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Alfa Romeo Giulietta QV

 

The four-leaf clover badge signals an Alfa Romeo with sporting intent. Does the Giulietta QV deserve its hot-hatch credentials?

Base price: $59,990.

Powertrain and performance: 1.8-litre turbo-petrol four, 177kW/340Nm, 6-speed automated twin-clutch transmission (TCT), front-drive, Combined economy 5.2 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 6.0 seconds.

Vital statistics: 4351mm long, 1465mm high, luggage capacity 350 litres, fuel tank 60 litres, 18-inch alloy wheels on 225/40 tyres.

We like: Rapid acceleration, engine note, design flair.

We don’t like: Gearbox has limited range of talent, chassis rough around the edges, poor attention to detail in cabin.

How it rates: 7/10

WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? Quadrifoglio Verde (QV) sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it?

This is the name attached to high-performance versions of Alfa Romeo models, a tip of the hat to 1923 when the racing Alfa of Ugo Sivocci wore a four-leaf clover on its flanks: perhaps for luck, perhaps to help identify it on track and in the pits against other team cars. Whatever the reason, Sivocci and his QV-adorned Alfa won the first major race victory for the brand.

But back to 2015. The new and improved version of the Giulietta QV has gained the aluminium-block 1.7-litre engine from the 4C mid-engined sports car, matched to a dual-clutch gearbox that Alfa Romeo calls TCT (for twin clutch transmission).

Think of this as Alfa’s rival to the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Ford Focus ST.

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? In terms of layout, the Giulietta QV is fairly conventional hot hatchback: lots of power, front-drive and riding on lowered suspension (by 10mm).

Top marks to the engine, which has a deep (if occasionally intrusive) note at low speed and a real crackle when you press the go-pedal hard. Under duress, the TCT changes cogs with a real sense of sporting purpose and can double-declutch back down the ratios with the best of them. It even has launch control, allowing a very smart 0-100km/h sprint of six seconds.

In less frantic driving, it’s not so accomplished. It’s an automated dual-clutch unit that behaves more like a single-clutch mechanism: sluggish off the line and occasionally clunking between gears. Certainly nowhere near as smooth and responsive as the Golf GTI’s similar-technology DSG transmission.

Alfa’s so-called DNA system allows you to choose between Dynamic, Natural and All-weather modes (see what they did there?) for the powertrain. There is a noticeable difference between them, especially when the Q2 electronic differential (which is modified by DNA) come into play.

You can have a lot of fun in the Giulietta QV: the powertrain can play hard and the chassis is grippy, but it’s far from a virtuoso effort. Unless you drive smoothly, things can get untidy quite quickly, with scrappy steering and poor body control on bumpy backroads. You certainly can’t say it’s dull.

IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? The Giulietta cabin is showing its age (the model was introduced back in 2010), but it has some nice heritage details such as the classic Alfa hooded dials on the instrument panel.

Last year’s facelift brought the UConnect infotainment system and touch screen from sister brand Chrysler and it has improved the user experience out of sight: the screen is tiny but the interface is crisp and intuitive. Shame Alfa doesn’t get the very best out of it with a reversing camera or sat-nav, though.

Features unique to the QV include sporty-looking front seats with extra lateral support, plus some very glamorous branding. Alloy pedals are also part of the package.

There’s lots to like, but there’s also a haphazard aspect to some interior design that drives you crazy. The adjustment for the front seat rake is a rotary dial at the back of the base, but unfortunately it’s rather large and jammed right next to the sill/B-pillar. Unless you have the hands of a child, it’s virtually impossible to get in there and adjust it without swearing and scraped knuckles.

Or consider the USB jack on the centre console: obviously an add-on given the Giulietta’s age, but it’s nowhere near a storage tray so there’s nowhere to put your phone or music player once you’ve plugging it in. Come to think of it, storage all-round is pretty poor.

Practicality is still a big part of the appeal of hot hatches. The Giulietta’s rear-seat visibility suffers from the high waistline, but it’s acceptably roomy in the back. The rear seats are split 60/40 and fold flat for load-through. But the boot is modest indeed, at 350 litres.

SHOULD I BUY ONE? The Giulietta QV is a really cool car that’s a bit disappointing when you start to examine it closely. It’s fast, but the chassis is a bit rough around the edges. It’s stylish inside, but there’s a lack of attention to design detail that irks.

In short, the Golf GTI and Focus ST are vastly more accomplished and modern cars. At $59,990, the rather dated Alfa is very hard to justify against the $55k Ford and $61k VW.

How weird that the Giulietta QV still puts such a big smile on your face and makes its rivals seem just a little staid. It’s still a very cool car.

EQUIPMENT CHECKLIST

  • Air conditioning: Dual climate
  • Audio: CD, iPod compatible
  • Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
  • Blind spot warning: No
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Cruise control: Yes
  • Driver footrest: Yes
  • Head-up display: No
  • Heated/ventilated seats: No
  • Keyless entry/start: No
  • Lane guidance: No
  • Leather upholstery: Yes
  • Parking radar: Front and rear
  • Power boot or tailgate: No
  • Power seat adjustment/memory: No
  • Rear ventilation outlets: No
  • Remote audio controls: Yes
  • Satellite navigation: No
  • Seat height adjustment: Yes
  • Self-parking technology: No
  • Split/folding rear seats: 60/40
  • Steering reach adjustment: Yes
  • Stop-start: Yes
  • Trip computer: Yes

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