Following on from the Alfa Romeo
Mito, the new Alfa Romeo Giulietta marked the beginning of a rejuvenation of the Alfa Romeo brand. A proud marque with a strong performance history, its heritage was diluted by a string of mediocre cars in the 1980s and 90s sporting Alfa Romeo grilles and badges.
Building on success of the Mito, the Giulietta and the flagship Alfa Romeo 4C sports car, the Fiat Group are talking confidently about a strong vision for a future. Future Alfa Romeo models will focus on traditional Alfa Romeo strengths. But there will be one that takes a rather different tack. There are strong rumours (and quite a few test mules) that say Alfa Romeo will shortly launch an SUV, to cash in on the growth in that market sector.
The new Alfa Romeo Giulietta has been around since the Geneva Show in 2010 and came second in the European Car of the Year Awards the following year. Now there is a new model – the Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1.4 Sprint MultiAir. Based on the existing 1.4-litre unit, the Sprint power unit is tuned and re-mapped to produce 150 bhp.
To distinguish the Sprint from lesser siblings, it comes with some special kit. The door mirrors and door handles are finished in a dark grey, there are special (and rather attractive) grey alloy wheels and some body kit on the sills and rear. Inside, a bizarrely soft carbon-fibre style pattern adorns the dashboard. The package is completed with Alcantara seats and steering wheel rim.
The Giulietta Sprint is a four-door car. But, Alfa have used the same visual trick they introduced on the old Alfa Romeo 128 to make it look a bit like a two-door coupé. The rear door handles are hidden in the rear window surround.
Settling into the Alcantara Seat the steering wheel feels a little bit high, even when set to its lowest setting. But, a bigger issue with the driving position is that there is no room to slide your foot left off the clutch pedal. (This could be a selling point for the Giulietta models fitted with the Alfa Romeo TCT dual-clutch gearbox!)
In reality, apart an occasional curse at the lack of foot room, I made my peace with the Giulietta’s driving position and began to really enjoy my time behind the wheel. This is also a genuine four-seater, albeit that a long-legged driver will make it a bit of a squeeze for similarly lofty person to get behind them in the back.
On the centre console is the usual Alfa Romeo DNA switch that lets you choose the driving mode. Switching this to Dynamic really does change the character of the car quite noticeably. After a bit of experimentation Dynamic was my favoured setting, but not only does it sharpen up the responses and the suspension, it also adds weight to the steering. I found it fine, but I am aware that some people feel the steering is too heavy in Dynamic mode. Sadly, for them, you cannot pick and choose – selecting dynamic engine management and suspension, along with normal steering, for example.
My only quibble about the controls was a desire for a slightly more positive feel and a little more feedback from the brake pedal.
Manufacturers are spending more effort these days on getting their cars sounding good. With the Alfa Romeo Sprint, the effort have paid off. The noise is not intrusive but it is there in the background and it sounds great.
A few years ago, the idea of a 1.4-litre engine in a sporting version of a saloon would seem laughable. But, these days, it is amazing the performance that can be coaxed out of smaller engines. The Sprint is a good example.
Linked to a good precise gearbox, the MultiAir engine proved suitably eager and delivers a strong surge of power right through the rev range, which ends at 6,500 rpm. The benchmark 0-62 mph sprint is achieved in a reasonably rapid 8.2 seconds.
The combined fuel consumption is 51.4 mpg. The fact that my real-time fuel economy was substantially lower may actually be a compliment to the car, rather than a brickbat. I found it so enjoyable it was difficult not to drive quite hard, which pushed my overall miles per gallon down to the mid 20s.
The handling of the Giulietta Sprint should also please most enthusiasts. It grips the road really well and turns in nicely to corners. In the Dynamic mode, the steering feels precise and delivers a bit of feedback from the road. Switch back from Dynamic to Normal mode and the steering becomes less communicative.
Owning an Alfa Romeo is, once again, becoming something to savour. With that rejuvenated image the Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1.4 Sprint MultiAir is an appealing proposition. If you are in this market, it deserves a place on your short list. There are now plenty of good examples on the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint 1.4 MultiAir
Carbon dioxide emissions: 127 g/km
VED band ?
Combined fuel economy 51.4 mpg
Top speed: 130 mph
0-62: 8.2 secs
Power 150 bhp
Engine size 1368cc petrol
Boot capacity 350 litres