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Alfa Romeo Giulietta QV 2011 Review

EXPERT RATING
8

THE map of the human heart contains a topography of passion, pain, pride and prejudice. In fact, it outlines all the emotions of owning an Alfa Romeo. The latest map from the Italian, however, marks a different route than those previously followed.

Its new car, the five-door family-sized Giulietta, details an Alfa that has less of the pain and prejudice, more of the pride and invokes almost as much passion as its predecessors. The third incarnation of the Giulietta nameplate is undoubtedly beautiful, surprisingly functional, has elements that indicate durability but in becoming a better car, had to give up some of its larrikin ways.

It's more for the family - but it still goes like stink.

VALUE

Not cheap. The Giulietta (pronounced Julietta, as if you have to be told) is tested here as the top-spec QV - Quadrifoglio Verde - is $41,990 plus on-road costs. Comparing that to its rivals (see below) shows it up as being a bit expensive. But take the feature list into account and its reasonable value for money.

Standard gear includes the turbo engine, six-speed manual - sorry, no auto yet - and a really sophisticated, tight and beautifully tied down chassis.

Safety is paramount, there's a Bose audio to rip your ears off, 18-inch spidery black alloys to make your eyes water and a top-notch infotainment unit. Did I mention that it also goes like stink?

TECHNOLOGY

The QV gets a turbo-petrol engine but there's a cheaper Giulietta with a clever 1.4-litre with solenoids controlling the intake valves. Smart! But I digress.

The QV is less technically endowed in the engine department but makes up for it with a chassis plugged into every electronic aid known to NASA, including a three-mode management nanny that acts like varying cup sizes of espresso.

Called DNA, it's a console switch that acts on the engine, brakes, steering, suspension and gearbox. Flick it to Dynamic and it's a three-espresso hit with instant engine response and a firmer steering feel (done by easing off the electric assistance - while Normal is a single espresso and is still pretty enthusiastic while "all-weather" is a frontal lobotomy designed to sluggishly get through snow.

There's also an electronic diff that uses the electronic stability control to mimic the actions of a conventional limited-slip differential.

STYLE

This thing is beautiful. It's logical to compare this car with the Volkswagen Golf but, seriously, the Golf is crisp and functional like Kiera Knightly while the Giulietta is sensual and rounded like Monica Belluci. No contest.

But that's the outside. The cabin is a tad convoluted with insufficient thought to the size and placement of switchgear. Yes, you get used to it but - back to the Golf - there's a clumsiness that could have been avoided. Note the big glovebox with a lid that will shave your partner shins; the too-small centre console holes; and the hard-to-read numbers on the gauges.

Cabin room is reasonable with the claustrophobic sensation due to the high waist and narrow glass. Room in the back is good and only marred by small and awkwardly designed door openings, while the boot matches its rivals for space.

SAFETY

This gets a five-star, six airbags (Alfa says you don't need a seventh for your knees because of the seat design) and every conceivable device to stop you safely and get you around corners quickly. For those who don't like clutches, it even has a hill-holder.

DRIVING

Forget the other switches, go straight to the Alfa DNA's Dynamic mode. It makes the QV sharp and so much fun. There's a lot of the Golf in this chassis. Punch it into a corner and the rear follows the line - there's no pushing at the nose (understeer) like you're pulling a caravan and the steering is unusually positive for an electric unit.

The gearchange is pretty good, tending to work better when the car was being hurried and the ratios are a good balance between tight stuff and cruisey highways. The ride is close to superb. No noise from the suspension, even when it's working hard, and the QV will hold its line so well - better than the superseded 147 which was actually damn good.

But the gem is the engine. It has so much torque that it feels ready to pounce in any gear. It makes driving tis thing so easy and makes it so much fun, specially when accelerating out of a corner.

But there's no theatre. The engine noise is there - muffled but there - while the exhaust is practically inaudible. As I said, like a Camry. Shame on you Alfa - you harp on about Giulietta's history and forget the soundtrack.

VERDICT

Come to the front of the class, Alfa! The Giulietta - finally - strikes a superb balance of day-to-day practicality with a chassis and engine that invites enthusiastic driving. It's dulled by a bland exhaust note and a lack of an automatic option will lose punters but it's still a great car.

OWNERSHIP

Price $41,990
Warranty 3 years, 100,000km, roadside assist
Resale 65%
Service Interval 20,000km or 12 months
Economy 7.6 l/100km; 177g/km CO2
Safety six airbags, ESC, ABS, EBD, EBA, TC.
Crash rating 5 star
Engine 173kW/340Nm 1.75-litre turbo-petrol
Transmission Six-speed manual
Body 5-door, 5 seats
Dimensions 4351 (L); 1798mm (W); 1465mm (H); 2634mm (WB)
Weight 1320kg

Pricing guides

$13,999
Based on 9 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$12,888
Highest Price
$15,950

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
1.4 1.4L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $4,620 – 6,820 2011 Alfa Romeo Giulietta 2011 1.4 Pricing and Specs
QV 1750 TBi 1.7L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $12,888 – 15,950 2011 Alfa Romeo Giulietta 2011 QV 1750 TBi Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8
Neil Dowling
Contributing Journalist

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