If you’re waiting for a hot Cloverleaf version of the newly-facelifted Giulietta, then you’ll be disappointed. Alfa Romeo is dropping the Anglicised name, instead insisting that the fastest models are now labelled as Quadrifoglio Verde.
This would be fine, if they hadn’t just dropped evocative model designations such as Turismo and Lusso from the regular cars, replacing them with middle-management-brainstorming-session names like Progression and Distinctive.
Put naming conventions to one side, fire it up using a key – there’s nothing so lacking in emotion as a start button here – and the four-cylinder unit burbles away pleasantly, thanks to Alfa Romeo‘s engineers spending a significant amount of time tuning the exhaust sound to replicate, at least inside the cabin, the sounds of the twin cam Cloverleafs of the 1960s.
The Giulietta gets the engine and gearbox from the 4C, which means there’s now 240bhp on tap and a six-speed twin-clutch semi-automatic gearbox to play with. Launch control is standard, so it’s easy to hit the performance figures claimed; 0-62mph comes up in just 6.0 seconds.
However, using the launch control system just highlights one of the biggest failings of the Giulietta QV. Under normal use, if you mash your right foot to the floor, very little happens. The transmission registers that you’d possibly like to get moving, shuffles a few cogs around and then, reluctantly, lets some of the power through to the front wheels.
Only when you’re rolling does it seem to free up all of the horses on offer, and then it masks the speed remarkably well. If you can get beyond the frustration caused by the lethargic initial getaway, this is a car that could have your licence removed from you very quickly indeed.
Get to the bendy bits of a road and the car is reasonably composed if unexciting.
There is impressive ride quality, although that’s generally not what you’re looking for in a small hatchback that packs more punch than an early BMW M3.
It’s all very anodyne, with no exciting fizzes of engagement coming through the steering wheel. The power assisted steering weights up nicely but get even a momentary loss of grip and it simply can’t cope, the assistance level changing throughout a turn and leaving things unpredictable – not something you need at high-speed.
It’s like there’s all this extra power and torque, but nothing has been changed elsewhere in the chassis. Which is exactly the case – the same suspension and steering is carried over from the old Cloverleaf model.
Everything feels very heavy too; the engine, Alfa Romeo is keen to remind me, shaves around 20kg from the weight of the car, but they fail to mention that the gearbox adds 20kg. They give with one hand…
There are Brembo brakes though, which will bring the car to a halt as well as any other hot hatch, but the system that flashes the hazard warning lights during heavy braking is a tad too sensitive.
It’s no driver’s car then, so what else does your £28,120 get you? Sliding in to the cabin, you’d struggle to tell. Swathes of hard, black plastic envelop the dashboard, looking like a budget model from some years ago. Only countless Quadrifoglio Verde logos around the interior hint that you’ve spent a very large wedge of cash on the car.
There’s good equipment levels though, with an impressive 6.5-inch screen for the multimedia and sat-nav system, as well as climate control and electrically adjustable everything. A flat-bottomed steering wheel should add a sporty touch, but it’s huge and barely straightens out at the bottom of the curve.
When you place the Giulietta QV alongside its rivals, it’s woefully inadequate.
It costs thousands more than a top-spec Volkswagen Golf GTi that is better in pretty much every area. The SEAT Leon Cupra, 40bhp more powerful, is less money, and even the Kia Pro_cee’d GT will give the Alfa a run for its money.
The Alfa will sell on its looks alone; it’s both beautiful and distinctive, which is a hugely positive thing in a market of me-too models, but to price it up against some seriously impressive competition is almost suicidal.
There’s a part of every car fan that wants Alfa Romeo to succeed, willing it to produce the evocative and engaging cars that it managed in decades gone by, but Alfa Romeo has missed opportunity after opportunity over recent years. With the 4C, it finally looked like the tide may be turning.
It wasn’t, and I’m as disappointed as ever.
|Model Tested: Alfa Romeo Giulietta Quadrifoglio Verde|
Engine: 1.75 litre 4 cylinder petrol engine
Top speed: 149 mph
0-62 mph: 6.0 seconds
Power: 240 PS (237 bhp)
Torque: 340 Nm (251 ft-lb)
|Official fuel economy: 40.4 mpg
Road Test economy: N/A
CO2 Emissions: 162 g/km
VED Band: G / £180 per year
Car insurance group: 31E
Kerb weight: 1,320 kg