There are engine options to suit most buyers when considering Alfa Romeo Giulietta performance.
There are three petrol options: 1.4 litres with 120bhp, 1.4 litres with 170bhp or the 235bhp 1.8-litre engine fitted to the top Cloverleaf version.
The 1.4-litre units are the smoother engines, offering a perfect blend of performance, economy and refinement. They’re raspy when pushed but still very refined.
The Cloverleaf, meanwhile, is the performance option and has plenty of power to give throughout its rev range.
Stats-wise the Giulietta offers competitive performance: the 1.4-litre 120bhp petrol gets you from 0-62mph in 9.4 seconds, the 170bhp version takes just 7.8 seconds, while the 235bhp Cloverleaf flagship completes the same benchmark sprint in 6.8 seconds.
On the diesel side, there are four choices: a 1.6-litre engine with 105bhp, a 2.0-litre with 140bhp or 170bhp and a further 2.0-litre option with 150bhp, added to the range for 2014.
The 105bhp 1.6-litre is the slowest in the range taking 11.3 seconds to get to 62mph. The more powerful 170bhp 2.0-litre will take you there in 8.0 seconds. The 1.6-litre offers just enough grunt low down to be flexible but isn’t as pleasurable to use as the petrols.
The 140bhp 2.0-litre was added to the range in 2011. It gets the Giulietta from 0-62mph in 9.0 seconds.
For 2014, a 150bhp version of the 2.0-litre diesel was added. It’s rather noisy at high revs but is much quieter in higher gears on dual carriageways. It has plenty of torque – 380Nm in Dynamic mode (explained below) – which means it has plenty of pulling power for getting up to speed or overtaking. It’ll get from 0-62mph in 8.8 seconds.
DNA driving modes
All versions, petrol or diesel, can be driven in one of three driving modes as part of Alfa Romeo’s ‘DNA’ system: Dynamic, Normal and All-weather. The Dynamic mode, which delivers quicker throttle and steering response, makes a marked difference and you’ll experience far perkier performance with even the slightest prod of the accelerator pedal.
All-weather dulls the throttle response and makes the traction control system more sensitive to better suit slippery road surfaces.
In many ways it’s a frustrating system – you always feel that whichever mode you’re in is a compromise in some way. For example, Dynamic sharpens the engine’s response but makes the steering feel leaden and heavy.
Automatic transmission choices
Since autumn 2011 there were two engines available with Alfa Romeo’s TCT (Twin Clutch Transmission) automatic gearbox: the 170bhp 1.4-litre petrol and the 170bhp 2.0-litre diesel. In 2016 the fleet-favourite 1.6-litre diesel also became available with the auto gearbox.
Alfa has given the Giulietta relatively stiff suspension so it corners suitably flat with little body lean but, despite boasting plenty of grip, it ultimately lacks the handling balance and finesse that both the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf offer.
The steering is also another weak area. It might be quick and responsive but it's blunted by a lack of feel.