The Giulietta name goes back 60 years in Alfa Romeo’s history but the most modern use saw it reintroduced in 2010 as a five door C-segment hatchback.
The Giulietta has just received its mid-life refresh with improved engines, revised looks and better specification with prices starting from £18,235.
There is nothing remarkable about any of these latest 2014 changes, they are commonplace in the industry as manufacturers introduce EU6 lower emission engines and keep their products fresh in a competitive market place.
Alfa in the UK has a very limited model range which results in relatively low sales – just 5,687 last year, well down on the 7,253 sold in 2012. The range consists of the cheeky MiTo B-segment models priced from £14,350, which competes against the MINI Hatch and Fiat 500, and the Giulietta that competes against the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra, VW Golf, Honda Civic, Peugeot 308 and many more. A third model will be added to the Alfa line up – the stunning 4C lightweight coupe which harks back to the brand’s iconic sporting heritage will arrive in the UK at the end of the year priced at £45,000.
Fiat, in conjunction with the recently acquired Chrysler Group, are promising a shake-up and redefining of what each brand will stand for in the future. Their plans have recently been outlined with global growth in mind. The Fiat/Chrysler house-of-global brands include Fiat, Alfa, Maserati, Ferrari, Abarth, Jeep, Chrysler, Dodge and also Lancia which will only be sold in Italy.
We have become accustomed to Fiat’s past plans for growth and redefining their numerous model ranges but nothing much happens but the latest media briefing gives us hope that things will improve this time. Most notable is Fiat’s plans for Alfa Romeo which has a 104 year history and it even took the Formula One World Championship in the 1950s. Despite its iconic sporting heritage the brand has never sold more than 180,000 cars globally in a year and only 74,000 last year. With proposed plans new and a wider range of sporting and SUV premium models will be competing against the likes of Audi and BMW and they aim to grow annual sales to around 400,000 units in 2018.
With the loss in recent years of models which had the Alfa sporting DNA, models such as the 2005 Brera coupe and convertible, the 159 Saloon and the Spyder of 2006, the model line up with the MiTo and Giulietta is looking a bit thin and to be honest they are no more than alternative choices to much larger selling models from mainstream brands such as Ford or MINI.
So the latest Giulietta range has a significant holding job to do for Fiat and Alfa until more inspiring models come along. These must make the brand appeal to a younger generation of buyers who have little or no knowledge of the history and desirable ownership potential Alfas used to have. Alfa needs to be a leader and not a follower, so to succeed their cars need to be aspirational in terms of pulling in customers and not just alternatives to more commonplace competitors.
The latest Giulietta retains the iconic Alfa ‘face’ with its offset number plate. But from there on it falls into the commonplace C-segment, five door hatchback designs of a rising waistline and a slightly lowering roof to the rear giving it a coupe style side profile. The latest changes include a lightly revised front grille, new alloy wheels and new body colours. On the inside there have been upgrades with newly designed seats, new door trims, new steering wheel design and revised switchgear. The Uconnect colour touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth and DAB radio is now standard across the range as is start&stop, air conditioning, leather trimmed steering wheel and gear knob, electric windows and mirrors, seven airbags, front fog lights and rear spoiler.
The interior of the car is roomy in the front with well laid out instruments and controls all clear to see and uncluttered. Rear legroom is not its strongest selling point and the door pockets are on the small side. The split rear seats fold down and give extra space over and above the 350-litres the boot offers.
The engines all receive upgrades to reduce CO2 emissions and there is more performance from the 2.0-litre JTDm-2, 150hp turbodiesel unit. Other engine options are; the 1.4-litre 120hp petrol, 1.4-litre Multiair 170hp petrol and the 1.6 JTDm 105hp turbodiesel. The model line-up has been streamlined with four trim and equipment levels ranging from Sprint, Distinctive, Sportiva and the yet to be released Quadrifoglio Verde which was the Cloverleaf version.
I have just sampled the latest Giulietta with the most likely best selling combination of Distinctive trim and equipment powered by the 1.6-litre JTDm 105hp turbodiesel unit which has an on-the-road price of £20,420. This version has the Alfa DNA system which allows the driver to select three different driving modes – All Weather, Natural and Dynamic which as their titles suggests softens or sharpens the engine response characteristics and steering response. Drive to the front wheels is through a slick 6-speed manual gearbox.
At the front is an independent MacPherson struts suspension layout with a more sophisticated multilink rear suspension layout which is renowned for giving better control over poorer road surfaces and during cornering than the more common and cheaper beam type. Generally handling and traction was sharp and precise supporting the Alfa sporting DNA and the suspension coped pretty well with our poor road surfaces. However the test car was fitted with 17-inch wheels instead of the standard ‘16-inchers’ which did firm up the ride and increased road noise intrusion. I’d stick with the standard wheels.
The engine sets no new standards in terms of performance, it’s quiet for a turbodiesel and the 320Nm (236lb ft) of torque from 1,750rpm provides linear power delivery. That said the gearing is on the long-side to improve fuel economy and reduce CO2 emissions so be prepared for frequent use of the gearbox to keep the engine in its power zone. Top speed is a fairly average 115mph and zero to 62mph takes 11.3 seconds. As for fuel economy officially this unit will return 70.6mpg in the Combined Cycle and as usual my test driving consumption was somewhat lower at 51.4mpg which took in all types of driving from motorway cruising to town stop/start conditions. It is no better or worse than most other units in this class. With CO2 emissions of 104g/km, the VED road tax cost is £0 for the First Year rate and then £20 per annum for year two onwards. Should the Giulietta be available as a company car than drivers will pay 16% Benefit-in-Kind tax which is lower than the previous generation where CO2 emissions were 114g/km, BIK tax was rated at 18% and the official fuel consumption was only 64.2mpg so the latest engine changes have been notable.
As I said earlier in this editorial, the best way to revive the Alfa Romeo brand is to make it aspirational and whilst the Giulietta is perfectly functional and stylish it follows but not leads in this sector. Alfa needs to return to its iconic sporting heritage roots to re-grow the brand’s desirability to a new generation of buyers and enthusiastic sporting drivers. There must be a wealth of sporting minded customers out there longing to drive something different from a VW Golf, BMW 1-Series or an Audi A3 Sportback so for now the latest Giulietta is an option.
MILESTONES: Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1.6 JTDm-12 105hp Distinctive 5-Door. Price: £20,420.
Engine/transmission: 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder, turbodiesel, 105bhp, 320Nm (236lb ft) of torque from 1,750rpm, 6-speed manual./ Performance: 115mph, 0-62mph 11.5 seconds, Combined Cycle 70.6mpg (51.4mpg on test), CO2 104g/km, VED road tax £0 First Year Rate then £20 for Year Two onwards, BIK company car tax 16%. Insurance group: 16. Warranty: 3-years/unlimited mileage. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,351mm, W 1,798mm, H 1,465mm. Boot/load space 350-litres. For: Stylish, well equipped, high safety rating, improved CO2 emissions and fuel economy, a good option to break away from owning more commonplace C-segment hatchbacks. Against: A follower not a leader and sets no new standards in this sector, does not have the iconic pedigree that once was Alfa’s sporting DNA. Miles better news agency