I deliberated long and hard before purchasing ‘the G’ as it’s become affectionately known.
Ideally, I was after something small and stylish that you don’t see many of. After traipsing through car yard after car yard of Renaults, Peugeots, Fiats (you get the idea), I settled on a four-year-old ‘poverty pack’ Giulietta with very low kays. Thanks to rock-like Italian car depreciation, I was able to pick it up for an absolute steal.
Perhaps ‘poverty pack’ isn’t really fair on the car… It has Bluetooth connectivity (phone only, no audio), cruise control, auto lights/wipers, and the best-looking hubcaps I’ve ever seen, but that’s about it. I can live with manual air-con and having to plug an AUX cord into the phone to listen to music, but the most glaring omission from the spec sheet is the parking sensors. There aren’t any.
Considering the Giulietta was marketed as a ‘semi-premium’ vehicle at the time, it’s just a bit poor. And believe me, you need them. The shapely Italian rear end results in some whopping C-pillars, which have caused many a near miss with the concrete pylons in the parking garage at work. That isn’t really a problem, more of a grievance I guess, especially if you’re not comfortable using ‘the force’ to perform tight manoeuvres.
That aside, once you’re out on the road it’s a different story. The steering is very direct and nicely weighted. The suspension is slightly more compliant than what you’ll find in, say, a Golf, but doesn’t produce any noticeable body roll no matter how hard you push it.
Being the base-model car, it’s fitted with the non-MultiAir 1.4-litre turbo engine. On paper it makes fairly modest power and torque figures, but numbers don’t tell the whole story. It’s a very ‘lively’ unit that never feels underpowered in day-to-day duties. It’s very willing to rev, but also just as happy to live its life below 2500rpm.
Because you’re able to ride the wave of turbo-fuelled torque, impressive fuel-consumption figures can be had. In fact, over the life of the vehicle I’ve seen a genuine 6.6L/100km. That’s actually pretty remarkable considering Alfa claims 6.4L/100km combined. I’ve even seen as low as 5.9L/100km from a tank of mostly highway driving.
By sticking to the base car, I was also able to get a fantastic six-speed manual transmission. The throws are fairly long, but the shift action itself is very solid and direct.
What’s the similarity between an Alfa Romeo and an aspirin? They both melt in the rain…
It’s things like this you’ll need to get used to hearing if you buy an Alfa Romeo. I am happy to report, however, that I have left the Giulietta in the rain several times and it all still seems to be intact. All jokes aside, it seems like the days of ropy build quality and questionable electrics are behind Alfa.
Granted, mine has only done fairly low kilometres, but nothing rattles and everything still seems to work as intended. I mean, yes, if you look around the cabin you can spot bits and pieces from the FCA parts bin, but everything feels of a good quality and not as though it’ll fall off in your hand.
Ergonomics, however, is where the Giulietta is classically Alfa… For instance, the cup holders are absolutely useless. They’re too small and too shallow to hold anything of substance. There’s one (yes that’s right, one) storage nook in the cabin that thanks to its awkward shape would be lucky to hold a box of Tic Tacs, let alone a pair of sunglasses.
There’s also (at first glance, at least) a clever combination centre console/armrest ‘thing’ that folds out of the way when not in use. ‘Great’, you think, until you find that when in the folded position the coins lodge themselves in the hinge mechanism. How handy are you with a set of needle-nose pliers? There’s also this weird single cup holder on a 45-degree angle in the rear that sprouts from the centre console.
All of those things aside, I’ve really grown quite fond of ‘the G’. It stands out from the crowd in a class of vehicles dominated by whitegoods.