Alfa Romeo Giulietta

Debut: 2010
Maker: Alfa Romeo
Predecessor: 147

Alfa takes a clean sheet product to rebuild its reputation... here it is.

Since the very beginning, Alfa Romeo consistently received favourable comments from AutoZine. Its GTV, 156, 147, 159 and Brera were praised as among the best of their classes. Ridiculously, if you read the sales figures in our manufacturer pages, you will find Alfa is actually struggling for survival. In the past 10 years, its sales fell gradually from 200,000 units a year to half that level last year. It changed CEO five times during that period, each time promised a new turnaround plan but none succeeded. So what's the problem ?

Being big fans of Alfa, I think it would be difficult for us to figure out the reasons. You know, Alfa is a brand for emotional car lovers. If you fall in love with its style, engine sound or sharp handling, you can easily forgive its flaws in ride quality, packaging, ergonomics, fuel economy or build quality. Unfortunately, most people care about these factors. They end up buying the more practical German or Japanese alternatives. Alfa did make considerable improvement in recent years, but I guess the flawed image takes more years to change. At least, it takes a clean sheet product to rebuild its reputation. This car shall be close to perfection like the best German premium cars. Now this car has come - the new Giulietta.

Alfa said it benchmarked against Volkswagen Golf and bettered it in most areas...

FIAT management originally named this car "Milano", after the city where the historic production plant and styling center of Alfa Romeo located. Unfortunately, it forgot that it had closed that plant in 2005 and the design center in 2009. The naming of this car angered the abandoned employees, leading to strong protest. To avoid ruining its official debut, the Milano was renamed to Giulietta at the last minute - so urgent that Alfa had to reworked the first official pictures with Photoshop !

This is the third time Alfa uses the Giulietta name. The first one was the 1950s compact sedan and coupe (Giulietta Sprint), which took Alfa Romeo back to prosperity. The second Giulietta was a sedan produced in the late 1970s. It was one of the last good rear-drive Alfas. The new Giulietta is a five-door family hatchback. Alfa made it clear that it benchmarked against Volkswagen Golf and bettered the latter in most areas - not just style and engine, but also handling, ride, space and frugality. What a bold claim. Is it really that good ? or is it just another Alfa that promises more than it delivers ? We'll see soon...

In the eyes of Alfisti, first sight to the Giulietta is not very amusing...

In the eyes of Alfisti, first sight to the Giulietta is not very amusing. Sure, it is a good-looking design by regular standards, but it does not have the magic of previous great Alfas. Compared with 156, 159, Brera or the early 147, it is a little bland and conventional, with little emotion and imagination. That might not be a problem to German cars, but to an Alfa Romeo it is inevitably disappointing.

Compared with Mito, the bonnet of Giulietta is flatter. Its triangular grille is a little straighter. As a result, the front end looks less three-dimensional than its small brother. This is probably why it doesn't look as emotional. Another reason can be found at the side windows - the fine chromed window liners look more skirt-and-tie than sportswear. Alfa might deliberately tune down its sportiness to lure the average buyers from Volkswagen. Fortunately, elsewhere the car preserves the character of Alfa. The rear view is still stylish, thanks to sporty taillights and an 147-style small tailgate. The side view is lifted by sporty crease lines and 156-style "hidden" rear door handle.

That door handle actually locates at the trailing edge of rear window. Unlock it, swing out the door and you will see a rear seat significantly roomier than that of its predecessor. It is not a surprise though, because the Giulietta is half a size larger than 147. Its wheelbase grows from 2546 to 2634 mm. Its length is 150 mm longer than Golf. From this point of view, the interior space offered by Giulietta is not too remarkable. It is competitive, but no more generous than the smaller and lighter Golf. Taller than average passengers may still find the rear seat marginal on head and legroom.

Style-wise, the dashboard is more FIAT than Alfa.

A similar story can be told for the interior architecture - it is competitive but no more. Style-wise, the dashboard is more FIAT than Alfa. It lacks the visual flare of 159; Quality-wise, it has plenty of soft-touch plastics and damped switches, but it still fails to match the high standard set by Volkswagen.

However, once we turn our attention to the mechanical aspect, the new Alfa starts getting interesting. This car showcases the new FIAT "Compact" platform - reports saying it employed the C-Evo platform of Lancia Delta and FIAT Punto Evo is unfound. Its biggest advancement is the use of multi-link rear suspensions. Each consists of 2 lateral links and a prominent longitudinal arm which mounts the hub and spring. To reduce unsprung weight, the longitudinal arm is casted in aluminum. Up front, the MacPherson strut suspensions also have their hub carriers made of aluminum. These aluminum suspension bits save a combined 14 kilograms.

To keep weight under control, 90 percent by weight of the chassis is made of either high-strength or ultra-high strength steel, including hot stamped tempered steel. The front crash beam is made of extruded aluminum, while rear bumper beam is thermoplastic. They save a further 12.5 kg.

Having said that, the Giulietta still weighs around 100 kg more than the equivalent Golf. Alfa still has a lot to learn from the German in packaging efficiency.

1.4 Multiair turbo is easily the most versatile engine of the class. It's just not very Alfa.

The Alfa packs a lot of new technology:
  • Dual-pinion electric power steering: like Volkswagen's electro-mechanical steering, it employs two pinions, one driven by the steering wheel directly and one driven by electric motor. This guarantees a direct communication path from the wheel to the driver. Moreover, the rack-mounted electric motor adds little inertia to the steering system.
  • DST dynamic steering torque: the power steering can increase resistance torque during sporty driving (i.e. lateral acceleration exceeding 0.6 g). It can also actively correct oversteer by applying steering compensation.
  • Q2 electronic differential: it applies braking to individual front wheels to simulate a limited-slip differential.
  • DNA: the dynamic control system offers three driving modes, Dynamic, Normal and All-weather. They change the mapping of throttle, steering, braking, stability control, transmission, Q2 electronic differential and DST.
  • Pre-filled brake: after Ferrari 458 Italia, pre-filled technology applies to Alfa Romeo. In sporty driving, as soon as computer senses the driver lifts off throttle, it will energize the calipers to press the brake pads softly on the discs. As a result, strong braking power can be realized instantly once the driver hits the brake pedal.
  • TCT twin-clutch transmission: FIAT Powertrain's first twin-clutch gearbox is going to make world debut in Giulietta later this year.
  • Multiair engine: the now-famous 1.4-liter Multiair turbo engine is available to Giulietta in the most powerful form. It produces 170hp and 184 lb-ft of torque yet returns 49 mpg EU combined consumption and emits only 134 grams of CO2 per kilometer. In short, it is easily the most versatile engine of the class.
  • Engine Start-Stop: standard on all engines, petrol or diesel.

It does not look, rev or sing as lovely as it should, but it does everything else much better than Alfa used to.

Unlike its German rival, the Alfa is generous on equipment. DNA control, Q2 electronic differential, climate control and 6 air bags are standard on all cars. This make it an attractive bargain.

On the Road

Apart from 1.4 Multiair turbo, Giulietta also offers the choice of 1.4TB turbo (120hp), 1.6JTDM turbo diesel (105hp) or 2.0JDTM turbo diesel (170hp). However, none of them are as sweet and refined as the Multiair engine, which is easily the pick of the range. Its power band is unusually wide, with amazing energy from very low rpm. It runs smoothly and quietly all the way to 6500 rpm. It manages to top 135 mph and sprint from rest to sixty in seven and a half seconds. For a family car engine, it is perfect.

Nevertheless, the Multiair engine has lost the magic of traditional Alfa engines, i.e. the rev-addicted manner and the beautiful sound that characterized Alfa twin-cam, boxer, twin-spark or whatever. It trades these subjective qualities for tractability, greenness and economy. We can understand that, if not forgive that.

A great drive and, surprisingly, great ride.

However, Giulietta is still a great drive. Its chassis is stiff and well balanced. Body roll is tightly controlled. In Veloce trim, which comes with stiffer suspensions and 225/45R17 tires, the front rubbers produce class-leading level of grip. Q2 electronic differential provides tremendous traction, not even wet roads could put it in mess. The dual-pinion electric power steering feels surprisingly natural. Weight builds up linearly in corner. With only 2.2 turns from lock to lock, its response is quick but never nervous. The DNA system is vastly improved from Mito. Dynamic mode really sharpens all things up and adds extra mid-range punch. The 6-speed manual box is also satisfying to operate.

Most important, its ride is supple, even on poor roads. The sophisticated suspensions and benchmark against Volkswagen Golf help Alfa Romeo to wash away its notorious track record in ride quality. Coupling to the effective noise insulation, the Giulietta is surprisingly comfortable to live with.

So this is really a surprising Alfa. It does not look, rev or sing as lovely as it should, but it does everything else much better than Alfa used to. Better than a Golf ? If you choose 1.4TB Multiair, I would say yes. After all, I don't care to be criticized for overrating an Alfa Romeo once again. I guess I am not the only one. Remember how many motoring journalists voted for 156 and 147 in European Car of the Year contest ?

 The above report was last updated on 16 May 2010. All Rights Reserved.

Giulietta Cloverleaf

Called Quadrifoglio Verde in Italy, Cloverleaf is the hottest version of Giulietta. Theoretically it succeeds the fabulous 147 GTA as Alfa's top hot hatch. However, you will find it a very different animal. Alfa said it "combines the utmost driving pleasure with greater environmental awareness for eco-conscious and environmentally-friendly sportiness." Unfortunately, the latter took away some of its excitement…

Powering the car is no longer the mighty Alfa V6, but a version of the 1750TBi engine we have seen in 159. It might have lost nearly half the capacity, but with dual-continuous variable valve timing, direct injection and a turbocharger, the four-banger produces a remarkable 235 horsepower and 251 pound-foot of torque, making it one of the most efficient production engines in the world. Moreover, scavenging control system satisfactorily tamed turbo lag at low rev by applying large intake and exhaust valve overlapping, causing an inrush of air from intake manifolds directly to the exhaust turbine. No wonder the engine delivers its peak torque at just 1900 rpm.

Cloverleaf is more GT than hot hatch...

Still, losing 15 horsepower at the top end and gaining 35 kilos result in a slight drop of performance. Top speed slides 3 mph to 150 mph. 0-60 mph takes nearly half a second longer at 6.5 sec. Nevertheless, our biggest disappointment comes from subjective feel rather than numbers – the 1750TBi is soulless. Yes, it is very efficient and well-rounded, but it refuses to rev beyond 6250 rpm and the sound it produces is dull. Comparatively, the 2.0 TFSI engine of Volkswagen Golf GTi is sweeter and more elastic, capable of revving up to 7000 rpm.

The rest of the car also leaves something to be desired. You can't distinguish it from lesser Giulietta in exterior styling, except the optional 18-inch alloy wheels. Its understated look is more German than Italian. The suspensions are slightly stiffer and lower. The brakes are slightly larger, and the calipers are painted red. The electronic driving aids are unchanged, i.e. Q2, DNA, VDC etc. are standard. Changes to the interior are too minor to describe.

If you expect a much sharper handling than the 1.4 Multiair, you will be disappointed. The Cloverleaf is more GT than hot hatch. It steers well, it rides well, it grips hard and it is tide down to the road, but it is not that sort of hot hatches that you will enjoy pushing to 100% or 110%, playing with steering and throttle to adjust mid-corner behaviour. In fact, the 1.4 Multiair, whose nose is lighter and turn-in is keener, is actually more fun to drive.

Cloverleaf belongs to the camp of Golf GTi rather than Renault Megane RS. Unfortunately, it lacks the sweet engine and the image-lifting upgrades that the Volkswagen has, so it fails to rock the latter from its class-leading position. Message to Alfa: it's time to think about GTA version.

 The above report was last updated on 18 May 2010. All Rights Reserved.

AutoZine Rating


Giulietta Cloverleaf


Table 1
General remarks
Length / width / height
Valve gears
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Giulietta 1.4TB Multiair
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4351 / 1798 / 1465 mm
2634 mm
1368 cc
SOHC 16 valves, VVT+VVL
170 hp / 5500 rpm
184 lbft / 2500 rpm
6-speed manual
F: strut
R: multi-link
1365 kg
135 mph (c)
7.4 (c)
Giulietta Cloverleaf
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4351 / 1798 / 1465 mm
2634 mm
1742 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
235 hp / 5500 rpm
251 lbft / 1900 rpm
6-speed manual
F: strut
R: multi-link
1395 kg
150 mph (c) / 146 mph*
6.5 (c) / 6.8*

Performance tested by: *Quattroruote

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