Top speed: 121mph
0-62mph: 9.4 seconds
It’s Italian, it’s stunning and its name references the greatest love story ever written… But spend a week with Giulietta from Alfa Romeo and you’ll soon be booking sessions with Relate. Like most relationships, it started so well. You spotted the car across a crowded car park and your eyes were drawn by those dramatic lines. The rimless headlamps and plunging codpiece grille added to the appeal. You took the key from your pocket, you wanted to get to know this car a little better. You pressed unlock and… eergh… the car emits a long, dreadful jarring beep. I’ve “beeped” a lot of cars in my time, but the tone on this one is awful. It sounds crazy to dismiss a car because the security tone is too harsh, too long and too unnecessary, but every time I locked or unlocked Giulietta that noise put my teeth right on edge.
Clamber in and the disappointment continues. It’s a mid-size hatchback with a decent-sized boot, but the seats feel so cramped. There is very little leg room for passengers in the back. The quality of materials used throughout is not great. The plastics are unyielding. A driver makes direct contact with their car in so few places: door handle, steering wheel, gear stick. So these touch points have to feel generous and tactile. It doesn’t matter if the rest of it is like sandpaper, these three have to feel pleasantly rubbery. Hmmm, you think to yourself, this isn’t going as well as I’d hoped. Your eyes fall on the instrument panel, or they would if they could see it. The type on the display is so tiny it’s indecipherable, which is hardly the point.
Oh well, let’s get on with it. You turn the key and the engine comes to life. This sounds more promising. But first there is the weird problem of the pedals. The brake and throttle are bizarrely arranged. I can’t decide if one is too high or if they are just too close together. I have size-10 feet, but on each journey I have to take my right shoe off as I keep scaring myself to death by hitting the brake and managing to accelerate at the same time. Fine if you are a rally driver, but I’m not and this was very unnerving.
Once you get going the drive is energetic and rewarding. There is a strong line-up of turbo petrol engines, and the MultiJet turbodiesels offer astonishing efficiency. Opt for the 1.6-litre diesel and you’ll get up to 74.3mpg at just 99g/km of CO2. On the open road, the Giulietta comes into its own – it’s quiet, responsive and comfortable. But it’s too little too late. Great looks and a great engine, but definitely not one for a serious relationship.