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2013 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Distinctive review
OWNER RATING 7.2 /10
  • Good handling aided by the electronic front diff; 'All weather' mode works well in slippery conditions; Still one of the better looking hatches you can buy at any price point
  • Typical Italian design over function; Low-rent interior compared to Alfas of old; Turbo lag
PRICE N/A
ANCAP RATING
10

by Winston Ng

After over four years of ownership with “G” – Giulietta just doesn’t roll of the tongue – I have mixed, but mostly positive, feelings towards one of the most reliable car Alfa’s ever produced (up to this point).

The Distinctive model was one rung below the proper top of the line hot hatch QV, so with 125kW it wasn’t short of power. But, as many have mentioned, the old school tuning of this engine meant the turbo lag was more pronounced than say an equivalent VW or Nissan engine.

I did cross shop this with a Nissan Pulsar SSS with the 140kw 1.6 turbo motor – that car’s engine felt significantly stronger but handled significantly worse (especially since it did not have the front e-diff found standard on the Alfa range), so I chose handling over outright pace.

I ended up adding an aftermarket chip tune to yield 145kW, which improved fuel economy by a smidge and noticeably increased response in the upper rev range, but it didn’t help much with the low-end response this car really needs compared to some of its modern competition.

Just on the topic of fuel economy and reliability, maybe it’s because I do very few kays week (less than 8000 kms a year) but the stop-start system stopped working within six months. I was told by the dealership it was due to lack of battery charging that would normally occur if it was driven more regularly.

So on predominately urban and inner city driving, I’m averaging low 9s, but expect mid 7s to low 8s if you do plenty of highway runs (this is all without the stop-start system working).

Otherwise the Bluetooth connectivity works great on calls, the air conditioning maddeningly switches on by itself within a couple of minutes after start-up each time, when I just want the fan on and nothing else. The car has gone into limp mode a couple of times, possibly because of the aftermarket chip but I think I’ve isolated it to a partially blocked or dirty MAF sensor. Otherwise the car has been trouble-free for over four years of short, but spirited, driving.

Ergonomics are not a strong point, typical of many Italian cars past and present. Finding a good seating position is difficult and a lack of a left foot rest on the manual model makes long distances a bit tiring. The seats are supportive enough, but not the most comfortable, and although build quality is a good step up from the last generation of Alfas, the interior materials used are a touch low-rent compared to a 159 or Brera. But, you’re not paying those prices either.

On the right day and on the right piece of road, it is a blast to drive at 9/10ths when set in ‘Dynamic’ mode, the Q2 electronic front diff does quell wheelspin off the line and works well to keep the nose tucked in when tackling long sweepers. But it isn’t as effective in tighter, technical corners where a proper mechanical diff would help.

‘All Weather’ mode has been used a few times in the snow and plenty of times in wet conditions and it works well. You can feel the front diff still working and the throttle response in this mode has been adjusted to give better mid-range response. I’ve almost never used ‘Natural’ mode which is meant to be good for fuel economy but the front diff is disabled in this mode, so best to avoid on all but the driest conditions or when crawling in traffic.

No regrets on the purchase as it was one of the better options in 2013, but with a similar budget now there are plenty of better choices in the circa $30k bracket. The other half would have hated it, but if I had known you could walk away with one of the many unloved demo Nissan Juke Ti-S models for $30k or less 18 months later, I would have waited.

As we now need more space, we’re considering replacing this in the next few months with either of the Suzuki Vitara/S-cross turbo twins, or take a punt on the much more powerful, but significantly thirstier and potentially less reliable, Ford Escape Trend with the 2.0-litre Ecoboost engine.

I’m sure I’ll look back on this Alfa ownership experience with rose-tinted glasses in years to come but right now nearing the end of my time with the “G”, I can’t say I’ll miss this too much. I have fonder memories of my last car; a completely unbreakable Mitsubishi 380 VRX than I have with this slightly temperamental Italian hatch.



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ALFA ROMEO GIULIETTA BREAKDOWN

2013 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Distinctive review Review
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