This Alfa does the


Alfa Romeo Giulietta Business Edition, side, static
Alfa Romeo Giulietta Business Edition, side, action
Alfa Romeo Giulietta Business Edition, rear, action
Alfa Romeo Giulietta Business Edition, interior

RECENTLY I had some serious business in Vienna and now understand why it depressed Ultravox so much.

Austria is a place to visit if you can but not Vienna. It was bombed 52 times in World War II and appears to have been rebuilt out of Lego.

Subsequently it was overrun by the Soviets who were, of course, noted for a sympathetic approach to historical architecture and as a compassionate occupying army, always keen to pay its bar bill before shooting the landlord.

Of course no European visit these days is helped by the difficulty of getting there. A recent Belfast - Liverpool flight required passengers to take off so much of their clothing at security we may as well have driven to the airport in bathrobes.

Budding James Bond types need to know that the only place you can surreptitiously stow your Walther PPK will result in severe discomfort and embarrassment for HM's MI6 should you need to draw it in public.

Nobody wants to play fast and loose with the security of the realm but terrorism has certainly put a dampener on air travel.

With that in mind I have no intention of putting myself through it unless absolutely necessary which means no early recreational visit to that most civilised of countries, Italy.

Please don't tell me this means the baddies have won. Not for one minute was is the intention of the murdering classes to further the cause of public nudity.

Driving in Italy is a joy, because no matter how rude you are on the road, a Brit will still look like the chairman of the guild of dawdling old codgers.

Even if you should have a rush of Latin temperament Carabinieri officers are more interested in looking good in shades and a rather well cut uniform than they are a bit of blind-bend overtaking.

Stylishly, they drive Alfa Romeos, famously the Giulia which coined the nickname Gazzella or Gazzelle.

Bringing us, quite literally, to the business of the day, the Alfa Giulietta 1.6 diesel Business Edition, not the most powerful of cars at 120bhp but economical and well enough equipped for £19,000.

Performance is hardly the point here, 10 seconds to 62mph is practical but given that the car is, as the name makes clear, aimed at commercial users a possible combined mpg of 74 is important. So is a total lack of any road tax penalty.

As you would expect from Alfa Romeo the car has striking lines and neat design touches like LED taillights and a honeycomb grille.

Any drawbacks that there are show on the inside. Some plastics don't quite hit the mark and despite the effective touchscreen controls now fitted across the range the cabin design is starting to look its age.

That said it is still an Alfa and a satisfying place to sit. The blend of comfort and performance is well balanced and there're is a ‘DNA' switch which adapts the car's throttle and steering through three settings, dynamic, natural and all-weather. An automatic gearbox is available but the six-speed manual leaves nothing wanting.

The numbers may not match those of a hot hatch but it handles like one. Under more sedate conditions noise is well controlled and it is at home over long motorway hauls.

There are cheaper five-door rivals on the market but the Giulietta brings with it as standard air conditioning, all the expected electrics, DAB radio and Bluetooth. To that you can add rear parking sensors, cruise control and a navigator. There is also a visibility pack with auto wipers and mirrors.

Interior space was not top of the design brief and those sweeping roof lines reduce rear headroom and the boot is adequate, no more.

For a smart looking well kitted car with attitude at the right price Giulietta is a case of goodnight Vienna.


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