Alfa Giulietta – first drive
Andrew Brown visits Alfa’s test track at Balocco to sample the new Giulietta, including the 235bhp Cloverleaf version.
Before going on sale in left-hand drive form in Europe, Alfa Romeo gathered a range of Giuliettas at their Balocco test track and invited the motoring press to take a drive. All I had to do was walk up and say, “ I’ll have that one.” This was a 2.0 JTDm2 in gleaming white and Sports trim. The first impression is of a relatively compact car, both inside and out, although interior width and legroom are generous for this size of car and there is plenty of room for four or even five adults to sit in comfort.
Start-up is refined and the gears are selected with short-throw lever. A data/satnav screen tilts up at the top of the dashboard once the engine is turning. The whole interior feels quite plush and well equipped and I found it easy to adjust the seat and steering wheel to my preferred driving position.
We were not confined to the track so I exited the site and tried the car on the rural roads in the surrounding area. With diesel torque pushing the Giulietta along I was soon up to incautious speeds. The car sat four-square on the road and took the bends with precision, minimal roll and absolute security. The ride was good with no crash-bash or choppy pitching – better than the MiTo then. So the fun factor is high without the compromises normally associated with sporty suspension. Whilst the new 2 litre diesel engine has plenty of easy-to-use power, it makes no Alfa style noises at all - there was only the usual four cylinder diesel ‘patter’. Time for a petrol version then.
Back at the track I selected a 170bhp turbo petrol Multiair in dark blue. I had already tested the MiTo with this engine and was very impressed. Even with turbo and Multiair technology, real performance is to be had higher up the rev range compared to a diesel, which is to be expected. So it paid to hang on to the gears a bit longer. Progress was brisk. The Giulietta performed well in a refined way, but it is not a racer. The sure-footed handling maintained the fun factor though.
Back at base I tried a couple of lesser versions which were almost as much fun as the higher powered cars. But I really wanted to get my hands on a 1750, 235bhp Cloverleaf and managed to grab one in 8C style metallic red. Alfa did not want us to terrorise the locals with this car so we were confined to the track – which I did not mind at all.
The main circuit at Balocco has many challenging corners, a semi-banked sweeping curve and a long straight. I have driven this on a couple of previous visits and it takes a few laps to even start to get things right. Today, however, the Alfa management had incorporated a few artificial chicanes to slow us down and challenge the Giulietta’s handling. Also, we were not allowed to use the main straight, being channelled into the paddock at the end of each lap.
The Cloverleaf negotiated the track in a totally sure-footed way. Acceleration, braking and road holding are all up to expectations – in Dynamic mode. Apexes could be clipped with accuracy and there was plenty of grunt from the engine to fling the car out of corners. The electronics were very much in charge though and there was no tail-out fun to be had at all. The car just stuck four-square to the track with a momentary squeak from the front tyres when adhesion reached its limit. Understeer is incredibly well controlled so neutral handing is what you get. All very refined, but Alfa has decided that you can have just that much fun, and no more. A disappointment was the gear change. It was rubbery and baulky - not the slick switch-like shift you would expect with a performance car. Anyway, after each forced exit at the end of each lap I rejoined the track to have another go. I certainly was not getting bored.
There will be a full report in the June issue of the club magazine. In the meantime, I would suggest that the 170bhp Multiair Giulietta is the one to have.