A new automatic version of Alfa Romeo’s Giulietta is more relaxing than racey but that makes it easy to recommend, says Matt Kimberley, PA motoring writer.

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Alfa Romeo Giulietta 2.0 JTDM-2 170bhp TCT

Price: £23,550 on the road

Engine: 2.0-litre, 170bhp four-cylinder turbo diesel

Transmission: Six-speed twin-clutch automatic driving front wheels.

Performance: 0-62mph 7.9 seconds; top speed 135mph

Fuel economy: 62.8mpg

CO2 emissions: 119g/km

Alfa Romeo has updated the Giulietta range with a new twin-clutch transmission for its flagship Multiair petrol and JTDM diesel engines, aiming to bring new levels of comfort and user-friendliness to the car while actually improving fuel economy.

The Giulietta has been something of a hit for Alfa, making significant inroads into its sector against much better established opposition. But until now it had lacked a competitive automatic gearbox.

The twin-clutch automatic market, if it can be called a sector in its own right, is growing all the time as consumers see the benefits of lower CO2, higher fuel economy and a more relaxed drive. Europe has always been particularly anti-auto on the whole but all that is changing. Alfa’s TCT (twin-clutch transmission) gearbox aims to ride the crest of the wave.

You can get it on both 170bhp engines offered in the Giulietta, at overall prices that are surprisingly attractive next to some of the other options.

It’s a bit of a shame that Alfa, a brand built around motorsport and performance heritage, is now using words like ‘comfort’ and ‘efficiency’ as the buzzwords for its new technology, but in more austere times that’s what sells cars. We all have to adapt to survive, and that’s what’s happening here.

So how does the gearbox fit in with the car? Very well, as it happens. It’s an equally good companion to the petrol and diesel engines under normal driving. The changes are quite slow compared to other twin-clutch transmissions but the emphasis is on relaxed, more efficient driving. This isn’t a sporty option, and if driving pleasure is most important then stick to the manual.

Fortunately the diesel is especially strong, pulling hard from low down right up to 4,000rpm. It’s also surprisingly quiet up to 3,500rpm and overall is a real belter of an engine. Even better for company car users is it produces only 119g/km of CO2, making it incredibly cheap in terms of benefit-in-kind for the performance on offer.

Even in the highest of the TCT gearbox’s six ratios the Giulietta’s JTDM unit pulls hard. At 70mph in top it sits at 2,000rpm, making it ready for brisk acceleration if needed but allowing for a combined fuel economy of 62.8mpg – up from 60.1mpg in the manual.

Even in the petrol Multiair with TCT the same speed clocks up just 2,300rpm, which helps it on the way to a 54mpg average in EU tests. The six-speed manual version records only 48.7mpg.

Down-shifts start very quickly after pushing the gear lever forward, but up-shifts have a bit of a delay before the change starts to happen. Some people won’t be pleased to find out that paddle-shifters are optional at £260, but in all honesty the TCT does its best work when left to its own devices anyway.

In normal driving the changes are wonderfully smooth and quiet, giving an air of luxury that you just don’t get in a manual. The Giulietta is, however, sensitive to the size of wheels it wears and only the smallest 16in options provide good ride comfort. Road noise is a minor issue on some surfaces, but it’s not too bad.

The interior is fabulous though, especially when specified with the soft and beautiful £1,700 sports leather upholstery. Very few manufacturers do leather quite like Alfa and it’s an option well worth having. The plastic handbrake cover is a bit of a contrast but the attractive centre console and stunning instrument cluster help make the interior a thoroughly lovely place to be.

There are a good number of storage bins both open and hidden, which hold all kinds of receipts, coins, drinks and so on. The cabin has an impressive general feeling of solidity even over rough roads, which is great but the air management controls feel a bit light and cheap though.

Although the TCT gearbox is available only with the high-power engines, there is still a full range of trims on offer from the comfort-oriented Lusso to more sporty Veloce. The options list is well stocked but generally pricey.

The Giulietta is a desperately interesting car among its rivals and that marks it out as something a bit special. It’s a personal statement of style and confidence as Alfas have always been, but it’s got a lot of substance to back it up. The gearbox isn’t the quickest but for 99pc of the time it does its job perfectly and brings running costs down. On that basis it’s very easy to recommend it.

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