Ford Focus VS Alfa Romeo Giulietta
- Refined styling
- Roomy interior
- Advanced safety equipment
- Blind spot warning standard only on Titanium
- Auto transmission can seem indecisive
- No manual gearbox
Alfa Romeo Giulietta
- Stunning looks
- Great engine
- Big boot
- Poor cabin storage
- Turbo lag
- No reversing camera
Ford has just released its new-generation Ford Focus. Do you know what that means? It means we're at a monumental point in history that, while nobody will ever really remember it, could impact you greatly.
Because like the automotive equivalent of planetary alignment, we are reaching a moment when Toyota, Mazda, Hyundai and Ford will have all brought their latest-gen small cars to market at about the same time.
Okay, you may not find that exciting. But it means you've now got the most current technology, styling and safety features to choose from right across the board, with Ford the latest to throw everything it's got at its new small-car contender.
All that and more as we take you through the launch of the 2019 Ford Focus, where we tested the hatch in the Trend and ST-Line grades, and the new wagon, too.
|Engine Type||1.5L 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|
Different but more refined looks, a smaller but powerful-for-its-size engine, plenty of advanced safety equipment and more room than ever before, the new Ford Focus is much better than the model before it. And it has to be – the competition is fierce.
The sweet spot in the range is the ST-Line hatch with its long list of standard features, comfortable ride and impressive handling.
Is the new Focus a car to take on the might of Hyundai and Toyota? Tell us what you think in the comments section 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.
This new-generation Focus is completely new, and that goes for its design, the structure of the vehicle and the platform that underpins it all.
That grille, though poutier than before, still makes this new car recognisable as a Focus, but the rest of the car’s styling is a fairly big step away from the look of the previous model. The nose looks more elongated and turned down, and the headlights have an irregular shape (which somehow works) and they're helped to look more defined by the LED running lights that sit above each headlight like an eyebrow.
That front-end may take some getting used to, but I think most will like the rear exterior styling straight away. The hoisted-up style to the rear of the previous car is gone and the illusion is now a car which sits lower and level. I particularly like the Focus badging across the tailgate, too, which is reminiscent of Fords of the 1960s.
The car’s profile has changed, too, with the window structure simplified. Previous versions of the car had rear quarter glass; a small porthole which looked into the boot. That's now been incorporated into the door glass, which means the rear passenger aperture is larger.
Inside, the cabin has been decluttered of its galaxy of buttons, and that busy interior has given way to a more minimalist design with many of the functions moved to the large dash-top screen. That said, the steering wheel still has way too many buttons for my liking or need.
Telling the grades apart may not be obvious at first, but the ST-Line car is recognisable thanks to the blacked-out grille, more aggressive bumper treatment with its air-blade style design around the fog lights, and its twin exhaust. The car itself sits 10mm lower on sport suspension.
You can pick a Titanium from the inside by its leather-accented seats, multi-colour ambient lighting and the B&O sound system speakers.
The ST-Line’s seats are upholstered in a mesh-fibre material with leather accents and red-stitching, and there’s a flat-bottomed steering wheel and metallic brake and accelerator pedals. The wagon version of the Focus only comes in the ST-Line grade, and it comes with roof rails and a cargo cover.
The Active grade is the most recognisable of the Focus family due its higher-riding stance and its plastic wheel-arch cladding. The Active suspension has it sitting 35mm higher than a Trend grade, and while that doesn’t seem like much, the overall affect is quite dramatic, giving the Active a true SUV-like appearance.
There are nine colours to choose from, including Ruby Red, Orange Glow, Desert Island Blue, Blue Metallic, Shadow Black, Magnetic, Moondust Silver, Metropolis White and Frozen White.
At 4378mm end to end, the Focus hatch is 18mm longer than the previous model, while at 1454mm tall it's 13mm shorter, and it's 1979mm wide including the wing mirrors.
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.
The new Focus is longer by about 18mm, but it’s the wheelbase which has increased the most dramatically (by 52mm) and that means more space inside.
I’m 191cm tall and I can just sit behind my driving position without my knees touching the seatback – I wasn’t able to do that in the previous Focus. Headroom is also great for me in the backseat.
The entire cabin feels roomy, actually. For this new model the dashboard was moved 100mm further forward, opening up more space in the cockpit. Even the gear shifter being a rotary dial has freed up room.
Storage throughout is pretty good, with a deep centre console bin covered by the armrest and a hidey-hole in front of the shifter, plus two cup holders and big bottle holders in the doors up front. The door pockets in the back are big, too, but there are no cupholders in the second row.
Boot space is for the hatch is 341 litres packed to the cargo cover with a space saver spare, while the wagon’s cargo capacity is 575 litres. With the back row down, the hatch can fit 1320 litres and the wagon can do 1620 litres.
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
Ford has priced its new Focus competitively compared to rivals like the Toyota Corolla, Hyundai i30 and Mazda 3, but its most affordable grade does kick off at a slightly higher level than the entry-level cars for those other brands.
That start point for the Focus hatch range is the Trend grade, with a list price of $25,990. Above it is the ST-Line, which is a sporty spec, for $28,990. And at the top of the hatch range is the $34,490 Titanium. There’s also a wagon version of the Focus in the ST-Line grade for $30,990.
But wait, there’s more. Ford is offering an SUV-style version of the Focus for the first time. It's called the Focus Active, and it'll cost $29,990. We’ll cover the physical differences between it and the rest of range in the Design section below.
Coming standard on the Trend is an eight-inch display screen with sat nav, Ford’s Sync3 voice activated media system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, digital radio, a six-speaker stereo, a Wi-Fi hot spot, single-zone climate control, rain-sensing wipers, a rotary-style gear shifter, LED running lights, paddle shifters, halogen headlights and 16-inch alloy wheels.
The mid-spec ST-Line takes the Trend’s features and adds dual-zone climate control, wireless phone charging, floor mats, puddle lamps, privacy glass and 17-inch alloys wheels. There’s also the sports suspension, which we’ll cover in the Driving and Engine sections.
The top-of-the-range Titanium brings a B&O 10-speaker sound system, heated front seats, leather accented upholstery, roof rails and LED headlights.
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 new Focus has been given a new engine! It’s a 1.5-litre, three-cylinder turbo-petrol, but don’t let that put you off - it makes as much grunt as the four cylinder in the old Focus. Actually, at 134kW, it makes 2kW more power and the same amount of torque (240Nm). Cylinder-deactivation allows the engine to run on two when not under much load, which is even more frugal.
The old six-speed auto has been replaced with an eight-speed automatic – it’s not a dual-clutch, it’s a traditional torque-converter auto. The Focus doesn’t offer a manual gearbox, and is front-wheel drive.
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.
According to Ford, the three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine in the Focus will use 6.4L/100km of fuel after a combination of urban and open-road driving. My mileage in the Trend grade, according to the car’s trip computer, was 9.4L/100km after 487.9km of country roads.
Not all of those kilometres were mine, mind, but that was the average after four different drivers had been behind the wheel.
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.
The Active and Titanium grades weren’t available to drive at the Australian launch of the Focus, but I did get to drive the ST-Line in hatch and wagon form, as well as the Trend hatch.
The ST-Line hatch is the sporty one in the Focus range, even though it has the same 1.5-litre, three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine as the Trend (and the Titanium). What makes it sporty is its sports suspension. Does it work? Absolutely, although I didn’t realise just how well until I drove the Trend hatch after steering its ST-Line brother for a few hours first.
Three-cylinder engines tend to have a satisfying little burble to their exhaust notes, but the ST-Line hatch I started in had a particularly deep growl to it at idle. While the ST-Line does have a dual exhaust, the engine output is the same as any other Focus, and so the gravelly voice is more theatrics than suggesting the car is any more potent than a Trend.
What the ST-Line does do without any drama is handle well, because even though it has a torsion bar set-up in the rear (like the Trend), it also has a lowered ride height and a sports suspension tune. It’s not Focus ST-level of agility by any means, but the ST-Line hatch felt nicely pinned down in the bends, with excellent steering feel and accuracy ensuring it is a genuinely fun car to drive.
What I didn’t know until I drove the Trend hatch is that the firmer sports suspension actually gives a more comfortable ride in the ST-Line than the base-grade car. The Trend, like the Titanium, has softer suspension, which you’d think would offer the best ride, but I found that over the bumps and bruises of country roads, the Trend’s ride was comfortable but bit bouncy, while the ST-Line was more composed and meant the occupants weren’t jiggled around as much.
The award for the most comfortable ride and best handling of the three cars I drove goes to the ST-Line wagon with its sports-tuned multi-link rear suspension. Yup, the cargo hauler of the range was also the best to drive from a comfort and fun perspective, with its compliant suspension keeping life civilised inside the cabin over bumps, while also feeling planted in the switchback and hairpins that cut through country Victoria.
Shifting gears is an eight-speed automatic (you can’t get a manual), but it’s super keen to shift to a higher gear as early as possible, and when sitting at about 100km/h on a motorway, it was indecisive about which gear it wanted to be in; go 104km/h and it shifted up, drop to 97km/h and it shifted down. Up, down, up, down, up... well, you get the idea.
When it came time to drive roads which went all bendy, the transmission still tried to take the fun out by shifting up and bogging the car down in lower revs. The solution was to leave the car in Sport mode, which instructs the gearbox to cling to lower gears for longer. I kept the Trend and ST-Lines in Sport mode most of the time I drove them – it didn’t affect the ride (the cars suspension isn’t adaptive), but the throttle response and shifting was perfect for all driving, whether I was flinging through the winding country roads or trundling through town centres.
All three – the Trend hatch, ST-Line Hatch and ST-Line wagon - performed well, with the ST-Line duo feeling like they were approaching or even matching Volkswagen Golf levels of agility and composure.
At no point did I feel that the three-cylinder was under powered - it’s a surprisingly responsive and grunty engine.
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.
The Focus scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2018. Standard across the range are seven airbags, AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, and lane keeping assistance and traffic sign recognition - the latter of which can read speed limits for you.
The Titanium comes standard with a lane-centre system, which I tested and found it works seriously well – drift out of your lane and the system rapidly yanks you back in again. Only the Titanium comes with blind spot warning, which is odd considering the impressive advanced safety tech that’s already standard across the range
Auto parking is optional only on the Titanium, and can be used for parallel or perpendicular parking. Also standard on all is a 180-degree split-view camera, but front parking sensors are only available to option on the Titanium – again, that’s a bit odd.
A space-saver spare is found under the boot floor for all grades. For child seats, you’ll find two ISOFIX points and three top tether mounts in the second row.
The new-generation Focus was developed in Europe and built in Germany.
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.
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.