Abarth 595 VS Alfa Romeo Giulietta
- Good engine/chassis combo
- Surprising grip levels
- Terrible driving position
- Ride not great around town
- No reversing camera
Alfa Romeo Giulietta
- Stunning looks
- Great engine
- Big boot
- Poor cabin storage
- Turbo lag
- No reversing camera
Since 1949, Abarth has been giving the venerable Italian brand, Fiat, a patina of performance, based largely on giant-killing feats in small modified cars like the Fiat 600 of the 1960s.
More recently, the brand has been revived to boost the fortunes of the smallest Fiat on sale in Australia. Known formally as the Abarth 595, the tiny hatch packs a bit of a surprise under its distinctive snout.
|Engine Type||1.4L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Alfa Romeo Giulietta
Richard Berry road tests and reviews the new Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce hatch with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
Nobody just buys an Alfa Romeo, in the same way that nobody goes out and just buys a top hat. Yes it's functional and yes you'll looking amazing in it whether you're male or female, and people will pay you compliments - possibly question your judgement, too, but it's not the obvious choice and buying one is a conscious decision. See, you don't even know if I'm talking about the top hat or the Alfa any more.
At backyard barbecues and dinner parties throughout Australia you'll overhear people saying: "My heart says yes but my head says no." They're not discussing robbing the convenience store on the corner after dessert, but they're more likely to be talking about buying an Alfa Romeo. See Alfas are famous for their stunning beauty, their racing pedigree and their performance, but in the past they've been infamous for their reliability issues. You knew that, right?
The top-of-the-range Giulietta Veloce with the dual-clutch auto is the best reference to the brand's performance pedigree. This version has only just arrived on the market, and follows a major styling and technology update to the Giulietta in 2015.
Like most test cars, we lived with it for a week. Is it too small to be a family car? What's wrong with the glovebox? Is it as racy as it looks? What's with all the water? And is it just me or are my hands too small to drive this car? We'll even be able to point you in the right direction for a guide to Giulietta's reliability.
|Engine Type||1.7L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
It’s tough to be kind to the Abarth 595. Based on a platform that’s more than a decade old, the car has been left behind by its rivals in many ways, including basic ergonomics and its value equation.
The larger engine does work well in this smaller package, and its road-holding ability belies its size. However, only die-hard fans of the Abarth brand will be able to cope with the uncomfortable seating position and a complete lack of even the most perfunctory features that cars costing $10,000 less are able to offer.
Could you look past the Abarth 595's foibles? Let us know in the comments below.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta6.3/10
So much right and some things not quite right – the Giulietta has the Alfa Romeo mix of highs and lows which the brand is famous for. There’s no mistaking that this is a unique and sexy looking car, with the practicality of a five-door hatch plus impressive handling and performance. More heart than head decision here though it seems, but romantic Alfa enthusiasts should adore it.
Have you got a 'classic' Alfa Romeo experience, good or bad? Tell us in the comments below.
Despite being based on a design that’s a decade old, the Abarths still stand out. Based on the classic Fiat 500 shape of the 1950 and '60s, it’s more cute than cut-throat, with a narrow track and tall roof giving it a toy-like presence.
The Abarth attempts to beef things up with deep front and rear bumper splitters, go-fast stripes, new headlights and alternate-colour wing mirrors.
The 595 rides on 16-inch rims, while the Competizione runs 17s.
Inside, it’s definitely different to most mainstream cars, with colour-coded plastic panels on the dash and a very upright seating position, along with a dual-tone steering wheel.
It’s a love-it-or-hate-it proposition. There’s no middle ground here.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta8/10
Alfa Romeo couldn't design a boring car even if it was handed a picture of a Toyota Camry and told to copy it or else. The Giulietta is no exception.
There's the deep 'V' grille shared with the new Giulia sedan and 4C sports cars that make up the current Alfa model line-up. There's the bug-eye headlights with pretty inset LEDs and the chiselled bonnet, a side profile which looks like that of a mini Porsche Cayenne and a cute-but-tough bottom with its elegant taillights and twin exhausts.
The latest update brought a honeycomb mesh grille and a slightly different design to the headlight and LED foglight surrounds. The tail pipes were also given a styling tweak, so too were the alloy wheels.
The cabin saw new materials and finishes added. The Veloce had the Alfa Romeo logo stitched into the integrated headrests, shiny sports pedals, and lashings of faux carbon fibre trim on the doors and dash.
You can tell a Veloce from the outside by the red Brembo brake calipers behind the front wheels, 18-inch alloys, its chunkier exhaust tips poking out of the diffuser, red pin-striping to the front and rear bumpers, and the black window surrounds.
Okay, how big or small is it? Here's some dimensions for you. The Guilietta is 4351mm long, 1798mm wide, 1465mm tall and the Veloce with its sports suspension is 9mm lower than the others with 102mm of ground clearance.
Compared to say a Mazda3 hatch the Giulietta is 109mm shorter end-to-end and only 3mm wider. But if you're considering an Giulietta why are you looking at the Mazda3 anyway? That would be sensible - Like comparing Cancer Council hats to top hats.
This is another area where the Abarth falls down. First and foremost, the seating position for the driver in both cars is utterly compromised.
The seat itself is mounted far, far, too high, and has little adjustment in any direction, and there is no reach adjustment in the steering wheel column to allow a taller (or even an average height) driver to get comfortable.
The more expensive Competizione we tested was fitted with a set of optional sports bucket seats from racing company Sabelt, but even they are mounted literally 10cm too high. They are also ultra firm, and even though they look supportive, lack decent side bolster support.
The tiny multimedia screen is okay to use, but the buttons are miniscule, while there’s a complete lack of storage places in the front.
There are two cupholders under the centre console, with two more in between the front seats for rear seat passengers. There are no bottle holders in the doors and no storage for rear seaters.
Speaking of the rear seats, they are the very definition of cramped, with little headroom for moderately sized adults and precious little knee or toe room. There are two sets of ISOFIX baby seat mounting points, though, should you fancy wrestling your wriggling toddlers through the narrow aperture.
The seats flip forward to reveal more cargo space (185 litres with the seats up, and 550 litres when the seats are down), but the seat backs don’t fold flat into the floor. Under the boot floor is a can of sealant and a pump, but no space saver spare.
In truth, it was a long day testing this car… at 187cm, I simply could not get comfortable in it at all.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta5/10
Beautiful things tend to favour form over function. The Giuletta tries to do both and succeeds…but also fails in places.
Successes first: despite its coupe looks it's actually a five-door hatch with ‘hidden' handles for the rear doors placed up at window level near the C-pillar. So good is the two-door disguise that our photographer climbed into the back seat through the front door.
Rear legroom is a bit tight back there and at 191cm I can sit behind my driving position but I'd hate for me to be sitting behind me because my knees are digging hard into the seat back.
Headroom isn't much chop either and I literally can't sit in the back seat and hold my head high – a combination of that sloping roofline and the optional double sunroof reduces the head space.
A major practicality fail is the lack of storage throughout the cabin.
My wife's phone kept mysteriously appearing in the footwell every time we left it in the glove box, like there was a tear in the time-space fabric, but then we realised it was slipping through a gap.
There's no centre armrest storage bin in the front – actually there's no centre armrest. There is a pop-up hidey-hole on the dash but with only enough room for a pair of sunglasses.
The two cup holders in the front are small. It's safe to say that unless you have somebody with hands at the ready, ordering drive-thru is possibly out of the question.
Or if you have long arms and can reach the fold down armrest in the back there are two decent sized cup holders along with a small storage space. There are no bottle holders any of the doors, but there is fortunately room for a phone and wallet because there isn't space for them anywhere else.
But wait, the Giulietta is saved from a total storage fail by a large-for-the-class 350-litre boot. That's 70 litres bigger than a Toyota Corolla's and only 14 litres less than the Mazda3. We could fit the pram, the shopping and the rest of the gear which goes with a military operation such as a trip to the park with a toddler in there.
Price and features
The range has been stripped back to just two cars, and costs has come down slightly, with the 595 now starting at $26,990, plus on-road costs.
A new 5.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system (with digital radio), a leather wrapped steering wheel, TFT dash display, rear parking sensors, alloy pedals, 16-inch alloy rims, and (front-only) adaptive dampers are standard on the base 595.
A convertible, or more accurately, a rag-top (cabriolet) version of the 595 is also available for $29,990.
The 595 Competizione is now a whopping $8010 cheaper at $31,990 with a manual gearbox, leather seats (Sabelt-branded sports buckets are optional), 17-inch alloys, a louder Monza exhaust, as well as front and rear adaptive Koni shocks, and Eibach springs.
Unfortunately, what stands out more on the Abarths is what they don’t come with. Auto lights and wipers, cruise control of any sort, driver aids including AEB and adaptive cruise… even a rear view camera is missing.
What’s more puzzling is that the Abarth’s architecture, though a decade old, has provision to accept at least a rear view camera.
Abarth’s explanation that the car’s home market doesn’t see these inclusions as important doesn’t really hold water, either.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta5/10
The 2016 update saw the Giulietta variants renamed. There's the entry grade $29,990 Super Manual which has a six-speed manual gearbox, then buyers can step up to the Super TCT with a six-speed dual clutch automatic transmission for $34,900 and then there's our test car – the Veloce for $41,990. There's 10 paint colours at your disposal from the colour of our car (Alfa Red) to Perla Moonlight. Only Alfa White comes at no extra cost, the rest are a $500 option.
The Veloce collects the same features as the Super TCT such as a 6.5-inch touch screen, with sat nav, front and rear parking sensors, three drive modes and then adds bi-xenon headlights, 18-inch alloys, leather and Alcantara seats, a flat-bottomed steering wheel, the big exhaust tips and the sports diffuser, tinted rear glass and then less cosmetic features such as sports suspension and launch control.
There's no reversing camera which is disappointing, considering they come standard on some cars half the price.
Engine & trans
The Abarth 595 pair use the same 1.4-litre 'MultiJet' four-cylinder turbo engine in differing states of tune. The base car makes 107kW/206Nm, while the Competizione makes 132kW/250Nm, thanks to a freer-flowing exhaust, a larger Garrett-branded turbocharger and an ECU re-tune.
The base car can do 0-100km/h in 7.8 seconds, while the Competizione is 1.2 seconds quicker; the optional 'Dualogic' automatic is 0.2sec slower to the mark in both cars.
A five-speed manual gearbox is standard, and neither car is fitted with a limited slip diff.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta7/10
The Giulietta Veloce has a 1.75-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine which produce 177kW of power and 340Nm of torque. It's a great engine that lets loose a wonderful scream when pushed hard and the little grunts it makes when it changes gear when driving around normally sound like a giant enjoying his food.
The transmission is a dual-clutch auto which Alfa calls a TCT or twin-clutch transmission. I'm not a fan of them regardless of the brand of car they're in but the Alfa version is better than most of the others in its smoothness at lower speeds and decisiveness.
What about the Giulietta's reliability over time? This version of the car is less than two months old so we can only comment on what it offers as a brand-new vehicle, but you'll find good context in our used review of the earlier 2011-2014 Giulietta.
Over 150km of testing, the Competizione consumed a dash-indicated 8.7 litres per 100km, against a claimed combined fuel economy figure of 6.0L/100km. Our brief test of the 595 revealed a similar number, against the same claimed figure.
The Abarth will only accept 95 octane fuel or better, and its small 35-litre tank is good for a theoretical 583km between fills.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta7/10
Alfa Romeo says you should see your Veloce drink at a rate of 6.8L/100km during combined driving, but the dash showed more than double that during mainly urban driving while channelling Enzo Ferrari.
Ergonomics aside, the combination of torquey engine and lightweight car is always a good one, and the 1.4-litre turbocharged four is a good match with the front-drive Abarth.
There’s always enough mid-range urge to give the Abarth the hurry-up, and the longer-legged five-speed gearbox is a good match for the engine.
It also grips and turns surprisingly well, despite the Sport button adding too much artificial weight to the Abarth’s steering feel.
That same button also firms up the front dampers on the 595 and all four on the Competizione, which works well on smoother terrain, but stiffens it too much over more undulating surfaces.
Around town it can be hard to strike a good balance between ride and comfort. The difference between soft and firm is much more pronounced in the Competizione, but it will still get tiring if your commute is a bumpy one.
The turning circle, by the by, is ridiculously large for such a small car, making u-turns - already compromised by the lower front bumper - unnecessarily fraught.
The Monza exhaust on the Competizione gives it a bit more presence, but it could easily be louder (or at least more crackly) again; you’re not buying this car to be a wallflower, after all.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta6/10
There's so much potential here for a great driving experience such as the accurate and direct steering and great suspension which provides a comfortable ride and great handling, only for all to be let down by turbo lag which kills the responsiveness in the car.
Of the three steering modes: Dynamic, Natural and All Weather, the Dynamic setting was kept on almost always with the other two just feeling too lethargic.
The Giulietta is front-wheel drive and there's a lot of torque being sent to those wheels, but unlike a stack of Alfas in the past there's next to no torque steer. That said, our hill start test on a wet night saw those front wheels scrambling for traction as it accelerated up the slope. Cornering grip from the tyres is excellent, however.
There's some Alfa Romeo ergonomic issues in the cabin we've gotten used to over the years, but just because you're accustomed to something doesn't mean it's okay. For example, the cramped driver's footwell with the brake and accelerator pedals so close that it's easy to hit both at the same time.
The indicator and wiper stalks are also so far from the steering wheel rim that they're almost out of reach – I don't think I have small hands, nobody's ever pointed them out or laughed at them.
And speaking of wipers, the Giulietta is obsessed with keeping itself clean. Pull the wiper stalk towards you to clean the windows and such is the intensity of the spray from both the window washer and the headlight washers it's like you're captaining a fishing trawler that's hit a massive wave at sea. Put the car into reverse and the rear wiper starts squirting and washing.
For Christmas I want Alfa to upgrade their media unit or bin it – the UConnect system disconnected my phone without prompting and isn't intuitive to use.
Despite a lack of electronic safety aids – and, somewhat amazingly in the current age, a rear-view camera – the Fiat 500 that forms the Abarth's basis still carries the maximum five-star rating from ANCAP it was awarded in 2008, by dint of its seven airbags and bodyshell strength.
It wouldn’t have the same luck if it were judged under new ANCAP regs coming into force in 2018, though.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta6/10
The Alfa Romeo Giulietta has been given the maximum five-star ANCAP rating. It doesn't have the advanced safety technology such as AEB and lane keeping assistance which is now standard on any small hatches for a lot less money.
For child and baby seats there's two top tether and two ISIOFIX points in the back seat.
A three-year/150,000km warranty is offered as standard on the Abarth 595 range, with a suggested service interval of 12 months or 15,000km.
Abarth importer Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Australia offers three fixed-priced services for the 595 range at 15,000, 30,000 and 45,000km, with the first costing $275.06, the second $721.03 and the third $275.06.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta6/10
The Giulietta is covered by Alfa Romeo's three year/150,000km warranty. Servicing is recommended at 12month/15,000km intervals with a major service every two years. Alfa Romeo doesn't have capped price servicing but there is Mopar Vehicle Protection which customers can purchase with the vehicle for $1995.