Unless you look very carefully, the changes to the Alfa Romeo Giulietta for 2014 will almost pass you by.
It gets a slightly different grille, shinier foglight surrounds and new alloy wheel designs across the range, but that's about all that sets the 'new' Giulietta apart from the outgoing model on the outside.
Inside, the changes are more substantial. There are new leather seats – which aim to offer greater support – new trim finishes and a redesigned steering wheel. The dashboard has also been redesigned, with a Uconnect touch-screen now standard across the range.
What's the 2014 Alfa Romeo Giulietta like to drive?
The only mechanical changes are the introduction of a new 148bhp diesel engine, while the existing 1.6-litre diesel engine has been tweaked to improve its economy and efficiency.
All of the Giulietta's engines remain punchy and flexibie, and the 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 nicely on the motorway.
The refined improvements over the old engine are down to a new injection system and the addition of more sound-proofing material. However, once you are up to speed, there's still a notable amount of road noise, although there is minimal wind noise from the streamlined door mirrors.
The 1.6-litre diesel engine might be more economical than before, but it's still very noisy, and a lot of vibration still makes its way into the cabin, too. The reductions in CO2 emissions mean that it drops a company car tax band, though.
The Giulietta's standard six-speed manual gearbox also disappoints, because it has a notchy action – not what you'd expect in a car that has sporting pretensions. It's a shame, because the Giulietta is composed through bends, even if the steering doesn't offer much in the way of involvement.
The ride is also unsettled and unforgiving over most surfaces. Opting for the largest 18-inch alloys only makes matters worse.
What's the 2014 Alfa Romeo Giulietta like inside?
The new sports seats have been designed to offer better 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 fascia running across the car, which can be specified in different colours. It's glossy, but feels cheap, as do some of the plastics on other parts of the cabin that you come into regular contact with, such as the electric window switches.
On the plus side, a new infotainment system is available across the range, called Uconnect. It has a five-inch colour touch-screen on all models except the range-topping Sportiva Nav model, which gets a 6.5-inch version and an SD-card reader instead of a CD player. All models get a DAB radio and Bluetooth, as well as USB and aux-in connections as standard.
The USB and aux-in sockets have been moved from the glovebox to the central console to make them easier to access. However, there is nowhere next to the sockets to put your phone while it is plugged in, so you will end up with wires trailing across the cabin.
Passenger space remains 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 isn't a great deal of head- or kneeroom to speak of, especially with a taller driver.
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 family cars, but it’s still worth considering if you value style over handling, comfort and interior space.
For private buyers, the 118bhp 1.4 Multair petrol still makes the most sense, but its similarly priced premium rivals – such as the Audi A3 Sportback – remain even better alternatives.
Company car users should also look elsewhere first. An Audi A3 Sportback 2.0 TDI 150 SE or BMW 118d SE cost barely any more to tun, are just as quick as the Giulietta 2.0 JTDM, are far better to drive and much classier to sit in.
What's more, we have serious concern about Alfa's reliability record. The company finished second to bottom in the 2013 JD Power ownership survey, with the Giulietta the single least reliable car in its class.
What Car? says…
Specification 2.0 JTDM 150
Engine size 2.0-litre diesel
Priced from £21,720
Torque 280lb ft
0-62mph 8.8 seconds
Top speed 130mph
Fuel economy 67.3mpg
CO2 output 110g/km
Specification 1.6 JTDM 105
Engine size 1.6-litre diesel
Priced from £19,170
Torque 236lb ft
0-62mph 11.3 seconds
Top speed 115mph
Fuel economy 70.6mpg
CO2 output 104g/km