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Alfa Romeo Giulietta 2.0 JTDm 140 Review

Fri, 16 Mar 2012 00:00:00 -0700

Alfa Romeo Giulietta 2.0 JTDm 140

We’ve had the mid-range diesel Giulietta in for review – the Alfa Romeo Giulietta 2.0 JTDm 140 diesel in Lusso spec. Can a diesel Giulietta offer the Alfa experience?

Last year we had the Alfa Romeo Giulietta with the 168bhp petrol in for review and we loved it. It was fluid and responsive, sweet and individual and worthy of an Alfa Romeo badge. But, much as we loved it, the money these days is in diesel sales.

If Alfa Romeo are actually going to mount a serious challenge to cars like the Focus and Golf with the Giulietta they need a car that makes sense for fleet and company car buyers, and that means a diesel with low CO2 emissions and good headline economy.

So we got Alfa to send us their economy diesel offering in the form of the Alfa Giulietta 2.0 JTDm with the 140bhp diesel lump and a healthy dose of torque – 251lb/ft – which sounds like the perfect company car option for drivers bored of the Teutonic sameness of the Golf and Focus.

One thing the diesel engine in this Alfa Giulietta has no impact on is the cosmetics, and that’s a good thing. What we’ve got this time round with the Giulietta is the lower of the two trim levels available – Lusso – but that still means the Giulietta looks Alfa good, both inside and out.

Before we had the last Giulietta in for review we weren’t sure about the lines; the Alfa-ness you find in every Alfa Romeo no matter how much of a dog of a car they may be. But by the time the first Giulietta went back we’d fallen in love with its sexy roundness; it’s ability to look incongruous in parts with odd little detail but the whole being so much more than the sum of its parts. A bit like Sophia Loren.

Inside the Giulietta it’s much the same in this Lusso as in the Veloce. The dash is still an ergonomic mess but a styling triumph where the individuality shines through like an enticing beacon. And who cares if things aren’t quite where you expect when there’s a nice row of switches almost reminiscent of Jags of old and a swathe of shiny gloss grey covering the passenger side of the dash? It looks good, it looks individual and it works.

And despite this Giulietta being a Lusso you still get stuff like Cruise, Parking Sensors, Blue&Me, Climate, Auto Lights and Wipers and Alfa’s DNA system. In the front there’s enough head and leg room - especially if you’re of the long arms and short legs variety – and it’s comfy, but don’t try cramming in three from the front row in the back. The best it can be described as is cosy.

But the Alfa Giulietta still has a cracking cabin, even when it’s powered by heavy oil.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta 2.0 JTDm 140 - a very nice place to be

This is the bit we weren’t really looking forward to in the Giulietta – a diesel engine under the bonnet instead of a zingy little petrol. We understand the reasons and the imperative – cars are about sales, not just appealing to petrolheads – but won’t the 2.0 litre diesel spoil the Alfa-ness of the Giulietta? Sadly, and it may just be us, but it does.

Power is an alright – but not earth shattering – 140bhp, but the torque figure is better than decent at 258lb/ft. That should mean decent grunt off the line even though you’d expect to run out of steam quite quickly. And it does, and you do.

But the performance just isn’t pleasant. You have to leave it in Dynamic mode all the time if you want to make the Giulietta perform at all like it should (Claire brought the car back after a short blat in ‘Normal’ to question if it had a fault) but if you are in Dynamic all the time – which we loved in the petrol Giulietta – it’s all a bit harsh rather than appealing.

The jump away is decent enough, but the Giulietta seems to lose the will to live halfway through the rev range. It’s hard to describe but there seems to be a bit of a sticky point around 2500 revs that makes you feel like you’re pushing through treacle, and by the time you’re through it you’re running out of steam and having to change up.

Even the steering, which we found better than average on the petrol Giulietta, didn’t seem to want to let us know what was going on in this diesel version. Maybe we were just feeling jaded by the power delivery, but there was no sense of feel, no weight, no involvement.

But if you can get the hang of keeping the diesel on-song – and it’s a narrow window – the Giulietta does still handle with terrific levels of grip allowing you to plough around with abandon. Well, as much abandon as you can muster when you’re driving through a treacle wall. And the gearbox is slick and accurate and as good as it gets.

In all the cosmetic ways that matter, this 140bhp diesel Giulietta is just as good as any other. We love the cabin and we love how it looks; it’s so refreshing to see a mainstream car that doesn’t look like it was designed by computers – a car with heart and soul and a human feel.

But we didn’t get on with the diesel engine. It’s too harsh and its usable power band is so small it’s just irritating to drive. Yes, you can put it in Dynamic to wring the most out of it you can but then the economy suffers – badly. We only managed 29.5mpg after a week of blatting round trying to find some fun in the oil-burning Giulietta.

But in the real world that needs to be qualified by reality. The reality is that company car drivers need a Giulietta option that gives low emissions and good headline economy and the Giulietta 2.0 JTDm 140 does offer that.

In fairness, if you’re a company car driver who spends most of the day plodding up and down the motorway you might actually find the diesel Giulietta more appealing than we did. Sitting at 75mph on a motorway all day the Giulietta is only running at 2000 revs and is quiet and comfortable. You’re sat in a lovely cabin and all is well with the world. You’ll probably also get a lot closer to the official 62.8mpg than we did.

But if you’re a private buyer then steer well clear of the Giulietta 2.0 JTDm 140 diesel and opt instead for the 1.4 TB MultiAir Lusso. It’s actually a bit cheaper and a whole lot more fun.

(46 photos – click any thumbnail for full gallery)

By Cars UK