TEST DRIVE: Alfa Romeo Giulietta

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THE Alfa Romeo Giulietta is a stylish Italian to set pulses racing but it’s got its tyre tracks firmly planted on the ground, as LES OLIVER found out.

I WISH I’d been driving the Alfa Giulietta instead of my Mondeo when it was stranded on a snowbound Wearside street.

I almost blew a gasket as I was late for an appointment and had to get two passers-by to give me a push (now I carry as spade and a bag of grit in the boot),

I would have kept my cool with the Giulietta thanks to Alfa’s innovative “D.N.A.” system.

The driver is able to select from ‘D’ (Dynamic), ‘N’ (Natural) and ‘A’ (All-Weather) driving modes at the flick of a switch.

In All-Weather mode, the system monitors tyre grip, the steering angle and any prospect of veering off course.

When required, the system decreases the throttle opening and applies the brakes to individual wheels to find traction and maintain stability.

The stylish Giulietta, with its blend of functionality and coupe looks embraces the marque’s racy heritage.

It’s a lively mid-sized five-door with the practicality of a hatchback, but the looks of a svelte coupe.

It competes against the likes of the VW Golf, Audi A3 and Vauxhall Astra, but its looks and dynamic qualities appeal both to over-50s empty nesters and style-conscious young couples who want a car that is something of a fashion statement.

The Giulietta has a sloping nose with long teardrop-shaped headlights containing automatically-on LED daytime running lights.

The typical Alfa grille seems to float within its housing above wide, purposeful air vents, and, as ever, the numberplate is offset to the grille.

It looks like a three-door coupe but the almost invisible rear door handles are recessed,in the window frames.

The six-engine range starts with a 1.4 120bhp petrol, while a 170bhp MultiAir version offers low emissions and fuel consumption.

A 105bhp 1.6-litre diesel gives low fuel consumption - more than 64mpg combined yet keen performance with 0-62mph in 11.3seconds.

There’s also a high-performing 1.8 with 235bhp and a choice of two-litre second generation multijet diesel engines with 170bhp and 140bhp.

The latter, on test, was lively enough, achieving 0-60mph on 9 seconds, yet still returns good fuel consumption - officially over 60mpg, but in reality you would be unlikely to achieve it.

It was agile, the steering and suspension set-up, making for a comfortable ride and controlled cornering.

Transmissions are six-speed manual or the new TCT semi-automatic. Start & Stop technology is standard to cut fuel consumption and emissions.

Inside, there’s an upmarket feel to the cabin with a three-spoke sporty steering wheel and supple yet supportive seats.

There are five trim levels, Turismo, Lusso, Veloce, Sportiva and the top Cloverleaf.

All are well-equipped, even the entry-level Turismo has six airbags (driver’s passenger, front side and window).

With a wide range of equipment, including Blue & Me hands-free phone and media system, depending on trim level, prices range from £17,760 for the 1.4-litre 120bhp Turismo to £26,660 for the two-litre 170hp TCT Sportiva.

TECH SPEC:

Alfa Giulietta Veloce

Engine: 2.0 diesel

Power: 140bhp

0-60mph: 9 secs

Top speed: 127mph

Fuel consumption: 62.8mpg

CO2: 119g/km

Price: £22,550