The company will continue to compete in the hatchback segment after all.

After years of internal debate, Alfa Romeo has seemingly decided to replace the Giulietta hatchback.

The Giulietta (pictured) is a Golf-sized model introduced in Milan in 2010 when the Italian firm celebrated its 100th birthday. It's not available in America -- though its basic platform underpinned the now-defunct Dodge Dart -- but it's been the company's best-selling nameplate throughout most of the decade.

"In order to complete the Alfa range of products we need another couple of pillars - something in the C-segment and then obviously a sporty product, a very sporty product," affirmed Roberto Fedeli, the company's chief technical officer, in an interview with British magazine Auto Express.

What remains to be seen is whether the Giulietta's replacement will be front- or rear-wheel drive. The current model is front-wheel drive. Earlier reports claimed Alfa would build the next-generation car on a shortened version of the Giulia's platform, which would make it rear-wheel drive.

Alfa has a unique opportunity to capture a significant share of the enthusiast market in Europe. Right now, the compact hatchback segment is dominated by the BMW 1 Series, the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, and the Audi A3. The Bimmer is the handling champ of the trio because it's rear-wheel drive, but the next-generation model will almost certainly switch to the brand's front-wheel drive UKL platform. By going rear-wheel drive, Alfa could catch the ball BMW set rolling.

Fedeli stopped short of confirming a replacement is currently in the works. He warned the segment is not a global one so it's difficult to make a sound business case for a model that's only popular in Europe. BMW and Mercedes have steered clear of the segment in America, for example, while Audi briefly sold the A3 Sportback here in relatively small numbers.

If it receives the green light, the next-generation Giulietta might not arrive until the early 2020s. The smaller MiTo, which celebrates its 10th birthday this year, likely won't spawn a replacement.

Fedeli offered no additional details on the "very sporty product" he alluded to during the interview. His comments confirm a 4C successor is also on the way. However, Alfa's next new model will be a bigger SUV aimed directly at the Audi Q7.

Photography by Ronan Glon.