, compensating brilliantly for the absence of substantial side bolsters.

You start the Giulietta with a key, remembering to engage the dna’s Dynamic mode as part of your start-up routine. Trust me, driving in the default Normal setting is recommended only for those who have lost the will to live as it turns the throttle into a soggy, disconnected sponge. Besides you wouldn’t buy this 173kW, top-line 1750 Quadrifoglio Verde (Four-leafed clover, green) version as a fuel saver anyway, even if Alfa do claim it uses just 7.6 litres every 100km on the combined cycle. No, you’d buy it because dialling in Dynamic releases the full 340Nm (up 40Nm over Normal) at just 1900rpm, a staggering 2600rpm lower down the rev range. Getting the front tyres to play scrabble and squeal is ridiculously easy. Our test car was fitted with the standard 17-inch alloys which no doubt impart marginally better ride quality, though it’s still not exactly plush over harsh bumps. I’d wager that opting for the larger, better-looking 18-inch turbines would beef up the steering and boost front-end grip in the process.

The Giulietta is the first model in the Group to use Fiat’s new lightweight Compact platform for C-segment vehicles. It features a multi-link rear suspension design that all but banishes the torsion beam-hopping antics of the Mito. For the Quadrifoglio Verde (QV) model, as signified by the twin exhausts and green cloverleaf stickers, Alfa lowered the ride height by 15mm at the front and 10mm at the rear. Test engineer Peter felt it was not as sorted on track as more focused hot hatches and found the on paper performance somewhat elusive in reality. Alfa claims a zero to one hundred sprint time of 6.6sec. Our best time was in the mid-sevens, but it hardly matters, as the QV works best through a twisting, flowing set of corners on real roads. That’s where you appreciate the newfound fluidity and suppleness, where the brakes prove consistently strong, biting with venom when requested and where the abundance of torque punches you out of corners practically regardless of gear.

But the QV is by no means perfect. Trundle along in bumper to bumper traffic in that infuriating first gear, neutral, first gear, neutral fashion and a lack of low-speed mechanical polish becomes evident. Downshifting to first gear throws up a synchro stutter. The shift quality itself, while better than many rivals, lacks outright precision and there’s an unwelcome buzziness and a mechanical whine till around 2000rpm in first gear. To be absolutely fair though, our test car was an early homologation unit. Suppression of wind and road noise isn’t up to the Golf’s astoundingly high standards either. Of course all that is solved the minute the road clears, freeing you to exploit the Quadrifoglio Verde’s almost 100kW/litre specific output, taking in the appreciative stares that GTI drivers stopped receiving years ago.

Every once in a while, there’s an epoch-changing moment in automotive history. The introduction of the Giulietta to the South African car market isn’t one of those moments. But it is an important one for car enthusiasts. Like many Alfas before it, the Giulietta is more than the sum of its parts. It has personality, a gutsy engine and a Versace-laden wardrobe full of style. Hardly new for an Alfa, but this time it’s also backed up by some clever lightweight engineering, the segment’s safest Euro NCAP score and a confidence-inspiring 5-year/150 000km warranty. What’s more, Alfa’s banking that 35000km service intervals and up to six years worth of free servicing will engage potential customers’ minds into thinking it may be the best time ever to buy an Alfa. They may just be right.


Welcome to my corner of the automotive world! I'm Mandy Lawson, better known as mandla85, and I'm absolutely obsessed with everything related to cars and motorsports. You bet I'm interested if it has four wheels (or sometimes two!) and an engine. For me, cars aren't just a means of transportation; they're a passion, a lifestyle, and an endless source of fascination. I love diving into the world of automotive engineering and design, exploring the latest trends, and uncovering the stories behind the machines. Email / Facebook