GIULIETTA is a name that, like Romeo’s, gets my heart all a-flutter.
I had a couple of romances with Alfa Romeo Giuliettas a long time ago, a red one in 1961 and a grey one a year later, and the mere mention of the name reignites the passion of those years.
At the time, the 1.3litre Giuliettas and the 1.6litre Volvo 544s were the performance cars du jour.
The just-arrived reincarnation of the Giulietta is very different.
It’s still small-engined – 1.4 or 1.7 rather than 1.3 – but it’s a wide-stanced, squat beauty that takes over from the 147, another of the marque that severely affected my vehicular lovelife.
The Giuliettas of the early 1960s were narrow, upright machines with severe body lean through the bends.
But they went like the clappers and clung leech-like to the chosen line despite the alarming body angles.
This one is also a superb handler, but it maintains a far more stable stance – and has more interior space than ol’ number one – which basked in the glory of also being known as the world’s fastest four-door two-seater.
Today’s Giulietta comes in two models, the 125kW/250Nm 1.4litre engine (which it shares with the MiTo and some Fiats) or the QV, which has a 1750cc turbo twin-cam engine that produces 173kW and 340Nm.
The test lovely was the QV, which stands for quadrofoglio verde, or green four-leafed clover, the symbol of quickness in Alfaland. And quick it is.
It hits the high notes to record 6.8seconds for the sprint to 100km/h and in countries where speed apparently does not kill, goes on to a top of 242km/h.
The 1.4 is pretty hot too: 7.8 and 218km/h.
Standard features are pleasant and plentiful: 18-inch sports alloys wheels with 225/40 tyres, foglights, a thick, leather-rimmed steering wheel with radio controls on the spokes, comprehensive instrumentation automatic dual-zone climate control, cruise control, adequate interior storage, rear parking sensors and a magnifico audio system.
The six-speed manual transmission is superb. Smooth, quick, positive and the steering has a nice, precise feel to it.
The 1750 has loads of torque and lazy drivers won’t have to change gears that often.
But it’s unlikely this car will attract that kind of driver. It’s for red-blooded enthusiasts, people who appreciate engineering based on decades of competition.
The car’s looks attract lots of attention.
It has retained the classic shield grille of the 147, with what looks like a moustache below and a pair of shapely headlights on either side above.
The headlights include a strip of LED daytime running lights.
Pop in behind the body-holding seat, fire up the motor, snick it into gear and choose between Dynamic, Normal and All-Weather on the switch by the gear lever.
Unlike some cars that have a minimal difference between settings, where available, this one is a day-and-night difference.
The switch changes engine, brakes, steering, suspension and gearbox characteristics.
The car runs nicely in Normal, like a cat on a jalapeno-and-rocket fuel diet in Dynamic.
Naturally the Giulietta has brakes and roadholding to match.
Comfort levels are also high, with a well-damped ride and there’s 350litres in the boot – opened by pressing the Alfa badge on the lid. Fuelwise, we got 8.8litres/100km.
It’s a truly delightful driver-oriented machine that, instead of Volvos, has cars such as VW Golf GTI or Mini-Cooper S in its sights.