Thursday 22 February 2018

This one's red hot

Stunning: Great to look at, the Giulietta is even better to drive
Stunning: Great to look at, the Giulietta is even better to drive

Look, we might as well cut to the chase here. As soon as I mention that my test car is an Alfa, a good number of you are virtually certain to say: "An Alfa? You have got to be joking."

And then, to confirm your own prejudices/experiences/fears/hearsays you would expect to read on to find out that it was a cracking car to drive, looked stunning, handled really well and re-ignited the hope they can disperse with concerns about reliability.

Of course, you'd also expect to find me saying that there are people out there who wouldn't buy an Alfa with the promise of four years' Dail expenses.

So I'd counter that by pointing out that there are those who are willing to give it their vote every time -- no matter how often they are let down.

They just love their Alfas.

You know what?

I think I'll leave it at that because that is just about the sum total of my experiences with this new Giulietta.

Well . . . let me go a few sentences more just to fill in a few information gaps.

It replaces the 147 hatch. In its day, the latter set something of a standard for handling and verve in the small, 'smart' hatch segment.

The Giulietta is a gorgeous-looking five-door. It looks like a coupe, with handles for the rear doors recessed in such a way that you hardly notice -- but then, most models made by the famous marque usually are.

In blazing Alfa-red pearlescent (optional), it fairly cut a swathe through the frankly boring silvers and greys that invade our roads and shopping-centre parking areas.

You'd find the 1.4-litre multiair petrol engine interesting. It was flexible, hugely powerful and, thanks to the old exhaust-tuning tricks, sounded like a pedigree Alfa. But oh, the power!

Don't forget, this is just a 1.4-litre engine, yet its mixture of cutting-edge technology and all sorts of tweaks produces an extraordinary 170bhp. That is getting on for hot, hot hatch muscle. I enjoyed it a lot.

However, every now and then, the back end got a bit twitchy on fast, sharp bends and we found the seats uncomfortably hard and uncompromising -- an old and a young back twinged in sympathetic unison.

The cabin had all the classic Alfa smart touches and, thank God, the dials were simple and easy to follow.

Here's a car with a really smart dash that doesn't yield to the tyranny of grey or black plastic.

There's also a decent boot, good rear space (and decent access because the doors open out wide).

For me, it was a car to drive and enjoy, more than one to own and worry about. I'll leave it at that.

Of course, the chances are that you have your mind made up already. You'll either buy or you'll run, so I won't detain you.

It's worth a test drive just for the sheer fun of it, though. And it keeps a bit of the old motoring spirit alive.

What: Alfa Romeo Giulietta, 1.4-litre Multi-air Lusso, 5dr hatch (1,368cc, 170bhp, 0-100kmh in 7.3 secs), 6spd gearbox, front-wheel-drive, CO2 of 134g/km; VRT is 16pc. €156 annual road tax

Cost: From €19,995 to €33,995. Model tested: €26,995. Delivery, related charges extra

Target Market: Young couples, families, singles, Alfa lovers, ‘empty nesters’ trading down

Plus: Style, speed, power and excellent engine

Minus: Fears of how quickly it will lose value on second-hand market, rear a little skittish on corners, seats not most comfortable

Standard Equipment: Radio/CD/MP3 player with six speakers, air con, black sprint fabric upholstery. Electric windows, rear spoiler, several airbags, 16ins wheels, stop/start technology. Lusso trim adds dual-zone automatic climate control, fog lights, sports dials, leather steering wheel with audio/phone controls, cruise control, 16ins alloys. Options on my test car included red pearlescent paint (€1,750), sports leather upholstery (€2,100) and electric/heated front seats (€995)

Others to consider: Audi A1, BMW 1-series, Honda Civic 5dr, Nissan Juke, top spec versions of Ford Focus, VW Golf

Rating 80 / 100

Irish Independent

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