THE Alfa Romeo Giulietta is one of the most stylish hatchbacks around.
The name, as you may have guessed, means Juliet and was first used more than 50 years ago by the Italian marque.
This time around it is a direct replacement for the Alfa 147 and, it is hoped, will reverse the fortunes of Alfa Romeo which seemed to have lost some of its sparkle in recent years.
Introducing a new hatchback into an ever-expanding pack is a tough call. Competition is fierce and for the Giulietta to grab a share of the market it needs to be something special.
It sits on an all-new platform which has been endowed with the latest technology to ensure it combines, safety, style and comfort with a great drive.
Our test car was matched to the new 1.4TB Multi-Air 170bhp engine, which has the lowest emissions (134g/km) and fuel consumption (48.7mpg) in its class for the size and rating.
The Multi-Air system boosts power by 10 per cent and torque by 15 per cent yet slashes fuel consumption and emissions by 10 per cent.
Economy is further aided by the stop start system which cuts off the engine as you engage neutral and then starts back up again when you depress the clutch.
I’ve had a few issues in the past with Fiat’s stop start technology but I’ve found that if you ensure your left foot fully depresses the clutch it works perfectly well.
A neat flip switch in the cabin allows the driver to change the way the car drives: Dynamic, Normal and All-weather modes can be chosen. Thus the settings for engine, gearbox and steering can be optimised for the conditions and the driver’s preference. I found Dynamic my mode of choice; Normal made the throttle a bit slow on the uptake and, for once, the weather was kind and All-weather wasn’t an option I needed to explore.
Despite deficiencies in other departments there’s no denying that Alfa have always turned out splendid looking cars. While not exactly pretty, the Giulietta is eye-catching and elegant and there’s nothing at all like it on the roads.
It’s a five-door hatch but looks like a three-door as the rear door handles are cunningly disguised in the C-pillars. It’s larger than others in the class, which helps with the flowing lines, and the boot will take a healthy 350 litres.
The interior is particularly pleasing to the eye with a lovely sweeping dashboard and smart flip-up switches with a good action. In the Veloce model on test, the satellite navigation screen popped up from the top of the dash making it particularly easy to use.
Every model comes with six airbags and a whole host of other safety aids, LED daytime running lights (in preparation for the 2012 European standard), air conditioning, electric windows and wing mirrors, and height-adjustable driver’s seat.
The Veloce added automatic lights and wipers, cruise control, hands-free Bluetooth system and stereo with USB port, dual zone climate control and alloy wheels.
Prices for the Giulietta range start at £17,450, with our test car coming in at £21,300.