Alfa Romeo’s Giulietta has arresting looks, with a bold Alfa grille and offset number plate at the front, hidden rear door handles, twin exhausts and signature curved rear lights. It’s the same story inside with classy brushed metal finishes and unusual contrast colour options.

Giuliettas are available with Alfa’s 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine, in two states of tune, and there are 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre JTD turbo diesels. Our test car had a 2.0-litre, recently given 10bhp power boost to make a total of 148bhp. Like most turbo diesels it does its best work in the mid rev range, pulling eagerly from low speed and minimizing the need for gearchanges. That’s just as well, because if the centre arm rest is folded down you are likely to clout it with your elbow while changing gear.

Alfa says the 2.0JTD Giulietta will hit 60mph from rest in 8.8 seconds, which is brisk enough to be entertaining but a few tenths behind the class best. It rides like a sporting car, too, with firm suspension that provides a taut feel in everyday driving but still delivers reasonable comfort. Press harder, though, and the Giulietta is less convincing. It lacks the precision and predictability of rivals, though an enthusiastic driver will enjoy the way the Alfa’s attitude in a corner can be adjusted using power.

There are flaws in the Giulietta experience, but Alfa’s mid-sized model does have a character and panache that sets it apart from the rest.