T here are some cars which, when you hear their name, cause a flicker of excitement for enthusiasts. Aston Martin, Jaguar and Bentley are among them but they do not have to be supercars to fit into this bracket.

For me, Alfa Romeo is synonymous with sporting flair, elegance and style.

Of course, all that has historically gone hand in hand with temperamental mechanics, rust problems and quirky styling.

Such drawbacks are forgiven by purists but these days does Alfa really cut it as a possible company car with a difference?

The most likely contender in the medium-sized bracket is the Giuiletta. Undoubtedly this is a beautiful car with its teardrop headlights, rounded lines and distinctive grille.

The designers have worked hard to make it really stand out from the Golfs and Audi A3s of this world and that should be much appreciated.

Inside it’s the same story. A smart dashboard with sporting instruments leave you in no doubt that there is something very different about this car.

And fortunately all this is not just skin deep. Under the bonnet, where it really matters, the test model had a diesel engine which promises to be environmentally friendly, frugal on fuel and yet still keep those needing a sporty fix happy.

If this sounds too good to be true then you should really get to a dealership and try it for yourself because, quite simply, the Giuiletta ticks all those boxes and quite a few more.

The transformation in diesel technology has been nothing short of remarkable in recent years and none more so than in the Alfa.

The new two litre JTDM-2 power unit promises 62 mpg on the combined cycle and purrs quietly on tickover. So far, so boring.

But there is a magic switch on the Giuiletta called DNA. It offers three settings — Dynamic, Normal and All Weather.

Rather than just being a gimmick, there is a huge difference between each setting, particularly when you select Dynamic mode.

This causes an overboost to kick in, enhancing engine response. You really have to have your wits about you doing this as the car leaps out of the traps and the steering offers an even more pin sharp response.

Overtaking is a breeze and the car handles beautifully. Just as importantly the brake pedal is as responsive as the throttle.

But once you have mastered it, you just want to stay in that mode all the time, although around town it makes much more sense to stick to ‘Normal.’ The only annoying thing about it was that you don’t seem to be able to switch between modes while travelling — the engine has to be switched off and on again before you can operate the switch.

Anyway, it just makes driving the Alfa even more delightful and has you wondering why you should ever have to tolerate dull performance from a mid-range car ever again.

Using the excuse that a car is a diesel can no longer be acceptable. Alfa has proved it can be just as engaging or even more so than the petrol equivalent.

But while Alfa’s sporting credentials are all over this car from the six-speed short-throw gearbox to the stitched leather seats, there is plenty of room for five passengers and their luggage.

The hatchback is practical, the seats are comfortable and the equipment levels include a Bluetooth hands-free telephone system, MP3 player and cruise control.

The Giuiletta really is a case of being able to have your cake and eat it. Little wonder, then that we are starting to see so many on the roads.

Model tested: Alfa Romeo Giuiletta 2.0 JTDM-2 Veloce

Price: £22,050 Fuel consumption (combined): 62.8mpg Top speed: 127mph

Luggage capacity: 350 litres CO2 emissions: 119g/km Warranty: Three years unlimited mileage