By Guilherme Marques
Do you know how it is said Italian cars are all about passion, emotion and flair? It all began with Alfa Romeo.
The Italian language is magical. It has this unique ability to make things sound even more special than they actually are. Michele Alboreto – decent racing driver, but his name was even better. Spaghetti Bolognese – tastes good, but does it live up to its name? Monica Bellucci – beautiful woman, but … ok my theory has a few holes. Alfa Romeo Giulietta is also an example. I mean, just say it: Alfa Romeo Giulietta. Sounds great, doesn’t it? And I am happy to report it is not all show and no go.
The Giulietta name has a big history inside Alfa Romeo. Its first iteration came out in 1954 and, quite unexpectedly, did so as a Sprint Coupé and not a traditional sedan, or Berlina, which took another year to be launched.
This Bertone-designed beauty was the first real series production car made by Alfa and literally saved it from a slow and painful death. If you do not know what this car looks like, search online for Giulietta Sprint and Giulietta Spider. Even the Berlina looks good. So, fast forward to 1977 and the second generation is not received with the same enthusiasm, although it featured a De Dion rear suspension and a transaxle gearbox. I am thinking the design was a bit of a let down.
Which leads us to 2010 and the third Giulietta – hardly breaking news at this point, but since Alfa is going through a revitalisation plan that left it with only two models on the market at the moment, it seems logical that we cover them.
The Giulietta is the Italian Golf and boasts impressive levels of build, quality and refinement, which means it is a genuine rival to the German market leader.
On the road the ride is firm but never too harsh and the suspension can easily deal with the poor condition of some of Portugal’s non-European-funded roads.
The design is interesting if not classically beautiful, and the profile requires 17-inch wheels or bigger, trust me on that. People seem to be especially fond of the rear light clusters, although they seem a bit too kitschy to me.
Our press car came with the diesel 1.6 JTDm boasting 105 horse power.
It is the best seller model in Portugal and with good reason: it is the cheapest diesel option, it is fast, frugal and actually good to drive, mainly due to the car’s low weight up front, which allows the front axle to be pretty incisive and extremely agile.
Of course there is a lot of good things to say about the 2.0 litre diesel version – and the choice between 140 and 170 horse power – but in this day and age, and country, the 1.6 really does seem like the sensible option, with prices beginning at €25,000.
I drove from Lisbon to Albufeira in it and it was impressive on the highway and very enjoyable around town. It is what people understand as an ‘easy car to drive’. The manual six-speed gearbox was quick and precise and the steering had enough feel to make the driving experience a pleasure.
In the automotive world, there is a saying that goes “if you have not owned an Alfa Romeo you cannot call yourself a petrolhead”. That is why I have an Alfa 159 SW in the garage.
The Giulietta is also omnipresent in the family – my daughter’s name is Julieta – that is Giulietta in Portuguese, as they would not accept the Italian original.
Now I cannot make anyone name their kids after a car, but I hope this small text makes you go drive an Alfa Romeo before buying your next car.
There is a magic, a passion around these cars that no other car maker can muster. I found it. Maybe you will too.