Some cars are truly delightful to drive on winding roads to far, undiscovered horizons. Through authentic villages, along historic boulevards, streets, ancient buildings. Stop at charming and stylish hotels and delicious restaurants.
Breathing the same timeless style and charm, and exuding uncanny “savoir vivre”. Well, such a car is the Alfa Giulietta. We took it through France, and it proved to be an ideal companion to make the good life even better…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
Having a car somewhat longer for a drive has dramatic effects. Like growing (very) fond of it. We have to admit right away, this is what the Giulietta 170 HP Diesel did to us…
First of all its very good looks. The clear, well proportioned lines sharpen your feeling of style, train your eye. And the car keeps looking more attractive day after day, from any angle. The styling people did a terrific job. Rarely one attracts admiring comments from bystanders nowadays when driving a compact four dour hatchback. Not so with the Alfa Giulietta. Time and time again, when parking it in sleeping villages or supermarket parking lots, people were admiring the car, and telling you “elle est belle”. Be it (older) men or (young) women, the enthusiasm was seen with many.
We can only agree. Not only the very balanced front end styling and the masterful Alfa “face”, but also the very harmonic, fluent lines on the sides and rear end. The proportions of doors and door openings and wheel arches for instance are “just right”, with the wheels ideally dimensioned and positioned.
The feast for the eye continues in the interior. The way the seat linings are sculptured, the stitchings are arranged, the lines and volumes of the dashboard, the colour combinations, the beautiful circular instruments, even down to the large round knobs for airco, heating and ventilation. It keeps tempting you. Time and again, your eyes meet the lines, and grow very fond of it.
Then there is the feel. You hands grip the steering wheel ideally, with very pleasant feeling sculpted grip supports in theten past ten position. Your hands also caress the silky smooth aluminium round gearlever knob, which never feels hot or cold, but has the pleasant metal feel. Just right, again!
Then at last there is the very good position of the brake, gas and clutch pedals. Things can sometimes grow terribly wrong there, after time. Their position is never tiring, the clutch also being ultra smooth, progressive, and brakes demanding just the “right” pedal pressure for the desired effect.
Even when not driving your Alfa, your hands and body still remember vividly how it feels, how it sits, how it drives. And what a good feeling it is.
The Giulietta took us to places were culinary delights were to be had, like Restaurant "Le relais" in Hauterives...
Velvet power feast…
Then there is of course the engine. To many “Alfisti”, the heart of the car. And right they are. Smooth and silent, besides its 170 HP, it develops a massive torque, from 1200 rpm onwards, and when saying massive, we truly mean it, and this is even so in the “normal” position of the “DNA” selection range. Mountain driving has different dimensions in the Alfa Giulietta. Pulling fast out of slow hairpins, on quite steep mountain roads, in second gear from close to 1000 rpm with uncanny smoothness, with no vibrations whatsoever, the engine spreads out its massive pulling power, which leaves you perplexed, time after time.
Storming uphill, it quickly indicates you to change up a gear, so you are hardly using any revs, yet enjoying ample power.
Not only sheer power and silence transports you, literally. The consumption is also very reasonable, despite the power play. Low revs and the outstanding thermal efficiency of this 2 litre engineering jewel sees to that. We stayed on our trips well below 5,5 litres over 100 km. Of course, motorway cruising is absolutely silent, with revs around 2500 rpm in sixth gear, and with ample torque and power always at hand.
En route to the south of France, we made a stop at our apartment in Paris, just note the empty Paris street(s) in the August holiday season...
On the whole motorway cruising is completely effortless, with excellent, easy to use cruise control, which engages very smoothly. Wind noise and tyre roar are also virtually absent. All is helped of course by the excellent airco/ventilation, the intelligent navigation and state of the art inboard audio entertainment, which also leaves room for additional audio equipment with USB and SD card slots.
Delightful on curvy roads…
The chassis set up is well adapted to an engaging driving style. The car steers very agile on curvy roads, and the balance and handling improves when the pace goes faster. Drive the Alfa with verve, and you will enjoy its handling qualities to the full. Helped by the omnipresent power of its engine, the Alfa becomes a delightful driving machine. Mixing in with the general pace of the traffic, the Giulietta behaves also very civilised and smooth, but one is aware every inch of the trip that the car can do sooo much more… Despite this, the engine stays very discreet, there are no sudden surges of power in the “normal” or even “dynamic” mode, so one stays in command all the time and the car does not urge you to put on a faster pace for the sake of it.
In town, the Alfa still feels quite handy, manoeuvring on narrow, hilly streets is helped by the parking assist at the rear and the hill hold function, which lets you drive away expertly on any hill(y) path.
Despite all its stylishness, the Giulietta is a quite practical machine. The boot holds easily two very large suitcases, and then there is still room for a foldable baby pram and computer/photo bag. Nice… The rear seat can also fold back completely or in split mode, so a visit to the “brocante” and/or antique dealer can also be a rewarding experience…we were able to pick up a large teak deck chair from the garden furniture dealer without trouble. It fitted neatly in the back with the rear seats folded down…
Quite an endearing car, this Alfa. Stylish and practical, with a unique sporting aura, it moves you swiftly around, with power, punch and verve. But at the same time it is silent, vibrationless, well built, thoroughly solid and last but not least, very frugal.
In our holiday house in the south of France, the Alfa was of course properly put in its own spacious garage. How else would you treat a thoroughbred car?
We spent again a wonderful time in it, and on the last meters of the test, trough its melodious Bose speakers, it played Chet Baker, “These Foolish Things”, an RCA recording with the Belgian Bobby Jaspar on the tenor sax, as if to say, it is the full blooded, “foolish” things like for instance this Alfa thoroughbred, which make life beautiful. With a sigh I handed the keys back to the importer and its marvellous team…
Hans Knol ten Bensel