Lots of extra kit
Keen to mine its rich motorsport heritage, Alfa Romeo has rebooted its 'Cloverleaf' sub-brand with high performance editions of its Mito supermini and Giulietta family hatch. Interestingly, the latter borrows the 1.7-litre turbo petrol motor from the 4C supercar for added exclusivity.
The iconic Cloverleaf Alfa is back, and this time the Italian firm has added an extra air of sophistication with its 'Quadrifoglio Verde' translation. Alfa fans don't need reminding of the car maker's racing history and long line of past road cars bearing the distinctive green cloverleaf badge.
It's a big deal and Alfa Romeo has thrown the kitchen sink at the Giulietta in a bid to capture a slice of the burgeoning hot hatch market. Along with the 4C's 1.7-litre engine – pushing out 240 horsepower – the hot Giulietta gains a standard fit TCT dual clutch gearbox, a tweaked exhaust note, lots of kit, a subtle bodykit and sports seats.
As dramatic as the Giulietta looks, it's inevitable that attention will focus on the driving experience. Here, in QV trim, the car delivers a particularly brisk if not class leading pace. For the effort expended on the powertrain, little attention has been paid to updating the car's steering, and this is obvious in the corners; some rivals are more polished in this area while the QV's helm still lacks the communication desired to give a driver full confidence.
At least the car's ride is of a good standard, which is pleasing considering the presence of the standard fit 18-inch alloy wheels. It still lacks the finesse of other cars in the hot hatch marketplace, but it copes well with all but the most heavily potholed and scared country roads.
A rough diamond that uses its charm and good looks to win you over – that's the best way of describing Alfa Romeo's Giulietta QV. The hot Alfa hatch is certainly well equipped, while the aural performance of that heavily promoted turbo engine is unashamedly designed to win over your heart. Sensible types might be inclined to look elsewhere but fans of the brand won't be disappointed.
A key attraction of this high performance QV model is its sensible economy and emissions numbers. In the real world, the former might sink considerably if you choose to drive the car enthusiastically. That aside, the car is well equipped in standard trim although its asking price is very close to a number of key rivals.
While those at the front have a good deal of room, rear passengers will feel more enclosed both because of the way the car's shoulder line rises and due to the thickness of the C-pillars and the modest legroom available. It's a pity that the car's boot load lip is higher than some, making it harder to get heavy items in and out. That said, the boot area is surprisingly capacious once you've tackled that particular obstacle.
For all the flair and style of the car's exterior, the QV's interior is pleasingly straightforward. There is a simple, easy-to-read main dial cluster and the chunky column stalks are intuitive. The refreshed fascia sports a large colour touchscreen which, on the whole, proves easy to use, although some sat-nav functions could be better executed.
The larger wheels of the QV model do introduce more road noise and reduce the comfort on rough road surfaces. The sports seats are comfortable and supportive, but they could do with more downward adjustment for added comfort. The car's cabin is wide enough for two large adults to sit in comfort, however.
All the main bases are covered, with an immobiliser and remote central locking as standard. There's no chance of the car's audio unit fitting any other car, while at the rear the parcel shelf appears sturdy enough if you want to block prying eyes from your valuables.
The Giulietta scores highly in the Euro NCAP safety tests and features a broad range of electronic safety gear. Stability control is standard, as are daytime running lights, multiple airbags and an anti-whiplash system. For the keen driver, it's good to know that the various electronic aids don't prove too intrusive when you're pressing on.
With the engine from the 4C supercar, this Giulietta QV promises serious performance. The reality is a more sensible blend of rapid pace and reasonable driving dynamics. The car's slightly remote steering and hesitant dual clutch gearbox are mild disappointments, but it is possible to enjoy the experience thanks to ample grip and a rorty engine and exhaust note. The Alfa's firm sports suspension copes well with most surfaces, but can struggle on poorly quality rural B-roads.
The Giulietta QV has all the basic qualities in place such as relatively easy access to the rear seats, Isofix child seat mounts and a spacious boot. However, the boot lip is too deep to allow easy access to heavy child-related items and it's generally not wide or deep enough for pushchairs. If you opt for leather, the surfaces are also quite soft, and potentially vulnerable to careless hands.
In QV guise the Giulietta is probably a little too fast and costly to run than the average model. It's certainly an easy car to drive quickly, but it benefits from a more experienced driver at a wheel.
While the Alfa Romeos brand hasn't experienced the best reputation for build quality or reliability, what it does have in spades is the prestige that comes with being a desirable purchase and a rich motorsport heritage – something the QV trades heavily on. The interior is solid, with no creaks or rattles over rough and patchy road surfaces, and the workmanship evident in the optional leather seats, for example, is good.
Although the rear door handles are located in such a way as to disguise the fact that the car is a five-door, the two extra doors allow ease of access for rear passengers that's on a par with anything else in the sector. Likewise the front seats occupants, for whom getting in and out is easy. The sports seats are specified with larger side bolsters offering more support when cornering.
As part of the car's modest facelift, the cabin boasts a pleasing refresh including repositioning of key controls and an easier to use audio unit. In QV trim satnav is part of the touchscreen bundle, it could be more intuitive to operated but at least the screen is large and clear.
Colour choice for the QV model is modest, but does include the important red shade and a handful of more modest hues. Being the flagship car, the cabin trim is of a high grade and good quality.
Rear visibility in the Giulietta isn't great, thanks to the high tailgate and small rear window. With the benefit of the parking sensors and variable-assistance power steering the Giulietta is easy to park. Plus, the automatic gearbox makes low-speed manoeuvres easy.
Space saver fitted as standard.
Petrol engine options: 1.4-litre (120bhp, 170bhp); 1.7-litre (240bhp). Diesel engine options: 1.6-litre (105bhp); 2.0-litre (150bhp, 175bhp). Transmission options: six-speed manual gearbox, six-speed dual-clutch TCT auto gearbox. Trim levels: Turismo, Lusso, Veloce, Quadrifoglio Verde