“You can’t call yourself a car enthusiast unless you’ve owned at least one Alfa,” says new Alfa Romeo Australia boss Clyde Campbell. Phew! Your Car Showroom correspondent has owned three Alfa Romeos over the journey.
Alfa Romeo (and Fiat) products are now distributed in Australia by the Chrysler Group (Fiat owns Chrysler) and the ‘Downunder’ team has ambitious plans to grow sales for the Italian nameplates like they did for Chrysler (local sales doubled in the last few years).
And if the last few weeks are anything to go by, we’ll be hearing more than ever before about Alfa Romeo and Fiat. Whereas the previous importer never bothered to send one single vehicle to Car Showroom for review, we’ve now driven the entire Alfa Romeo and Fiat range.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta Overview
While there are significant new models in the pipeline, from a ‘What’s New’ perspective currently, the launched-this-year diesel-powered Alfa Romeo Giulietta hatchback is the most noteworthy.
Currently priced at $40,990, the 2.0-litre turbo-diesel Alfa Romeo Giulietta is available in one model, grade with Alfa’s TCT twin-clutch automatic transmission.
With its stylish ‘Italian-Modern’ good looks and handy interior space, the Alfa Romeo Giulietta JTD takes-on the likes of Volkswagen Golf GTD (matching the German superstar for power, the Alfa is nearly $1,000 cheaper), BMW 118d and Audi A3 TDI.
Add-in Alfa Romeo’s hallmark sporty ride and handling and there’s no doubt the Giulietta JTD is right in the mix - a standout European performance turbo-diesel hatchback by any measure.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta Engine
Alfa Romeo was actually the first brand to market with a common-rail direct injection diesel engine back in 1997. The latest Giulietta employs Alfa’s JTDM-2 four-cylinder 2.0-litre turbo-diesel with the latest-generation MultiJet common rail direct injection.
Maximum power is 125kW and peak torque of 350Nm is available from as low as 1750rpm. That means the Alfa Romeo Giulietta matches precisely the output of Volkswagen’s 2.0-litre TDI engine as fitted to the Golf GTD and Audi A3. Alfa Romeo says combined cycle fuel consumption is a miserly 4.5l/100kms and with a diesel particulate filter, the Giulietta JTD is Euro5 compliant with exhaust emissions ranked at 119g/km.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta The Interior
Alfa Romeo is claiming class leadership for the Giulietta in a couple of crucial areas – front leg-room and head-room plus rear-seat leg-room.
Climb inside and you immediately know you’re not in a German car – there’s Italian design influence everywhere from the usual Alfa leather-wrapped steering wheel (adjustable for rake and reach), to the classic Alfa sporty front seats and the switchgear (located ahead of the gear lever).
Like all Alfa Romeos the driver sits low for a sporty feel behind the wheel and the modern instruments maintain the usual Alfa look.
The rear seat split-folds 60/40 for load versatility and luggage space is amongst the best in this segment.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta Exterior & Styling
The Alfa Romeo Giulietta followed the small Mito is showcasing Alfa’s new styling direction. Both share a similar look at the front which can be traced to the 8C Competizione concept sports car.
Of course there’s the hallmark Alfa Romeo ‘shield’ grille and the number plate is offset to contribute to a thoroughly modern and sporty appearance. This is further highlighted by low-mounted fog lights and air intakes.
Modern headlights and taillights employ LED technology, while the sides feature Alfa’s usual ‘hidden’ rear door openings plus nice curved wheel arches (17-inch alloy wheels) and side skirts.
We particularly liked the rear-end treatment – highlighted of course by those LED rear lights but also delivering a strong, athletic look.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta On The Road
We only had one day in the Alfa Romeo and tackled the varying roads from Albury up to the mountains and back. Really the only element missing was the stop-start peak-hour crawl familiar to all city dwellers.
Alfa’s 2.0-litre turbo-diesel actually shades the Volkswagen Golf GTD in acceleration (7.9 seconds zero to 100km/h) to be the fastest in this league. And while everyone lags behind the BMW’s eight-speed automatic transmission, Alfa Romeo’s TCT twin-clutch six-speeder matches the Volkswagen/Audi duo for smoothness and precision.
In fact, over the twists and curves we did encounter some wet going and Alfa’s TCT worked impressively with the vehicle dynamics system to adjust gear-shift points when traction was lacking.
We also used the steering wheel paddle-shifters for manual changes to extract some extra sportiness and the result was performance driving dynamics to match the best of the Germans. With delivery of its 350Nm of torque from as low as 1750rpm, the Alfa Romeo Giulietta JTD was impressively flexible, delivering handy acceleration from slow corners and for overtaking.
All the while the 2.0-litre turbo diesel was superbly quiet and refined – as you’d expect from the latest turbo-diesel from the Fiat-Alfa Romeo conglomerate.
Ride and handling was equally impressive (you should expect nothing less from this Italian brand). The Giulietta runs Alfa’s MacPherson strut front-end and a multi-link rear plus the driver-select Alfa ‘DNA’ system (‘Normal’, ’Dynamic’ and ‘All Weather’) which provides the usual changes to the driveline performance. In ‘Dynamic’ mode over the hills, turn-in was crisp, traction and mid-corner grip were excellent and steering response also top-shelf.
All of this from the Giulietta JTD model. The sporty QV (not yet tested by Car Showroom) gains a racier suspension calibration with lowered ride height.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta Challenges
Our only points deduction for the Alfa Romeo Giulietta (and it’s a minor one) is the interior. Overall the good looking Italian matches the other Euros for style and comfort, but is let down by some of the minor trim materials which don’t quite match the Germans for quality look/feel.
There’s a facelift due early in 2013 and we’d be surprised if the updated Alfa Romeo Giulietta didn’t get some attention inside.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta Verdict
Very, very impressive – our day in the Alfa Romeo Giulietta left us wanting more and we’re impatiently awaiting a full week to put the stylish Italian through our normal Car Showroom test routine.
Here’s the clincher – it’s Italian. So while the Germans have been the ‘default’ cars in the premium European hatchback segment, the reality is the Alfa Romeo Giulietta matches the best of them for driving dynamics/performance and adds the styling differences of an Italian marque.
And the Giulietta scores extra for its spacious interior.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta The Competition
Looking at the Audi A3, you’ll need the $43,500 TDI Ambition model to match the power of the Alfa Romeo Giulietta JDT (125kW/350Nm from Audi’s 2.0-litre turbo-diesel). The A3 looks the part and of course Audi’s quality shines through inside and out.
BMW’s 118d is a tad short under the bonnet (105kW/320Nm) but oozes quality in the BMW way and comes with an eight-speed automatic transmission. But you’ll need a bit more coin at $46,200.
Volkswagen’s Golf GTD is a Car Showroom favourite and priced at $41,600 (six-speed auto) is a great buy. Power and torque from Volkswagen’s 2.0-litre turbo-diesel are identical to the Alfa Romeo Giulietta JTD and Audi A3 (naturally) at 125kW/350Nm.