★★ | Alfa Romeo Giulietta QV
It seems the default choice for a premium hatchback these days is Teutonic in origin. Whether it has a three-pointed star, four rings or a blue and white roundel, the Germans seem to have the market all wrapped up.
What if you want some passion with your prestige though? Step forward the Italians with the gorgeous Giulietta.
A competitor to the Audi A3 and Mercedes A-Class, the Giulietta is a five-door hatchback pretending to be a sporty three-door. The nose is reminiscent of the 8C & 4C sportscars with subtly sculpted flanks leading to an attractive rear end with distinctive tail lights. We’re not looking at any old Giulietta however, this is the top Quadrifoglio Verde (QV for short) model. Meaning ‘cloverleaf’ in Italian, it’s been the symbol of the most athletic Alfas since 1923.
The Giulietta QV gains a couple of big bore exhaust pipes, sporty side skirts and 18” wheels, in this instance glorious teledial items that hark back to fast Alfas past. These items and cloverleaf badges on the front wings aren’t the only things that mark out the QV though. Under the bonnet is the same 1750 TBi turbocharged four-cylinder engine and six-speed dual clutch TCT gearbox that’s found in the 4C. Like in the mid-engined two-seater it has 237bhp; enough for a 0-62 mph time of six seconds dead.
Driving the QV up to around seven-tenths pace, all seems good. You wouldn’t ever call it soothing but it strikes a good balance between ride comfort and handling. Yes, you do feel bumps but sharp edges are rounded off nicely and the car feels pretty agile. The gearbox shuffles between ratios smoothly and the steering is nicely weighted if not dripping with feeling.
You can calm things down further by switching from ‘Natural’ to ‘All Weather’ modes on the three-way ‘DNA’ drive mode selector. This blunts performance but does tend to be the best choice for day to day use, ‘Natural’ seemingly always in a gear lower than you want when you’re being sensible. It also puts the traction and stability modes on high alert should conditions get slippery. It’s the ‘D’ in ‘DNA’ that’s most interesting though; that stands for ‘Dynamic’.
Not only does it make the engine even more responsive, it reduces the assistance of the power steering to add weight and gets the electronic limited slip diff working as hard as it can to improve traction. There’s even a launch control mode that (in theory) makes that 0-62 time easily achievable. Just put your left foot on the brake, give it full throttle and then step off the brake. The computers will do the rest.
Assuming you’re on a nice flat piece of tarmac with lots of grip, there’s plenty of flashing from the traction control light in first gear before it hooks up in second and flies making a fantastic noise in the process. Try accessing the performance on rougher roads especially in the wet and things get a little crazy. The differential isn’t a true limited slip diff, instead, it works by braking the front wheels individually seriously limiting progress and causing the nose to wander too.
Pile into a corner really hard and the QV always seems safe but never really feels like it wants to play. Only braking deep into a corner will get any movement from the tail and you can’t turn off the traction and stability control either. The upshot is that it never feels like it’s going to throw you off the road but then never is it truly exciting – not unless you’re hard on the throttle with the steering wheel writhing in your hands and trying to stop it pulling you into a ditch.
Still, you can count on Alfa Romeo for a stylish and driver focussed interior, can’t you? Errr no, not in this case. For starters, it’s like a coal bunker inside with an all black dashboard, black seats and a black headlining too. There may be some colourful piping on the disappointingly unsupportive seats but it’s not enough to lift the interior ambience. Some cheap plastics don’t help either. In the centre of the dash is a touchscreen infotainment system which works well enough but is trumped by newer rivals. Overall it feels a couple of generations old which isn’t really acceptable in a car that was facelifted just over a year ago. At least the boot is a decent size and rear legroom adequate.
As a fan of much of Alfa Romeo’s back catalogue, I really wanted to like the Giulietta. I’ll even go as far as to admit to being prepared to overlook a few foibles and the stiff £28,000 price tag for a bit of Italian flair and excitement. Look past the good looking exterior and fantastic engine and you’re sadly left with a car that was at best mid-pack when it was introduced around five years ago. Fast forward to now and it’s way behind the pack in almost all areas. Alfa may be looking to facelift the Giulietta again but really they need to put it out of its misery and pull the plug.
Not the obvious choice
Could be more entertaining to drive
Car – Alfa Romeo Giulietta Quadrifoglio Verde
Price – £28,120
Power – 237bhp
0-60 – 6.0 seconds
Top Speed – 151mph
Co2 – 162g/km
Reviewed by Alan Taylor Jones /Sept 2015