This turbocharged 1.4-liter engine packs a lot of usable power. I was actually surprised to learn that the Giulietta has less than 170 hp; it sure doesn't feel like it from behind the wheel, especially once the turbo spools up (lag is definitely detectable). The engine is matched well to the six-speed manual transmission, which has long but silky-smooth shift throws that feel great after a short adjustment period. The shift knob is wonderfully wrought, too, as is the entire interior, in fact, particularly the large piece of aluminum trim on the dashboard.
This Alfa really likes to be tossed into corners -- I hugely regret that I wasn't able to put it through its paces at GingerMan Raceway like some of my colleagues. I was very happy to watch others drive it, though: the Giulietta is absolutely gorgeous. I've admired this car from afar for the last year or more, and I'm not disappointed one bit now that I've driven one. OK, some of the controls would take some getting used to, and the dash lights unexpectedly and annoyingly flipped to full-bright several times due to some electrical gremlin, but those are minor complaints. I wish this car were available in the States.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
I have been looking forward to driving the Giulietta ever since laying out the story of Kacher's drive through Northern Italy. And that anticipation only grew when I began seeing test cars prowling around my small town near Chrysler's Chelsea Proving Grounds.
I love the Alfa's athletic, yet tastefully sculpted exterior and looking into the sleek black interior added to the desire to jump in this car and drive it somewhere -- fast. The wheels are gorgeous and the distinctive nose and slick taillights set the car apart from the typical four-door hatches offered here. Stylish details abound both inside and outside and even under the hood of the Giulietta. The dash is nicely sculpted and well laid out and the materials all look appropriate and add to the sporting demeanor. Using the stereo and navigating the onscreen menus is a challenge, but as others have noted, this car is not set up for the U.S. market. That point was driven home again when I noticed the "Benzina" was close to empty.
The Alfa badge -- one of the all-time great automotive logos -- appears on the car often, as does the script "Alfa Romeo". A plus-sized badge on the deck lid doubles as a hidden trunk release. When you look down and notice all four pedals (there's a nice, big dead pedal) are finished in brushed metal and rubber and each sports the cross-and-serpent, one does start to think maybe enough is enough.
I suffered through a few miles of lagging throttle response and generally disappointing dynamics before I realized the car needs to be switched into "Dynamic" mode to be truly enjoyed. Flipping that switch is akin to rattling a jaguar's cage. All of a sudden every aspect of driving the Giulietta comes to life. Steering and suspension muscles flex and tighten, and the throttle takes on a whole new feel. This is the car I was expecting!
The powertrain is more Miata than Mazdaspeed -- but that's not a complaint. This car is plenty quick enough to toss into corners and have a good time with, but it's not going to win too many stoplight drag races.
Overall I give the Giulietta pretty high marks. It's certainly a fun -- but not quite "hot" -- hatch. My only question is whether this car could succeed in the U.S. market in the $30,000-plus price range. In the $20Ks this car is a player. At $34,000 there are lots of more established and familiar cars that better the Alfa in everything but Italian flair.
Matt Tierney, Art Director