Belissimo! We take the ‘new’ Alfa Romeo Giulietta for a spin in Dubai, UAE, to find out what we’ve been missing in the Middle East since the model’s launch three years ago.[Not a valid template]
It’s been a long time since I’ve driven an Alfa Romeo. There are few marques in the world with such an illustrious history, but outside of the headline-grabbing flagships such as the 8C and forthcoming 4C, there’s been little from the Italian company to get excited about over recent years.
The Giulietta is the latest vehicle from Alfa to land on these shores, in a region where there are precious few vehicles sporting the famous cross and serpent badge. It’s a mid-sized five-door hatchback, sporting a 1.4-litre turbocharged engine under the bonnet, which sends 168bhp to the front wheels. The gearbox is a six-speed twin-clutch unit, known by Alfa as DCT, and controllable via wheel-mounted paddles if you fancy driving con brio. Think of it as a rival to the likes of the Volkswagen Golf or Ford Focus, but with a bit of Italian flair and passion to rival the more serious offerings from Germany and the US.
The name, in case you were wondering, first appeared back in the 1950s, and was briefly revived in the ‘70s, but there’s little about the last Giulietta that relates to the new one other than the moniker. Although it was actually unveiled three years ago in other markets, it’s only now that it’s made it to Middle Eastern shores.
First impressions are positive. In an age of sharp lines and creases the Giulietta is pleasantly curvy, with a powerful looking rear end and plenty of nice design touches. Our test car came with classic Alfa Romeo-style 18-inch alloy wheels, and although the stance is a little high for my tastes, it’s a great looking machine, and one that’s rarely seen on local roads.
Step inside and the design is similarly chic, although it is starting to look just slightly dated – not surprising, considering it’s three years old now, and there has been a new Golf and Focus since then. To look at, it is pleasant, with an unusually bold section across the dashboard and the obligatory Italian spellings on all the instruments. However, some of the primary touch points feel a little scratchy and brittle by the benchmark standards of 2013.
The seats – clad in a soft red leather in our test car – are comfortable and not too high, while the steering wheel adjusts for both reach and rake. It’s also wrapped in leather, which feels good to the touch. It’s a shame about the parts-bin buttons to control the stereo though; they don’t have the same feeling of class.
On the move, the Alfa doesn’t quite bring the same verve as it does visually. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad. With 168bhp it zips along and you’ll enjoy grabbing glimpses of yourself reflected in shop windows, looking all European and cultured. But if you want to push on a bit the Giulietta starts to protest. Although it features Alfa’s DNA system, which adapts gearbox and steering and the stability control to Dynamic, Natural or All-Weather settings. Even in Dynamic, the front tyres protest if pushed hard into corners, and there’s no turning off the electronic reigns if you fancy a bit of hooliganism.
The steering lacks the precise feel to really nail apexes, but it’s nicely weighted.The TCT gearbox is perfectly serviceable in manual mode, changing quickly and crisply, but in auto mode it highlights a deficit of torque from the engine, which only pulls strong when the turbo kicks in at higher revs. Heading uphill usually requires a downshift.
So far, so not-bad – a dynamically middle-of-the-road but unusual, comfortable and stylish hatch that should turn heads when cruising city streets. If that sounds like your cup of tea, then happy days – as long as you don’t mind the price tag. At $31,582 it’s more expensive than an equivalent Volkswagen (such as our long-term Golf 1.4 Turbo, which costs $25,500) or Focus, and comparable to the forthcoming new Golf GTI which arrives in July and will start at around $30,000. For all its attractions, the Giulietta seems overpriced and faces some serious competition. The question is, how much do you value exclusivity?
|Alfa Romeo Giulietta|
|Engine:||Inline 4-cyl / 1368cc|
|Power:||168bhp @ 5500rpm|
|Torque:||184lb ft @ 2500rpm|
|Transmission:||Six-speed TCT transmission / Alfa Romeo D.N.A. drive selector|
|Front suspension:||MacPherson strut|
|Brakes:||Solid discs / 330mm front / 328mm rear / ABS / ABR / EBD / VDC|
|Wheels:||18in front and rear|
|Tyres:||225/40 R18 front and rear|