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First drive review: Alfa Romeo Giulietta Quadrifoglio Verde (2014)

Does the new Giulietta QV appeal to more than the romantics?

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Alfa Giulietta QV 2014 front

IF YOU want the most mundane collection of words to sound wildly exciting and romantic, just translate them into Italian. In English, Alfa Romeo’s performance arm is called “Green four-leaf clover”, but in its native Italian it’s “Quadrifoglio Verde”. How much cooler is that?

Alfa has been using the QV emblem since 1923, when racing driver Ugo Sivocci stuck the emblem on his car for good luck. Then, starting in the 1960s, Alfa started using the cloverleaf emblem on its sportiest cars. This Giulietta QV is the latest. The name alone makes it sound like an interesting alternative to a Volkswagen Golf GTI. But is there more to it than a romantic moniker?

In a word, yes. The Giulietta QV has something rather special under the bonnet: the engine from the Alfa 4C, the deliciously exotic junior supercar.

You don’t go borrowing that kind of powerplant without giving the car the looks to back it up. The Giulietta QV strikes a rather purposeful stance with lowered suspension, 18-inch wheels that resemble a traditional telephone dial, chunky dual exhausts and cheeky red Brembo brake callipers. Likewise, the interior gets an equally sporty makeover, with the now ubiquitous flat-bottomed steering wheel for a suggestion of motorsport, sports seats and aluminium pedals.

Alfa’s Giulietta QV is going to need all the charm and character it can muster to compete with the likes of the VW Golf GTI and the Seat Leon Cupra

Alfa’s flagship Giulietta is, though, going to need all the charm and character it can muster to compete with the likes of the VW Golf GTI and the Seat Leon Cupra.

It will help that owners can brag their car has the same engine as the 4C. This 1.8-litre turbocharged engine generates 237bhp and 250lb ft of torque, which is sufficiently potent to hustle the car from standstill to 62mph in just six seconds, though that pace is largely down to the slick shifting of the six-speed dual-clutch gearbox (complete with flappy paddles).

Alfa Giulietta QV 2014 profile

And a hot hatch is nothing these days without a selection of driving modes. The Giulietta has three of them, labelled DNA (as in, says Alfa, “racing is in our DNA”). They are Dynamic (you can probably work that one out yourself), Natural (for normal trundling about) and All-Weather (because they need a word starting with “A”, which “comfort” doesn’t).

Given that this is the most overtly sporting Giulietta, I switched straight into Dynamic. This weights up the steering, sharpens throttle response and gives more aggressive gearshifts. Alfa has done a lot of work to imbue the engine with a rortiness that has always been a trademark of QV cars. It does sound good; a hard-edged growl that rises in pitch as the engine revs to the redline.

Alfa Giulietta QV 2014 rear

And the engine does like revs, although with 80% of its torque available at just 1,800rpm, lower speed throttle response is still good. The shift action of the slick dual-clutch gearbox is very fast when you’re really on it but left in automatic mode, even in Dynamic, the box is too eager to shift up early, which can be frustrating.

The Giulietta is a rapid machine, albeit not explosively fast, with the added laugh-factor of Launch Control. This enables racing grid-style starts and, claims Alfa, shaves time off the 0-62mph sprint. But it also feels like a genuinely awful thing to do to the car. You stomp your left foot on the brake while simultaneously thumping the throttle pedal to the floor. Pull the left paddle towards you and slide foot off brake. And all hell breaks loose, with the Alfa’s engine straining to the redline in each gear and allowing just enough wheelspin to maintain maximum acceleration. My advice to prospective owners is, do it once to impress your mates, and then leave it alone.

Silliness aside, the Giulietta QV is a good thing to have on a twisting bit of country road. The balance is neutral, grip is tenacious and the turn-in to corners sharp and confidence inspiring. More impressive is that the ride in Dynamic mode is still quite bearable over all but the worst broken surfaces. I did find, though, that the steering lacked the feel and feedback of the best. The driving position is good, and the seats supportive as well as looking quite groovy.

Alfa Giulietta QV 2014 interior

Sure, this Alfa will face extremely tough competition but it brings a boatload of personality and charm to the table, not to mention a heritage most brands would die for. For some, that’ll be enough to give the Green Four-Leaf Clover a place on the shopping list, even if they struggle to pronounce Quadrifoglio Verde.

 

Verdict ★★★☆☆

Charming on the surface, superficial once you get to know it

 

Alfa Romeo Giulietta QV specifications

Engine: 1742cc, four-cylinder, turbocharged
Power:  237bhp @ 5750rpm
Torque:  250 lb ft @ 2000-4000rpm
Transmission: 6-speed dual-clutch automatic
Acceleration: 0-62mph in 6.0sec
Top speed: 149mph
Fuel:  39.8mpg (combined)
CO2: 162g/km
Tax band: G
Price: 
£28,120
Release date: 
On sale July

The Rivals

  • Seat Leon Cupra 280 DSG 5dr, £28,530
    For Stunning performance in a hugely practical package
    Against The badge doesn’t carry the kudos of rivals

Check for used Seat Leon Cupra on driving.co.uk


  • Volkswagen Golf GTI DSG 5dr, £28,400
    For Superbly well made and a motoring icon with it
    Against Latest generation not a great leap forward dynamically

Check for used VW Golf GTI on driving.co.uk