When I picture Italy, I am consumed with images of endless summer days. An arid dusty countryside that extends out to the bright blue waters of the Mediterranean that surrounds it. Quaint little towns with narrow cobblestoned streets. Close-knit families sharing bottles of chianti and dipping warm fragrant garlic bread into their large bowls of deeply rich pasta sauce. I see a land filled with olive trees and heavy ladened vines full of ripened, sun-kissed tomatoes, I see fun, I see laughter and right now what I also see is Alfa Romeo.
Established in Milan in 1910, Alfa Romeo is one of Italy’s most eminent car companies and sports (figuratively and literally) the real-life spirit of Italy. In the past century, it’s produced a raft of stunning vehicles and established itself as a force to be reckoned with both on and off the track.
The Giulietta nameplate first rolled off the production line in 1954. It was a rear-wheel drive, 1.3L (57kW/102Nm), four-speed car that enjoyed around a decade of manufacture and a variety of body styles (including the Sprint Veloce ‘fast’ of 1960) before making way for the Giulia of the early 1960s.
In 1977, the second-generation Giulietta began production. Still a front engine, rear-wheel drive car, however, this time around it was small executive style saloon and based on the Alfetta (little Alfa) of the early ’70s. This generation saw two facelifts, housed six engine hearts from a 1.3L (70kW/121Nm) to a 2L Turbo (125kW/283Nm) plus a 2L (60kW/162Nm) diesel—not bad for its eight-year life.
Mothballed for the next 25 years, the Giulietta nameplate finally re-emerged in 2010 as a front-wheel-drive family hatchback and albeit the latest model—and that’s what I found myself in just recently.
Picked up from Winger Alfa Romeo in Newmarket, my Giulietta S2 Veloce looked a peach (or is that a tomato?) in its bright red coat and 18-inch chrome/burnished alloy wheels. The unmistakable Alfa triangle shield grille sits slightly recessed up front with the perplexing Alfa Romeo badging sitting proudly on top. It’s the red cross of Milan meets the Visconti family for those that need to know. LED daytime running lights and bi-xenon headlights to brighten up the night while the rear, oversized tailpipes, a diffuser
and another Alfa badge that raises the tailgate when pushed.
Luggage space is a respectable 350 litres and the entire interior is a mixture of leather, Alcantara, aluminium and carbon fibre look trim. It has a sporty appeal with a lean towards the less distraction. The infotainment screen is around the size of a smartphone but not quite as clever. It connects easily and offers UConnect media and navigation but forget about reversing cameras or apps. You’re basically there to drive this Giulietta not live in it.
Which brings me on to that engine. It’s a 1,750 turbo petrol engine that has supercharged scavenging properties that you don’t need to know about. What this engine does (when combined with the six-speed twin-clutch transmission) is gives you 177kW of power and 340Nm of torque. It feels strong and mighty and all-conquering. 0-100km/h comes in at six seconds with a top-speed of 244km/h. But it sounds great under higher revs, more sports car than family hatch. The Giulietta has three driving modes (D, N and A) and the brochure states that it will give you 6.8L/100km economy and CO2’s of 157g/km, however, I defy you not to want to stay in Dynamic—this is an Alfa!
Like many countries, Italy is not perfect and in turn nor is the Alfa Romeo Giulietta but that is part of its charm. It’s a vehicle with a racing DNA that’s been built to compromise. It may not be a full on a la carte dining experience at a top restaurant in Rome, but rest assured this is an Alfa Romeo that will offer you so much more than just a taste of Italy.