First drive: Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCT

31 Jul 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on First drive: Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCT
Alfa Romeo Giulietta

Alfa Romeo’s Giulietta gets a smart new dual-clutch automatic transmission, which not only makes for an easier drive but improves economy and emissions. It’s a compelling package, but the Giulietta remains a relative obscurity in the densely populated compact hatchback marketplace.

Key Facts

Pricing: Ј21,855

Engine: 1.4-litre turbocharged MultiAir petrol

Transmission: Six-speed automatic, front-wheel drive

Body style: Five-door hatchback

CO 2 emissions: 121g/km

Combined economy: 54.3mpg

Top speed: 135mph

0-62mph: 7.7 seconds

Power: 170hp at 5,500rpm

Torque: 250Nm at 2,500rpm

In the Metal:

Interesting and extrovert where others are staid and conservative the Giulietta is everything you’d expect from an Alfa Romeo. From the plunging grille and offset number plate to the mix of creases and curves the Giulietta is undeniably a good looking car.

That’s true inside too, with the traditionally deep-cowled instruments behind a heavily sculpted steering wheel all set in a pleasingly styled dashboard. Materials are decent quality, if not up with the lofty standards of VW’s Golf, but it’s a smart driving environment. It’s missing a pedal though, the TCT twin-clutch automatic adding a pair of paddles to the wheel instead and a conventional auto stick to the transmission tunnel.

Driving it:

You can have your TCT-equipped Giulietta with 170hp provided by either diesel or petrol power. So there’s 1.4-litre MultiAir or 2.0-litre JTDM units. Obviously the diesel comes with more torque and greater economy, but in either the TCT works well.

Slipping between its ratios at the higher revs of the petrol engine it feels pleasingly sporting while in the diesel it’s similarly seamless, if not at such high engine speeds. Taking over with the paddles gives you control to a point, though the paddles are rather small and a bit of a reach around the wheel. Alfa’s D.N.A. system allows changes to the steering and throttle response, but even set at its most sporting the Giulietta lacks the sort of precision or enthusiasm of a Ford Focus.

Refinement is respectable in both versions, the diesel naturally a bit more intrusive in the cabin at normal engine speeds compared to the petrol unit, but wind and road noise is decently contained in each. What is remarkable are the differences in the cars’ handling. The diesel proves hugely adjustable in bends with a very mobile rear axle, while the petrol is doggedly determined to understeer.

A test track hovering between zero and minus two degrees – and the cars using different tyre brands – can’t have helped, but we’ve never driven two all but identical cars back-to-back that behave so differently.

What you get for your Money:

The TCT transmission will only be offered on the more upmarket Lusso and Veloce trim levels, which make up the majority of sales anyway. That does mean a pretty comprehensive specification, including dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth hands-free telephony and cruise control as standard. Veloce gains leather upholstery and sports suspension over the Lusso.

The TCT adds Ј1,350 to the list price of either.

Worth Noting

Specification and style aren’t the only areas in which the Alfa TCT appeals. Both the diesel and petrol engines deliver low CO 2 emissions in comparison with their rivals and their manual relatives. The 1.4 MultiAir’s 121g/km betters everything in its class, it even more impressive when you factor in the 170hp output.

The diesel is similarly impressive, with 119g/km CO 2 and 62.8mpg on the official combined cycle.

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