I hate test drives for a simple reason: You have a salesman with you, telling you all the time what not to do. Don't accelerate or brake hard. Don't flick. No, leave the handbrake alone. And stuff like that. So when a family friend bought a new Giulietta and offered me the key along with a "take it and do whatever you want" hint, I couldn't say no. The design and general shape is very familiar to me. I fell in love with the design from the moment I saw the first photos. The love was confirmed the moment I set my foot at the local dealership, when the first Giulietta arrived. Yet, this was my first chance to drive one. And I had pretty high expectations. Personally, I am a fan of the older models of the Italian brand, or in other words, pretty much everything with an AR badge, up until the 75. The acquisition of Alfa from FIAT marked an end to the RWD setup and the character of the brand. It that time, that BMW's nickname, "the german Alfa Romeo" was dropped. What followed the brand take-over, failed to reach the pre-FIAT standards, despite all the efforts. The 145 and the 155 didn't have the character of the models they replaced. The 146 and the 156 were just not good enough for their price, and the 147 and 159 were just a good looking alternative to the well established competition. The Giulietta was supposed to be a well engineered car. Various automotive publication test drove Giulietta prototypes and gave their feedback. The car had potential. I expected it to be legen... wait for it... dary. But is it indeed of such stuff as dreams are made on? Truth to be told, the design is stunning. Inside out. The materials, though, are not good enough. The plastics on top of the dash and doors are hard and with a funny feeling. The switches feel cheap. While everything looks great at first sight, a closer look will give a nitpicker like me, a huge disappointment. The seats and the fabric material they were made of, though, were good. And so was the leather used for the steering wheel, gear lever and handbrake. Very nice texture and grip, but it won't last for long. In my opinion, a more durable leather quality should be used. Being confident that the interior won't ruin my feelings towards the car, I turned the engine on. On the phone, earlier that day, I was told that I would be surprised, and indeed I was. It was a diesel. Being prejudiced that an Alfa Romeo can't be combined with taxi-fuel, I put on the first gear and get started. For the record, this 1.6l turbocharged diesel engine, produces just 105hp, yet with a stunning 320m of torque, available from 1750rpm. That amounts of torque were very handy at the lower end of the rev gauge, but as the revs climbed above the 3000 mark, the engine was running out of juice. Acceleration was effortless at traffic jam conditions or when meant to drive economically, but when the driver wanted a more spirited drive, the engine couldn't support the excellent chassis. Flooring the gas in the middle of an apex would result in various annoying sounds from the engine bay, some vibrations, but not much in terms of acceleration. It was too lazy. Trying to convince myself that this engine is made for fuel efficiency and not WRC racing, I decided that personally I would be better with one of the gasoline turbo engines. And then, I decided to try and build up some speed, in order to test the chassis and how the car takes a corner. The car was equipped with 17 inch rims and 225/45 Pirelli P7 Cinturato tires. I used to have them on my personal car a few years back and I know that I can't expect much in terms of grip. Having that in mind, I built up 80km/h of speed into a B-road with very few traffic, and I tried to take a turn I am familiar with, which is a piece of cake for my Volvo. It was a piece of cake for the Giulietta, too, and with the sport suspension it was equipped, it seemed that it could take 20km/h more of entry speed. So, I tried the same turn with 100km/h this time. The rear bounced a bit, but hitting the gas pedal hard at the head of the apex solved this issue. The same turn, again, with 110km/h gave me quite a hard time, with the electronics kicking in, and not letting me oversteer. Which is exactly what would happen if I had the ESP deactivated. A few liters of diesel later, I decided that I am very satisfied by the handling and that I should find something else to bitch about. I was unhappy with many things in that car. First of all the handbrake. It was not positioned conveniently, angled, under the armrest. You either had to lean to your left side so that you make room for your hand to reach it, or have the armrest in a raised position, having easier access to it, but nowhere to put your arm, when you use it. Not wanting to ruin a car, only a few days old, because I am of the opinion that an FWD hatchback should be able to take a 90 degrees bent with great ease, by pulling the handbrake. The next thing that left me cold was the clutch pedal. It was feather light, nowhere near what I have been used to. It needed a light push to fully depress it, compared to BMW's clutch pedals, that need you to sweat in order to depress it. The car being brand new, had the friction point just 1cm before the far depressed point. I am not sure that at the middle of the clutch's life, it will be easy enough to find its friction point. Equally light was the brake pedal, but the deceleration was quite linear, which is something I really like. Leaving the gas pedal for the next paragraph, I also want to complain about the gear lever. I mean, com'on, it felt like a joystick. Almost no feeling and awfully light. Reminded me heavily of the gear selector of the Fiat Panda, which can't be a good thing. The steering and gas pedal sensitivity is regulated by a "dna" selector, next to the gear lever. N is for normal, D is for dynamic, and A is for something I didn't try, as the N was already bad enough. I "N" mode, the steering is very light and over-assisted. The gas pedal response was also lazy. I admit that this is a great combination for those times that you are driving around the city centre and/or want to drive relaxed and efficient. In "D" mode, or petrolhead mode, the gas pedal response was good. Very good actually, which surprised me, give the nature of electrically operated intake butterflies. Still, not as instant as a cable operated one. The steering was also heavier, but still with too much assist and too little feeling from the road. After al these years, I think that I can see the difference between a heavy steering and an informative steering. This was kind of heavy, but not at all informative. I expected it to be a more "live" car. Instead I found it to be lazy. It can be driven VERY economically, but the 1.6l turbo diesel engine is not a wise choice for a spirited driver like me. Still, a gas engine with more horsepower would give the car more "juice" as the revs climb, but I would still prefer to have more feedback from the steering and pedals. In the end, if I was to buy a car for that money, give that it has to be an efficient diesel, I would go for the new Volvo S60 Driv-e, which suits the lazy character of the engine. The Giulietta has to be had with a much more fun engine, but even then, I am not sure it is worth 24000€. But with that looks, it's hard to like anything else in the segment. PS. Sorry for the lack of photos, but first the car was not mine, and second, when I was offered the key, I left everything in my car, including money and cell-phones, in my car and left.