Alfa Romeo Giulietta still turns heads

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The Giulietta is six years into its product cycle and set to be replaced next year, but there’s a lot to recommend about the stylish five-door hatch.

It’s still a great-looking car. The distinctive Alfa nose and five-hole alloy wheels leave no doubt as to the car’s heritage. Inside, the carbon fibre effect plastic (which done badly can look a bit 1990s Halfords) around the cabin does a good job of making the car seem sporty, rather than naff - in the same way that Andrea Pirlo still looks stylish with a beard in a track-suit but I look like I’ve given up on life. The suede bucket seats, complete with embossed Alfa crest look terrific and feel even better.

Some of the materials are a step behind those in competitors such as the Volkswagen Golf, but the cabin generally feels well put together, if a little cramped.

The gearbox is smooth and changes with a satisfying thunk, although the handle on the gear stick is a little oversized to be a comfortable grip. The handling is excellent and the suspension does a good job of keeping the car stiff in the corners.

The Giulietta comes with an aeroplane-style toggle for switching between driving modes, of which there are three. Dynamic is the sporty one, Natural the efficient one and All-weather the careful one. Why not Sport, Normal and Wet? Because SNW doesn’t have the same ring to it as DNA does in the marketing literature, of course.

In both Natural and Allweather mode, the engine feels a bit flat, with a noticeable turbo-lag during acceleration which sucks the joy out of the driving experience, but flick it into Dynamic mode and the drive is far more rewarding.

The throttle comes alive and the turbo kicks in more quickly, and much smoother than it does in Natural mode. The noise from the 1.4-litre turbo-charged Engine ramps up and the steering sharpens up a notch too. The nought to 60 time quoted for the 147bhp unit tested is 7.9 seconds, but I had to triple check the figure as - in Dynamic mode - the Alfa felt far quicker.

There’s a 168bhp version of the same petrol engine if you want to shave off another 0.5 seconds as well as a 173bhp diesel. The 238bhp Veloce model is the one to go for if you’re feeling really frisky.

While the diesel options return excellent economy, in the petrol-powered Giulietta I returned 41mpg in Dynamic mode and 43mpg in Natural. Not quite up to spec compared with a lot of rivals.

If you succumb to the Giulietta’s charms keep it in Dynamic, unless it’s raining cats and dogs, as two extra mpg isn’t worth the trade off in performance in the other driving modes.

Fast Facts

●Price:£21,805

Engine:1.4 TB MultiAir, 147bhp

Performance:Top speed 130mph, 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds, 184 lb-ft torque.

Economy:51mpg combined.

Emissions:127g/km of CO2.

Alternatives

Mazda 3 Sport Nav - Slightly more expensive, almost as good looking. 168bhp but same top speed and 0-60. £22,170

Volkswagen Golf GT-Edition - Pricy in comparison,not as good looking, better built. 147bhp, 0-60, 134mph top speed. £24,870

Ford FOcus ST-Line - Slightly more expensive, not as good looking. 138mph top speed but slower to 60 at 8.3 secs. £22,770