Alfa Romeo Giulietta a joy to behold

The updated Alfa Giulietta is nimble, eager and hugely enjoyable

The updated Alfa Giulietta is nimble, eager and hugely enjoyable

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COMPETITION is rather stiff on the Giulietta’s patch. There are a lot of excellent options out there for buyers, so standing out is rarely easy.

But you can hardly say the Giulietta looks like anything else in its class. It just doesn’t, and that means an instantly recognisable face and the sort of sharp exterior design that Savile Row can only dream of.

The colour options are fantastic, for a start. Strong reds and blues suit the passionately-penned lines to a tee, and immediately the car feels a little bit younger and more interesting than many of its contemporaries do.

There’s a slight dint in the aesthetics in the shape of reduced visibility from the driver’s seat towards the rear corners. Parking sensors are a must if you’re nervous about reversing.

But this is the updated version of a car that strives as hard as ever to be different to those cars it calls its rivals. Everything from the offset front number plate to the stunning two-colour contrast stitching on the optional leather seats is as far removed from its sober competition as a six-tier luxury wedding cake is from a value brand mince pie.

There are a bunch of revisions for this model that mainly refine the experience a little and update a few of the technologies. Key among the new 
systems is the 6.5-inch Uconnect infotainment interface, developed with Harman, which combines a really fresh set of graphics and the latest connectivity options to create a stylish and functional centrepiece for the console.

Connecting a Bluetooth device is easy enough, and there are some handy upgrade options for the stereo. Alfa owners tend to be as passionate about their music as they are about their cars.

The familiar DNA drive mode selector is still present and makes a vast difference to the way the car drives between modes. Arguably, Dynamic is the one to select most of the time, but Natural and All-Weather have their places where fuel efficiency and grip are most important.

As an Italian car it has some quirks that you wouldn’t find anywhere else, like front seat belts routed right over the seat back angle adjusters. Bizarre. The Giulietta’s USB and auxiliary input ports are also in a daft place; with nowhere around them to store a device and a resulting trail of cables across the cabin.

The range of engines is much the same as before, stretching across economical diesels and punchy petrols. The diesels are rather gruff and characterless, but they’re strong and benefit from carefully chosen gearing, making overtaking a breeze at typical speeds.

The lighter petrol engines, though, especially the higher-powered 1.4 MultiAir unit, transform the Giulietta into a nimble, eager and hugely enjoyable hatchback with a level of talent few rivals can get anywhere near. If only it made a sweeter noise…

Specify the top-spec leather seats with the contrasting stitching and you’ll get good lumbar support and great lateral bolstering. They add a pinch of Italian zest to a class of car that’s all too often left languishing on the boring side of sensible. Legroom in the back isn’t class leading but it’s ample for adults in the outer rear seats, where you’ll also find ISOfix child seat mounts.

The thing about the Giulietta is that it’s a much more interesting car than its more straight-laced competition. Its quirks are generally things you can simply work around without any fuss, and buying it is ultimately a decision made by the heart. That means that, unlike any of its competitors, the Giulietta is a car you can love.

VITAL STATS

CAR Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1.4 MultiAir 170 Lusso

PRICE £20,515

PERFORMANCE Max speed 135mph; 0-62mph 7.8s

MPG combined 49.6

CO2 EMISSIONS 131g/km

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