Road test: Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1.4 TB Multiair Lusso

Alfa Romeo cars have always appealed on an emotional level with their seductive Italian styling, but sadly the cars haven't always delivered in the driving or ownership experience. So with the new Giulietta, Alfa Romeo must be hoping that it can appeal to all levels.

The Giulietta name evokes memories of its attractive 1970s namesake, but this is a very different proposition to that car from the Italian firms popular past. No, this is the replacement for the 147. So, have they done it? I spent a week with a £16,993, 1.4 TB Multiair Lusso to find out.

Recent Alfa Romeo models such as the Mito have always been distinctive and the Giulietta looks to be carrying on that tradition. It's not as pretty as the 147 it replaces, but it certainly looks classy.

Highlights at the front have to be the latest version of the Alfa family grille, the heavily sculpted bonnet, the number plate placed on the right-hand side of the front air-dam and the large front headlights with their neat daytime running LEDs.

From the side there's the usual hidden rear door handles, chromed front door handles, a curvier roofline, chunkier rear quarters and styled repeaters that are almost like the automotive equivalent of costume jewelery.

At the back, again it's all about the lights as they stretch across the boot. Probably best viewed at night, the highlight is an almost snake-like length of LEDs.

Move to the inside of the Giulietta and the first thing that you notice is the dashboard, with its large plastic silver dashboard trim. There's also a bank of rubberised switches and built-in stereo in the centre. A soft plastic top helps with the feeling of quality and solidity and the metal gearknob is nice to hold.

More traditional are the Giulietta's circular instruments that are sometimes hard to read with their hooded cover.

Sadly, the Alfa has its first setback with the flawed driving position. Despite a supportive driver's seat, the four-way adjustable wheel and a driver's seat height adjuster, I found it very difficult to get comfortable without feeling too close to the screen or obscuring the instruments.

Move to the back and there's plenty of space. The 350-litre is bigger than the outgoing 147 and includes a bag hook, power socket and recesses to store bottles.

Standard Lusso equipment is generous, with air-conditioning, cruise control and 16-inch alloys as standard.

It's safe too. The fact that Euro NCAP chose the Giulietta as its safest small family car is proof that this Alfa Romeo has substance besides the stylish bodywork.

Six airbags are standard on the Giulietta, as is stability control, electronic brake distribution and grip-enhancing vehicle dynamic control.

So the Giulietta looks great, is safe, but can it deliver on the driving experience too? Yes, is the simple answer; it feels pleasantly nimble thanks to responsive steering and decent body control.

First seen in the Mito, the DNA lever is again fitted to the Giulietta and changes the feel of the steering and throttle. Best left in normal mode, if you want to drive smoothly, though there's no doubt that the 1.4-litre MultiAir petrol feels more alive in Dynamic mode. Thankfully the ride on the modest 16-inch alloys is pretty supple at all speeds.

Despite its relatively small size, the 1.4-litre MultiAir petrol is smooth, with what seemed the perfect combination of refinement, performance and more importantly economy. Top speed is 135mph, with 60mph coming up in 7.6 seconds, yet it's still capable of 48mpg.

So, it would seem that the Giulietta is an Alfa Romeo you can buy with your head as well as your heart and it warrants serious consideration in the small family class. In my view it's the best Alfa for years.

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