Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCT - First Drive

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

 

Engine: 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol, turbocharged
Transmission: six-speed Alfa TCT dual-clutch automatic/sequential
Power: 170 bhp at 5,500 rpm
Torque: 230 Nm at 2,250 rpm (250 Nm at 2,500 rpm in Dynamic mode)
Fuel consumption (combined cycle): 54.3 mpg
CO2 emissions: 121 g/km
Top speed: 135 mph
Acceleration (0-62 mph): 7.7 seconds

Price: from £21,855 (Lusso trim)

Alfa Romeo sales enjoyed a minor boom in the UK last year, with registrations increasing by 31 per cent to 11,563, the highest level since 2002. Much of that success can be attributed to the popularity of the attractive Giulietta, introduced eighteen months ago as a replacement for the 147 and a rival to the Audi A3 and BMW 1-Series. Now the Giulietta gets a boost with the introduction of a new self-shifting dual-clutch gearbox branded TCT (Twin Clutch Transmission).

Volkswagen, with its DSG gearboxes, beat Alfa to the punch with dual-clutch technology but it would be unwise to underestimate any new development from Fiat Powertain Group, the operation responsible for engines and gearboxes for Fiat-owned brands, including Alfa. In the last few years, Fiat has come up with MultiAir valve-gear and the impressive TwinAir two-cylinder engine fitted to the 500 and other small Fiat group cars. Before that, it was associated with the development of common rail diesels. TCT, designed and made by Fiat, is the subject of 28 patents, and doesn't let the side down.

The new transmission is available in conjunction with the two biggest-selling Giulietta engine options, the turbocharged 1.4-litre MultiAir Petrol and the 2.0-litre JTDM-2 diesel, both of which produce 170 horsepower, although the diesel provides more torque (320 Nm as opposed to 230 Nm). In the case of the petrol, TCT costs £1,350 more than the manual, for the diesel, it's £1,400. I tried both and came away quite impressed. “Automatic” changes are smooth and quick, and the cars' subjective liveliness is borne out by the figures. The petrol is capable of accelerating from rest to 62 mph in only 7.7 seconds, the diesel in 8.0, although in practice, the diesel's torque makes it feel like it has more real-world go. I had the chance to speak with one of Fiat Powertrain's head boffins, Constantinos Vafidis, and he explained to me that they'd decided not to provide more than six ratios (some Volkswagen DSG boxes have seven) in order to avoid the “busy-ness” associated with over-frequent changes, a decision that's supported, or at least not really challenged, by the experience of using the TCT 'boxes on the road. One minor niggle – the steering wheel mounted paddles that can be used as an alternative to the gear selector for manual shifts could do with feeling a bit classier. Metal might be nicer than plastic, although in general, the Giulietta scores quite highly on cabin ambience, combining a distinctively Italian Alfa feel with apparently good fit and finish.

One interesting difference between TCT and dual-clutch gearboxes from other manufacturers is that there is no “S” or “sport” setting on the selector gate to provide a more aggressive shift pattern making more use of the lower gears for a driver who wants to press on. Instead, the TCT gearbox is integrated into and influenced by Alfa's “DNA” system. DNA is controlled by a switch on the centre console and has three settings – Dynamic (or sporty), Normal and All-weather – which a driver selects according to mood or conditions. In a manual Alfa, DNA alters the engine, steering and suspension settings, and can feel a bit superfluous. Giving the system control over the mapping of the gearbox in TCT-equipped Giuliettas appears to lend it a bit more purpose, although I'd need to spend longer with the car to get to the bottom of just how much difference mucking about with the DNA switch really made to the TCT's shift behaviour.

Traditionally, Alfas have been a minority choice and have appealed mainly to the heart rather than the head. But the company is increasingly able to deploy quite strong rational arguments in favour of buying a Giulietta as well; Alfas have been working their way up the residual value and customer satisfaction league tables, and now the Giulietta TCT models' low fuel consumption and CO2 emissions in official tests make them an attractive option for benefit-in-kind taxation conscious company car users as well. The petrol TCT achieves 54.3 mpg (combined cycle) and 121g/km, while the diesel delivers 62.8 mpg and 119g/km – in both cases that's an improvement over the figures for the equivalent cars with manual gearboxes, highlighting the potential for dual-clutch gearboxes to provide the convenience of an automatic while matching or beating a manual for performance and economy. The petrol TCT's balance in particular between emissions, economy and performance also compares very favourably with just about every C-segment competitor, including cars with with Volkswagen's turbocharged TSI engines and DSG gearboxes.

Alfa struggles a bit to get noticed in the face of British buyers' obsession with the German brands but the Giulietta is slowly helping to change that - and the new TCT transmission can only help.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
British musician Mark Ronson arrives for the UK premiere of the film 'Mortdecai'
music
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
people
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

    Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

    Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

    Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

    £15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

    Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
    Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

    Diana Krall interview

    The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
    Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

    Pinstriped for action

    A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

    'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

    Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

    Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
    Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us