Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1.4 MultiAir
Veloce TCT review
by David Finlay (4 July 2012)
Other aspects will be discussed, but the main reason for reviewing this particular Alfa Giulietta is its gearbox, named Twin Clutch Transmission or, as it's referred to by family and close friends, TCT.
To keep this simple, possibly as much for my benefit as for yours, TCT is almost two gearboxes in one. Half the gears are located in one part, alternate ones in the other, and each part is controlled by its own clutch. (That happens electronically. No driver input is required, so although there are two clutches there is no clutch pedal.)
You can select gears yourself if you want, but you can also leave TCT to do that for you. TCT could therefore be described as an automatic transmission, but it's more efficient than a conventional auto - so much more, in fact, that Giuliettas fitted with it are slightly faster than equivalent models with manual gearboxes, as well as being substantially more economical and emitting quite a bit less CO2 according to the official EU figures.
If this sounds familiar, it's because TCT is by no means the only transmission of its type. The Volkswagen Group has been offering its similar-in-concept DSG unit for years in VWs, SEATs, Skodas and - under the name S tronic - Audis, though TCT has several differences in its design.
Still, the effect is similar, so it may come as a surprise that Alfa Romeo is offering it only on its 170bhp Giuliettas, namely the 2.0 turbo diesel and the 1.4 MultiAir petrol tested here. Why? Because those cars have the best-selling engines. Naturally, they were going to be the priority.
As mentioned in our launch report, TCT does not feel the same as DSG. The Volkswagen system seems to switch from one gear to another almost instantly, to the point where all you notice might be a change in engine note. TCT takes a little longer, though not as long as you would if you were doing the job yourself in a manual car.
TCT is better at getting the car away from a standing start, and for that reason I decided at the media launch that it I preferred it to DSG. But of course the examples I was driving were warmed up and ready to go before I climbed aboard. The one tested here stayed with me for a week and was hesitant about changing gear within a few minutes of a cold start, which is something I've never experienced with DSG.
The greater efficiency of the transmission takes the official combined fuel economy of the MultiAir car to 54.3mpg, which sounds wonderful but would, I imagine, be very difficult to match. On one tankful, expended roughly half and half on rural motoring and a long motorway cruise, I managed what the trip computer told me was 39.2mpg but measurement suggested was 40.4mpg. Let's call that about 40. Colleagues who have driven the same car in different ways report figures in the 30s which seem to be proportional to mine.
If the Giulietta is missing the combined economy figure by this much, it's certainly not emitting CO2 at as low a rate as the official 121g/km, but it's taxed as if it is. If Alfa Romeo had managed to bring this down to 120g/km, the car would have cost just £30 per year to tax, but the £100 you'll in fact be asked to pay is still quite modest.
All this sober talk should not get in the way of the fact that the Giulietta is meant to be a sporty car. The 1.4 turbo engine in this one is a delight, though it feels quite different depending on which setting of the DNA (Dynamic, Normal, All-Weather) system you've chosen. I spent some time swapping between the first two, and on the basis of throttle response alone I think they might well be renamed Excitable and Sluggish. Personally I'd like something in the middle, but you may have a contrary view.
The Giulietta TCT is available in two of Alfa Romeo's trim levels, one being Lusso and the other the better-equipped Veloce. Veloce has the disadvantage of including larger wheels and lower-profile tyres, which do nothing for a ride which already tends towards firmness. Still, fair's fair - without a Lusso to jump into for immediate comparison during this test the Veloce didn't seem too bad, perhaps because the lighter petrol engine generally helps the MultiAir to ride better than the diesel.