What is it?
The most powerful variant of the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, which gets the new 231bhp, 1742cc turbocharged four-pot that is being rolled out across the Alfa range.
The now familiar ‘DNA’ system is also fitted, which electronically alters steering, brakes, throttle and engine response between settings. Drive is sent through a manual six-speed gearbox to the front wheels.
The Cloverleaf will account for only a small percentage of Giulietta sales, but as the halo model for the Italian brand’s long-awaited new Focus-rival it has a lot to prove in the UK.
What’s it like?
That rather depends on your expectations. If you’re looking for a focused hot-hatch then you’ll be mildly disappointed.
If you’re looking for a useful, rapid family hatch that feels a bit special and also has the power and poise to be entertaining as required then this could well be the answer to your car-buying prayers.
Crucially, on UK roads the Giulietta brings with it more of a sense of occasion – whether you’re looking at it or driving it - than many mainstream rivals do.
It also has a better compromise between ride quality and handling than any other recent Alfa. It’s jittery over some severely broken road surfaces, and the worst element is a slightly lurching quality to body control over constantly undulating tarmac, but even so it is comfortable enough and it benefits from a supple setup that it always feels extremely stable and adjustable.
The DNA system does not, as with some other Alfas, adjust the damper settings but it does have a dramatic effect on throttle response. In normal mode it seems overly mushy but in dynamic it’s sharp and responds well. Steering is quite light and a little inert at low speeds but weights up well in dynamic, when the Giulietta generally becomes a lot more engaging.
Otherwise the Giulietta is an impressively complete package. It’s typically stylish cabin is marred by a high-set throttle, narrow pedal box and seats that are short on lateral support but it’s still a great place to cover miles.
Should I buy one?
Not if performance and handling are top priorities, but if you want a refined, fast and engaging five-door hatch then this should definitely be on your shortlist. It’s not cheap, but a long list of standard equipment, including start-stop, climate control, multi-function wheel and part-leather interior goes a long way to justifying it.
Most importantly, the Giulietta is a car that you might choose because it does what you want better than others in the class, rather than simply because of the classic Alfa fallbacks of charm and style.