Beautifully flawed but the Giulietta is an Alfa Romeo after all

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I wheel a Globe-Trotter suitcase with me on flights these days. To be honest, it’s not lightest or the most practical trunk on the carousel but hell, does it look good.

If you want to experience suitcase envy, just buy a Globe-Trotter. You can feel the Tumi buyers wishing they had gone for style rather than whopping price tag.

My case wasn’t cheap either but I can forgive all its little foibles because it makes me feel fab. And that should be the philosophy when buying an Alfa Romeo.

You have to accept the car’s strange ways and embrace the uniqueness of something that isn’t a Golf. Once that’s achieved, you’ll always yearn for an Alfa Romeo.

DNA? Nothing to do with the family in an Alfa Romeo…

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Italians love family more than EastEnders but the DNA switch in a Giulietta has nothing to do with the relations.

Everycar has to have driving modes these days it seems but the Alfa system was introduced way back in 2008.

Dynamic, normal or all-weather, it’s a neat way of changing the feel of the car at the flick of a switch.

It’s clever but I do long for a car that is one thing or the other – I don’t want to have to think about changing settings mid drive.

Sadly, I think most manufacturers are going this way. I was taught to drive more frugally by not pressing the accelerator so hard.

Now you can get the car to do it for you. I suppose that’s progress..

The Alfa Romeo Giulietta’s quirky ways will either amuse or frustrate you…

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When I was 22, I rented a property on an estate where all the houses were the same. One day I came home, parked on the drive and went to open to front door.

For some reason, the key didn’t fit. Then I looked to my left and a strange man was looking at me out of the window… I’d driven into the wrong driveway – just because all the houses looked the same and I must have been on auto-pilot.

This is similar to sitting in the Giulietta for the first time. Everything looks sort of familar but it isn’t. The steering wheel is round and it has one of those sticks for changine gear, year the Alfa isn’t like a normal car.

In the short term this proves annoying, especially if you haven’t got the time to get acquainted. How do you mute the sat nav, why is the infotainment system complicated – and why do I turn the hazard warning lights on instead of adjusting the air vent?

This is pure Afla Romeo. The pedals are off-set and rather high – the seats have an old-fashioned lever adjustment, the list goes on…

It takes time but I like the Giulietta’s quirky ways. It was either designed by a very cool Italian – or somebody doing a lot of dope. Perhaps both – but either way, I like it.

 

Old Alfas don’t die – they just rust away. Thankfully, the latest Giulietta won’t

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I should declare an interest from the start. The first car I bought was an Alfa Romeo GT Junior. To me it looked like a mini Jag (well it was the 1980s), came loaded with Italian promise and was painted a sexy shade of red.

I had swapped it for the eminently sensible Datsun 120Y, given to me by my father. The Japanese car never missed a beat but was soulless. And bright orange.

Naturally I sold the Datsun when he wasn’t looking to bring the Alfa home. It was 12-years-old and riddled with rust. Soon things started to drop off and the front wings had been stuffed with filler.

Eventually, the Junior died on the driveway, the brakes locked up and it trashed the tarmac surface when a lorry came to tow it away.

I should know better but just the mention of Alfa still brightens my day. The Golf-sized Giulietta is far prettier than anything from VW, Ford or Vauxhall.

All those marques offer equally good cars but most of them cost more. They won’t make you feel good like an Alfa either, or prove quite so entertaining when the road clears ahead of you.

I know for sure that this top spec Super isn’t going to rust too…

Thursday – Another Lingering Goodbye

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The last Alfa Romeo I waved goodbye to was welded to my father’s driveway. The 1971 GT Junior came from an era when Italian cars had more rust holes than Swiss cheese. It was lifted onto a scrap lorry and never seen again…

There was a hint of the same feeling when the driver arrived to collect the Giulietta this afternoon. Some cars just get under your skin – some cars don’t. You have to be passionate about driving to own an Alfa, or you may as well buy a Ford and talk about fuel economy.

Yes, it’s not perfect – our earlier reports warned drivers of the perils of tiny, Italianate foot pedals. Then there are the niggly little things, like a sun visor that is either up or down, with no stopping in-between.

Jessica found an rather wicked blind spot on the driver’s side, I loathe the ‘beep-beep’ alarm warning that is so 1980s and the seats that require you to supply your own padding.

But hey, this is an Alfa Romeo and you just learn to live with it – and enjoy a family hatchback that looks like no other, is powered by a remarkable 1.4 petrol engine and puts a little passion back into your daily drive to the office.

Wednesday – TB Or Not TB

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Alfa Romeo might not thank me for saying so but secondhand Giulietta‘s look like great value to me. I would have opted for diesel every time if I was buying – until I tried out this white 1.4 TB petrol.

I’ve driven the Volkswagen Golf with a 1.4 TSI and despite being quick, it just doesn’t pack the excitement you want from a relatively small, high performance engine.

The difference is that DNA switch by the gearstick. In ‘Normal’ mode the Alfa is  Golf-like. Push the lever forward to ‘Dynamic’ and the Giulietta surges forward with an instant, unmistakable rush.

I honestly thought it was a gimmick when the car arrived. Then I realised it’s what sets the Alfa apart. Perhaps the only question is, why isn’t DNA active all the time?

The fuel gauge is almost on red now. We’ve been averaging 39mpg most of the week. Final thoughts on this great car tomorrow.

 

 

Tuesday – Accuracy All Areas

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Jessica Just for the information of the motoring public, I am not a size 9 shoe! I may be tall but accuracy in foot size is definitely needed here, I’m a size 8 shoe and proud of it… one does need suitable feet to hold up a 5’10” frame but there are limits!

But yes, it has to be said there could be a problem if you try to change gear in a hurry driving the Giulietta and your foot can’t find it’s way out from under the clutch.

I love the fact that Alfa Romeo are trying to impress by going their own way with this car.

The dashboard is especially thoughtful, with tactile buttons and intuitive options – but without the standard looks and positioning that seems to prevail in many new cars.

I love the hidden back door and handles handles, as they lull you into believing this is a coupe. The design is inspired but also streamlined and practical.

Would I swap it for a Golf? Not sure. My main problem was a distinct lack of vision beside the car ( a major blind spot), which made me nervous on a busy Sunday evening M25.

That said,  I may have been irritable due to the extreme numbness of my buttocks after only one hour in the seat.  It certainly wins the ‘numb rear of the year award 2013’ and will be hard to beat I’ll wager.

It reminds me of my slightly leaky, green Alfa Romeo Spider that I drove in my early 20s. It was fun, a little out of control but certainly looked good. There is something of that character here.

The Giulietta is exciting, good to look but suffers from some edgy flaws, which may be enough to put off less adventurous types.

Saturday – White Riot

cropped-alfa1.jpgThe White Lion at Aldeburgh is right on the beach. It’s painted white, the same as our Giulietta and, just like the Alfa, is rather well equipped inside.

I spent breakfast this morning staring out of the dining room window at the sea. Or to be honest, rather longingly at the Giulietta which had just whisked me here from the West Country.

The 150-mile journey is one of my least favourite – tortuous might be a better description. What the Alfa did last night more than any other car was take me back to my teenage years, when my 1971 Alfa GT Junior was the vehicle parked outside the family home.

The Giulietta is a throughly modern Alfa Romeo but there’s still more than a trace of ‘old school’ Alfa DNA about it. The ribbed leather seats, the speedometer dials labelled in Italian and the timeless Alfa grille, to name but a few.

The 1.4-litre TB engine is a revelation too – how did they squeeze so much performance out of such a modest unit? No wonder it was New Engine of the Year in 2012.

I’ve never liked white cars but like the drive to the White Lion last night, because of the Giulietta, I’m warming to them all the time.

Friday – Red Alfa v Orange Nissan

alfa2It was the start of a lifelong love of sports cars – and it started with Alfa Romeo. While Jessica was riding horses around the family estate, I was getting into serious trouble with my father, selling a ‘safe’ Datsun 120Y in sunburst orange (eek!) for a rust bucket Italian car.

Not just any Italian car but an Alfa Romeo GT Junior. It was red, with optional holes in the floor that probably weren’t there when it originally left the factory in Milan. I can’t tell you how much that car cost me but it eventually rusted to the driveway. I can tell you it was a lot of fun.

Alfa Romeo is no longer laden with a rusty reputation. And in the UK right now, the Giulietta and Mito supermini are their two rather sporty models.

Slipping behind the wheel of our Giulietta still gives me the same buzz as when I was an 18-year-old. Just like the GT Junior. I can spot the flaws too! The steering column that doesn’t adjust low enough, a slightly cramped rear space and a rather uncomfortable driving position.

But it doesn’t matter a jot. I know the next seven days are going to be fun and I can’t wait. A 300-mile round trip to Suffolk seems a good way to start…