Alfa Romeo Giulietta

1.6 JTDM-2 TCT Super

Alfa Romeo Giulietta, front
Alfa Romeo Giulietta, front
Alfa Romeo Giulietta, front
Alfa Romeo Giulietta, front
Alfa Romeo Giulietta, front
Alfa Romeo Giulietta, side
Alfa Romeo Giulietta, interior
Alfa Romeo Giulietta, interior
Alfa Romeo Giulietta, interior
Alfa Romeo Giulietta, boot
Alfa Romeo Giulietta, rear
Alfa Romeo Giulietta, rear
Alfa Romeo Giulietta, detail
Alfa Romeo Giulietta, front
Alfa Romeo Giulietta, front
Alfa Romeo Giulietta, front

ALFA Romeo buyers generally have a different motivation to your average showroom punter.

Those who take the time to seek out the famous Italian badge are after a car that stands out from the crowd and offers a bit of fun when you slip behind the wheel - and they don't seem to mind making a few sacrifices in other areas to get it.

Such is the case with the Giulietta.

In all honesty it can't really compete with the practicality and user-friendliness of the big-hitters in the incredibly congested family hatchback market - but things like the number of cupholders or how many suitcases will fit in the boot are not top of the list of priorities in an Alfa.

What does matter is the marque's proud motorsport history - and the feeling that the car you will drive is somehow infused with this heritage.

As befits such expectations, the Giulietta has been one of the better looking hatchbacks around since it first hit the road in 2010 so, with little actually wrong, a facelift for 2016 was so slight as to hardly be worthy of the name.

A new black honeycomb grille, piano black bumper inserts and revised headlight and fog lamp surrounds have sharpened up the front end ever so slightly, echoing the design of the new Giulia saloon, but changes elsewhere are minimal.

There's a new grade structure and improved equipment levels, with all versions now getting a touchscreen infotainment system, but also new for 2016 came the option to mate the punchy and economical 1.6-litre JTDM-2 diesel engine with Alfa's smooth double clutch TCT six-speed automatic transmission.

The car I drove featured this combination and it's likely to prove popular, boasting official average fuel consumption of 74 miles per gallon and carbon emissions of just 99g/km, meaning that it's exempt from road tax.

Despite that, though, you still get some lively all-round performance with a 0-62mph sprint time of 10.2 seconds and a top speed of 121mph.

The real key to the sporty drive that Alfa buyers are after, though, is the DNA - dynamic, natural or all-weather - drive mode system, so it's good news that this is now also standard on all Giuliettas.

All-weather mode is self explanatory and, while obviously not matching 4x4 capability, offers extra reassurance on wet and slippery roads.

The natural setting is relaxed and well-mannered and ideal for driving around in town - where the Giulietta's compact dimensions and light steering make manoeuvring easy.

Select dynamic mode, though, via a simple toggle switch next to the gear lever, and the fun starts.

There's a discernible surge in the revs as the car's set up is instantaneously tweaked to be sharper and more responsive.

Throttle response and acceleration become more urgent, the steering quicker and the automatic gearbox holds on longer before shifting up, accompanied by a satisfying increase in volume from the engine.

Winding country roads become meat and drink to the Giulietta in this mode as the well-balanced chassis lets you take full advantage of the more adventurous set-up - with plenty of grip keeping the body in good order so that faster bends can be taken on with confidence.

The pay off for this impressive control is a slightly firm ride - the Giulietta clatters over the worst road surfaces - but generally it stays on the right side of comfortable and for genuine enthusiasts this is all part of the enjoyment.

The compromises in practicality for the Giulietta's compact, sporty lines are felt mainly by passengers in the back, where legroom is tight and small rear doors slightly hinder access.

Storage cubbies around the cabin are also at a premium although the boot is actually a pretty serviceable size, at 350 litres.

FAST FACTS

Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1.6 JTDM-2 TCT Super

Price: £22,300

Mechanical: 120bhp, 1,598cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 6-speed automatic gearbox

Max Speed: 121mph

0-62mph: 10.2 seconds

Combined MPG: 74.3

Insurance Group: 16

C02 emissions: 99g/km

Bik rating:19%

Warranty: 3yrs/100,000 miles

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