The Alfa Romeo Giulietta certainly can't be criticised, like some modern hatchbacks, for looking a bit like the rest of the competition.
The little design touches that make you recognise a car are one thing, but it takes something really special to make a family hatchback stand out from the crowd and the Giulietta certainly looks distinctive.
It took on the new Audi A3 in a recent What Car? test, and the verdict was that 'its stylish looks are sure to seduce', which is strong praise for a car that went on sale in 2010.
Alfa has had a knack of turning out good-looking cars over the years, but they haven't always been the best to drive or run. Many of us here at What Car? were hoping that the Giulietta was going to be the model that changed all that, and were looking forward to running one for a year.
We plumped for the middle-of-the-range diesel engine – the 2.0 JTDm with 138bhp, a 0-62mph time of 9.0 seconds, a very appealing official economy figure of 62.8mpg and CO2 emissions of 119g/km. On paper, the Giulietta made a great case for itself.
The launch of the What Car? True MPG tests gave us a chance to see that these figures were more than just claims, because the Alfa got impressively close to the official numbers, with 58.9mpg.
Sadly we didn't quite get to those heights on a weekly basis, because the Giulietta spent a lot of time in town; the basic brim-to-brim calculations showed an average closer to 49mpg. Not great, but not awful, either.
To be honest, the Alfa wasn't at home in town; tackling speed bumps at anything faster than crawling pace resulted in the underside of the car coming into noisy contact with the road. Cursory inspections showed no visible damage to the underside, but it was as unnerving after the 500th time as it was the first. A more forgiving suspension set-up and a redesign of the car's underbody would cure it.
The stop-start system also caused frustration. It seemed conditions had to be perfect, in terms of external and engine temperature, and its functioning often depended on the number of electronic gadgets running inside the car. More often than not a mocking 'Start & Stop unavailable' message appeared on the dashboard and nothing happened.
When the engine did cut out as it was supposed to, firing it up again caused more problems. You either had to wait for a second longer for the engine to settle before pulling away, or press the accelerator hard to avoid stalling.
Another thing that took too long to kick in were the rain-sensing wipers (part of the standard Visibility pack on Lusso trim). Even on the most sensitive setting the water on the windscreen would get to the point where vision was seriously impaired before the sensor set the wipers in motion. A more sensitive sensor would have helped, but thankfully an intermittent setting with different speeds was available.
Tom's Alfa on video
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