Alfa Romeo Guilietta – putting on the style

Alfa Romeo had lost its way somewhat. But now it is back, producing cars that look like an Alfa Romeo should. One glance and you get the impression that every road behind this car’s wheel will as exciting as driving the famous Amalfi Coast!

The Guilietta is the second of the mainstream Alfa Romeos to be given this style makeover. The first was the chic little Alfa Romeo MiTo.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta

The result is undoubtedly attractive. The front of the Guiletta is dominated by the unmistakable Alfa Romeo grille and (for markets that require numberplates) the plate offset to one side. There is also the Alfa styling signature of camouflaging the rear doors (the handles are hidden in the rear quarterlight window) to give the car a more sporting, two-door look.

Inside, too, the Guiletta demonstrates a touch of Alfa Romeo style with a body colour strip across the dashboard, although some of the plastics are not as tactile as they might be.

The big disappointment for me was that this car does not fit.

The Alfa Romeo Guiletta seems to have been designed for the archetypal Italian. These days driving positions can be adjusted to a remarkable degree, but I simply could not get comfortable behind this particular wheel. The pedals are just too close, forcing my ankles to an uncomfortable angle. Those of shorter leg would probably be fine.

However, even those of shorter leg, would face the second flaw in the driving position. It is impossible to slide your foot sideways off the clutch pedal, as it is too close to the centre console. That leaves no alternative but a tiresome vertical lift to slide your left foot to rest under the pedal.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta

The driving position is nowhere near as badly flawed as on the launch of a much more bland Alfa Romeo many years ago. While it had been stripped of almost all Alfa distinctiveness – apart from a token Alfa grille shape stuck on the front – this particular car had the Italian driving position par excellence. Our route took us round the north coast of Scotland and I still remember hobbling out at Ullapool with an ankle that was crying “enough”!

Despite the pain involved, I loved driving that car because of its eagerness and the delightful Alfa Romeo sound track of a throaty engine and crisp exhaust note.

There’s not chance of that on the diesel road test car – the £21,650 Alfa Romeo Guiletta 2.0 JTD Lusso. The sound track on this car is muted, but what you hear under power is a rather tiresome diesel drone. That is never going to delight the ear or get the pulse racing.

Sound quality apart, the performance of the diesel is quite worthy of the Alfa Romeo name. The 170bhp output translates into a 0-62mph sprint time of 8.0 seconds and, like most turbo-diesels, its power delivery is even more impressive in the all-important overtaking range.

Equally impressive is the Guiletta JTD’s economy. The official combined figure is 60.1 mpg and the emissions are 124 g/km of CO2, putting this car into Band D for UK car tax.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta interior

Against this diesel advantage you have to recognise that, as is usual, the diesel engine is substantially heavier than petrol counterparts.

I suspect that extra weight is why I found this Guiletta a little ponderous when it came to twisty country roads. What also took the edge off the enjoyment of the by-ways was a rather cumbersome, notchy gearchange on the test car, that sometimes became downright obstructive.

If Alfa Romeo had sent a petrol-engined Guiletta – like the acclaimed and cheaper 1.4TB Lusso – I have a strong feeling this test would have ended up much more positive. But, they would still need to do something about the driving position.
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