The Alfa Romeo Giulietta's Sportiva trim became Sportiva Nav after its face-lift earlier this year. The new trim costs £810 more than before, but buyers are now treated to £2500-worth of extra equipment.
Sportiva Nav sits just below Alfa's sporting Quadriofoglio Verde models in the range, and aims to offer some of the QV's handling and styling attributes. It's reserved for the range's more powerful engines, too: the pokier 168bhp 1.4 MultiAir petrol and 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel we've driven previously.
To help it stand out from lesser models, it features 18-inch dark titanium alloy wheels, red Brembo brake callipers with uprated discs and unique Sportiva badges. Inside, a sports steering wheel and part-leather, part-Alcantara sports seats are the headline changes.
The longer kit list is also impressive. Sat-nav, digital radio, Bluetooth, front and rear parking sensors, auto headlights and wipers and cruise and climate control are all standard. It'll need to be more than just well equipped to be recommended ahead of Audi's A3 and Volkswagen's Golf, though.
What’s the 2014 Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1.4 MultiAir 170 TCT like to drive?
We drove the 1.4 petrol, which is pleasantly swift rather than outright hot hatch-fast. It needs to be worked hard to make decent forward progress, even if it does deliver its power evenly across the rev range.
Our test car also featured Alfa's TCT twin-clutch automatic gearbox. It's a mixed bag, because once you're up and running the shifts are quick and relatively smooth, particularly when made using the wheel-mounted paddles. However, when left to its own devices at lower speeds it tends to hold on to low gears for too long, and the changes feel jerkier because it dithers when selecting a gear.
In addition, the engine sounds quite strained when pushed, and it also sends an increasing amount of vibration through the pedals as the revs build.
By fitting stiffer sports suspension, Alfa has ensured the Sportiva Nav corners slightly flatter than other Giuliettas in the range. However, the steering still feels frustratingly vague around the straight-ahead, and numb and lifeless the rest of the time.
The larger wheels don't help the Giulietta's uneven ride; the Sportiva Nav thumps over potholes and expansion joints at speed, and it feels particularly unsettled over patchy or uneven roads.
This isn't the most comfortable car to spend a long motorway journey in, either. While wind noise is muted, the larger alloy wheels on the Sportiva Nav kick up a noticeable amount of tyre roar on all surfaces at normal cruising speeds.
What’s the 2014 Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1.4 MultiAir 170 Alfa TCT Sportiva Nav like inside?
While the front sports seats hold you firmly in place in corners, there isn't a huge amount of adjustment, and the steering wheel suffers from the same problem. As a result, some people will find it difficult to find their perfect position, more so than in, say, an Audi A3.
It's also a shame that Alfa demands that you pay an extra £260 for our test car's wheel-mounted gearshift paddles, and that there small size means you'll find yourself having to stretch around the wheel rim to get at them.
The dashboard is glossy, but feels hard and cheap, as do some of the plastics on other parts of the cabin that you'll come into regular contact with, such as the electric window switches and gearlever.
On the plus side, Alfa's latest infotainment system, called Uconnect, is standard. It has a 6.5-inch colour touch-screen and an SD card reader instead of a CD player, and it's through this that you control the sat-nav system, DAB radio and Bluetooth. USB and aux-in connections are standard, too.
Rear passenger space is worse than you'll find in an Audi A3 or a Volkswagen Golf. The rear door opening slopes down at the back, too, which makes access trickier than it should be, and there isn't a great deal of head- or kneeroom, especially when you're behind a taller driver.
Like all Giuliettas, the boot also trails its rivals', because it has a high lip and narrow opening, and although the rear seats split 60/40, they don't fold completely flat.
Should I buy one?
We can see why you'd be tempted. Sportiva Nav trim is well equipped, it's arguably the most stylish car in its class and rival manufacturers will struggle to compete with Alfa's current finance offers. These include a standard £2250 deposit contribution – plus an extra £1000 if you already own an Alfa –and attractive monthly payments.
However, Sportiva Nav Giuliettas cost from £24,485, and that puts it up against well-specced versions of the Audi A3 and Volkswagen Golf. These cars are better to drive, more spacious and practical, come with plusher cabins and have more refined, more-efficient engines and better auto 'boxes.
If it has to be a Giulietta we'd recommend a manual diesel model in cheaper Distinctive trim, which misses out on some of the Sportiva's headline features, but still gets an attractive equipment list. Diesel Giuliettas are also more competitive when it comes to CO2 emissions.
What Car? says…
1.4 MultiAir 170 TCT