The Giulietta has a wide range of engines, and even the least powerful ones gives decent performance. Petrol fans can choose from 1.4s with either 118, 148 or 168bhp, or a 237bhp 1.7 that’s fast enough to frighten all but the hottest hatches. The diesels are a 118bhp 1.6 and 2.0-litre units with either 148 or 172bhp. The 2.0-litre versions are fast, but the 1.6 is flexible enough that you don’t need to spend the extra.
All Giuliettas have Alfa’s DNA ‘driving mode selector’, which changes the reactions of the engine, brakes and accelerator according to Dynamic, Natural and All-weather settings at the flick of a switch. It’s little more than a gimmick; the accelerator is too sensitive in Dynamic mode and reacts incredibly slowly in All-weather.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta ride comfort
Ride quality isn’t one of the Giulietta’s strengths. Lower-spec models have suspension that’s comfort-oriented and reasonably forgiving. General surface dimples and even larger speed bumps are no problem. It’s only when you hit sharper intrusions such as deep potholes, which result in a hefty thud through the cabin, that you feel the difference compared to better-riding cars such as the Audi A3.
Higher-spec cars have stiffer suspension that provides better control but also a firmer ride. They have larger alloy wheels with lower-profile tyres, too, which doesn’t help comfort. The Quadrifoglio Verde hot hatch has lowered sport suspension so is less forgiving still.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta handling
You can tailor the Giulietta’s steering responses by selecting between its three DNA modes. Whichever you choose you don’t get much steering feel, which is disappointing in a car that’s meant to be sporty.
It’s a shame, because other than that the Giulietta actually handles pretty well, with a sharp turn-in and decent grip, if a bit more lean through bends than you’d expect.
The sports suspension that’s standard for pricier trim levels provides a bit of extra bite, while the Quadrifoglio Verde’s lowered suspension makes it sharper still. Mid-corner bumps unsettle the Giulietta too easily, however, and the QV is nowhere near as much fun as similarly-priced hot hatch rivals.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta refinement
Despite improvements in 2016 the Giulietta can’t match the class leaders for refinement. It does have good points: the petrol engines are smooth when you want them to be, and have an appealing growl when you work them hard, while wind noise isn’t too much of a problem.
The smaller 1.6-litre diesel is pretty good, too, allowing relatively hushed progress, while keeping the engine’s vibrations well isolated from the cabin. The 2.0-litre units are grumblier and whoosh loudly when you accelerate. Road noise can be intrusive over some roads at speed, however, and the stop/start system is a bit jerky. The gearshift on manual versions isn’t particularly precise, either, while the TCT semi-automatic transmission is neither the smoothest nor most responsive of its type.
This 118bhp engine – which comes with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard - is the entry point to the Giulietta range, but it’s our pick of the bunch. It’s keen to rev and sounds good when you do, which suits the Giulietta’s character well, and it keeps down the price. Fuel consumption is no match for most rivals’, however.
1.4 TB Multiair 150
This petrol engine provides useful performance and is smooth and eager. It’s more efficient than the entry-level 1.4 engine, but it pushes the price up quite significantly, so we think most buyers will be better off saving their money. A six-speed manual gearbox comes as standard.
1.4 TB Multiair 170
This 1.4-litre engine punches well above its weight, with an impressive 168bhp and 184lb ft of torque. Performance is strong, refinement is good and there’s no penalty in fuel economy or CO2 emissions for choosing this engine over the Multiair 150. In fact, if you go for the optional TCT twin-clutch transmission instead of the standard six-speed manual, the official figures are significantly better. If you’re after a sporty petrol engine this is a fine option.
1750 TBi 240 TCT
This turbocharged petrol engine is reserved for the range-topping Quadrifoglio Verde model. With 237bhp it has plenty of power, but it all arrives rather suddenly and the standard TCT semi-auto transmission can be unresponsive at times. Refinement is ok, but fuel economy and CO2 emissions aren’t especially competitive.
1.6 JTDm-2 120
This 118bhp entry-level unit is our pick of the diesel engines available for the Giulietta. Reasonably refined on the move and usefully flexible to offer good real-world pace. CO2 emissions of 99g/km and fuel economy of 74.3mpg are up with the class best. A six-speed gearbox is standard.
2.0 JTDm-2 150
This diesel engine provides strong performance, but it’s rather noisy when worked hard. Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions are low, but not as low as those of the 1.6 diesel model, which is a better bet overall. A six-speed gearbox is standard.
2.0 JTDm-2 175 TCT
This is the flagship diesel engine for the Giulietta and comes with Alfa’s twin-clutch TCT transmission. It delivers mighty mid-range punch, and there’s not much of a penalty in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions for choosing over the 168bhp manual version. Refinement could be better and the TCT gearbox can be frustrating, however, so it’s our least favourite diesel model in the range.