Road test: Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCT
What is it?
Dual-clutch gearboxes are appearing in more and more cars these days as they offer sporty performance, but not at the cost of fuel consumption or CO2 emissions. Alfa Romeo is the latest company to introduce such a gearbox. Dubbed "TCT" (Twin Clutch Transmission), it was only ever available in the Alfa MiTo – now it's in the Giulietta which will be welcome news to fleet owners and company car drivers.
The Giulietta has been available since 2010 - but, until now, it was only available with a six-speed manual gearbox. Like Volkswagen's DSG transmission, Alfa's TCT delivers brisk performance without denting fuel economy and CO2 figures. It's a six-speed unit and, thanks to the two clutches, gear changes are smooth and quick compared to a normal automatic gearbox.
What's under the bonnet?
Alfa Romeo is only making the TCT transmission available on its two biggest selling engines, the turbocharged 1.4-litre MultiAir petrol and the 2.0-litre JTDM-2 diesel – both of which have 170bhp. The petrol is slightly quicker to 60mph compared to the diesel – 7.5 seconds versus 7.7 seconds – but the diesel is more frugal – 62.8mpg (combined) compared to 54.3mpg (combined). Both have low C02 emissions: the petrol emits 121g/km and it's 119g/km for the diesel.
What's the spec like?
The TCT gearbox costs £1,350 more on petrol models compared to manual models, and £1,400 on diesel versions. Prices start at £20,510 for the Lusso petrol model, which comes with an alarm, climate control, rear parking sensors and MP3 connectivity, and rise to £26,660 for the Sportiva diesel. That model comes fully-loaded with leather upholstery and red Brembo brake callipers. All TCT models can be ordered with paddle-shifters behind the steering wheel to change up or down the gears, adding to the sporty driving experience. They cost £260.
The closest rival is the Volkswagen Golf GT DSG. It's not as sporty to drive but the feeling of quality is greater. However, with the new Golf just around the corner, it might be better to think twice about opting for the German car.
Is it any good?
All versions come with Alfa's "DNA" system – a switch on the centre console which allows drivers to change how the car behaves. In "Normal" mode, the TCT gearbox is reluctant to change down gear (it's geared for the best fuel economy in this mode) and is generally disappointing to drive. But change to "Dynamic", the steering weights up and the throttle is far more sensitive. The gearbox holds onto gears longer, too.
A firm but generally compliant ride – pattery on Giuliettas fitted with 17- or 18-inch alloys - and direct steering makes for a pleasing driving experience. It's just a shame the optional paddles behind the wheel are made from such cheap plastic.
The AOL Cars verdict
There's no doubt Alfa Romeo is doing all it can to make UK buyers consider their Giulietta when thinking of purchasing one of its more obvious rivals. They began by offering more diesel options last year, and, now with a dual-clutch gearbox, there's more choice than ever before. We like the Giulietta, and for buyers pondering on buying a new c-segment hatchback, the Giulietta should be on their list.