Unless you look very carefully, the changes to the Alfa Romeo Giulietta for 2014 will almost pass you by.
A slightly different grille, shinier foglight surrounds and new designs for the alloy wheels across the range are all that set it apart from the outgoing model from the outside.
Inside, there are new - Alfa says, more supportive - leather seats and higher grade trim finishes, plus the steering wheel design has been tweaked.
What's the 2014 Alfa Romeo Giulietta like to drive?
The Giulietta has had no mechanical updates for 2014. The only change to the engine line-up is a more powerful and efficient 148bhp diesel, which is the model tested here.
All of the Giulietta's engines offer decent off-the-line punch and flexibility, and this new 2.0-litre diesel is no different. The power delivery is smooth, and while it's a little grumbly around town, it quietens down on the motorway.
Changes to the injection system mean this is a more refined engine than the one it replaces, thanks in part to Alfa adding more sound-proofing material.
The six-speed manual gearbox lets things down, though, because it has a notchy action - not what you'd expect in a car that has sporting pretensions and a ‘Dynamic’ mode.
That's a shame, because the Giulietta is composed through bends, even if the steering doesn't offer much in the way of feel.
The ride is also unsettled and unforgiving over most surfaces. Opting for the largest 18-inch alloys only makes this worse, and they kick up a serious amount of road noise at speed.
What's the 2014 Alfa Romeo Giulietta like inside?
Alfa Romeo says that new the sports seats have been designed to offer more lateral support. They don't do a bad job of keeping the driver in place through fast corners, but the Giulietta's cabin isn't the most comfortable or ergonomically desirable place to sit. Even something as simple as adjusting the seat backrest requires dexterity that you wouldn't expect in any mainstream car.
The steering wheel is new, but you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference; the textured plastic boss cover is carried over, with only the silver frame revised over the previous design. The dashboard also has a new black fascia running across the car. It looks glossy, but feels cheap.
On the plus side, a new infotainment system is available across the range, called Uconnect. It has a 6.5-inch colour touch-screen, digital radio and Bluetooth, as well as USB and aux-in connections. Sat-nav can also be added.
The Uconnect system in the Giulietta has a larger screen than in the Mito, but it also uses completely different software. It’s clearer to read at a glance and is more intuitive to use.
Passenger space is below average for the class. The rear door opening slopes down at the back, making access trickier than it should be, and once you're in there's not a great deal of head- or kneeroom to speak of - especially with a taller driver in place.
The boot also disappoints; it has a high lip, plus the rear seats don't fold completely flat.
Should I buy one?
The Giulietta isn't a match for the best cars in the class, but it’s just about worth considering as a punchy, stylish and efficient hatchback. The new diesel replaces a model that got impressively close to matching our True MPG test figure; a potential real-world 60mpg is very impressive.
However, we still have concerns about reliability and driver satisfaction. Alfa Romeo finished second to last in our 2013 JD Power survey, with the Giulietta in the 10 worst-performing models.
A 2-3% price increase over the existing model means that the new entry point will be around £18,200, and the cheapest 148bhp diesel will be closer to £21,700.
For private buyers, the 1.4 turbo petrol Giulietta still makes the most sense, but its similarly priced premium rivals remain even better alternatives.
Company car users should also look elsewhere first. An Audi A3 Sportback TDI 150 SE or BMW 118d SE cost barely £10 per month more; both are as efficient and quick as the Alfa, but are far better to drive and far classier to sit in.
What Car? says…
Specification 2.0 JTDM 150
Engine size 2.0-litre diesel
Priced from £21,700 (est)
Torque 280lb ft
0-62mph 8.8 seconds
Top speed 130mph
Official fuel economy 67.3mpg
CO2 emissions 110g/km