From £17,0195
High-performance Giulietta gets the 4C's powertrain in a bid to boost its appeal, but the net result still leaves a lot to be desired
Nic Cackett
10 June 2014

What is it?

The new Alfa Romeo Giulietta Cloverleaf. Or rather what would have been called the Cloverleaf before Alfa Romeo retired the English descriptive and reverted to the Quadrifoglio Verde used in Italy and elsewhere.

If that looks to you like the kind of name Tolkien would have given a dwarf then shame on you; Quadrifoglio Verde essentially means four-leaf clover in Italian and is the good luck emblem racing Alfas have been wearing since the ’20s.

The leafage has been a feature of road cars since the ’60s; not all of them, it must be said, worthy of the distinction. That much has been particularly true of the recent output, with the previous Giulietta dismissed as overpriced and undercooked when it appeared in the UK back in 2010.

Read our first drive of the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio here

To fix this complaint, Alfa has removed the 1750 Turbo engine and manual gearbox previously used, and replaced it with the powertrain from the 4C. The lightened version of the same direct-injected four-pot may only produce 5bhp more at 237bhp, but it comes attached to the dual-clutch, six-speed TCT gearbox as standard.

While a paddle shifter may not be everyone’s idea of hot hatch heaven, it does ensure that - when used in conjunction with the QV’s launch control - that almost a second has been shaved from the car’s 0-62mph time. It also benefits from a modest CO2 emission drop; the fall from 177g/km to 162g/km ensuring that the latest model tumbles handily back two VED bands.

As before, Alfa keeps the styling add-ons reasonably subtle; there is a dash of anthracite here and there and larger twin tailpipes out back, but the wheels only swell to 18 inches and the car isn’t a great deal lower than standard.

The kit list is reasonably plump – a new 6.5-inch multimedia system is included -– but the asking price is plump too; when it goes on sale next month the QV will start from £28,120, which is about the same as you’d pay for a top spec Volkswagen Golf GTI.

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Or, if you’d prefer a wee bit more exclusivity, you can have one of the first 100 examples to make it to the showrooms, which will be a special ‘Launch Edition’ that features enough stuck-on carbonfibre bodywork to bump the price to £30,280. That's beyond the asking price of a VW Golf R.

What's it like?

Maddeningly, much the same as it was before. Despite Alfa’s efforts to namecheck the 4C at every given opportunity, the distant hope that the QV would somehow have contracted a hatchback-style strain of its infectious exhilaration is dashed within moments; instead it is still just modestly comfortable, tepidly fast and, sadly, often a decidedly stodgy repeat of Alfa’s past sins.

Mostly, this is because not much of note has actually changed. There’s no hardware alterations in the chassis, and the 22kg weight saving earned by using an aluminium block is essentially cancelled out by the weight penalty that arrives with the heavier gearbox. Thus the QV handles as the Cloverleaf did; offering a pleasing compromise between bump absorption and tautness when you’re not trying very hard - and then sloppily losing the plot when you do.

Four years ago we let the concession to comfort slide, but as the car’s value now sidles so close to the new Golf R – a shining example of how to be hardcore and accommodating within three clicks of a switch – the QV’s inability, even in Dynamic mode, to turn in smartly and put its power down consistently is now a blatant demerit.

The lack of proper body control, and the car’s resulting ineptitude at transferring forward energy into cornering speed – a facet not helped by the intransigence of the diff-aping stability control in tight corners – is made worse by the drag factor of the new engine and gearbox. Any comparison to the steroidal tearaway that powered the 4C is entirely spurious; the QV’s motor may feature the same packaging, but Alfa has consciously tapped all the dynamite from its lovable firework.

Its engineers claim that 80 per cent of the 250lb ft of torque is available from 1800rpm, yet in reality, the 1750 doesn’t appear to find its stride until well beyond 3000rpm, all to often leaving you in a lag-crippled deadspot. When it does arrive, the shove is insufficient - well off the pace a cheaper Leon Cupra would produce, and all but exhausted by 5750rpm.

Unfortunately for the engine, the limitations of its power band is helped not one jot by the TCT gearbox. In the 4C its pitfalls were papered over by the four-pot’s spiky drive; with that gone, its slow shifts and the chasmic-sized holes between ratios are all too obvious.

Again, left to its own devices in auto mode on the most casual mode of Alfa’s familiar DNA adaptive drive system, it’s patient imitation of a torque converter is acceptable; in a hot hatch, at the sharp end of your ambition, it’s just not.

Should I buy one?

To seriously consider doing so, your criteria must be fag-paper thin. The QV’s cultured ride, good looks and badge appeal only go so far; as a hot hatch – rather than a brisk Giulietta – the largely unchanged car is now leagues behind much of the competition.

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And the fact that Alfa has brazenly priced it ahead of some genuinely brilliant options only sees it slide further back in our reckoning.

Worst of all, the QV qualifies as yet another entry in the firm’s growing canon of missed opportunities. We’d hoped that the Italian brand would follow up the flawed but fabulous 4C with a hatchback of equal proportions; instead it has performed a perfunctory facelift of an already middling model.

In the end, the only leaf that Alfa Romeo has successfully turned over is the name.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta Quadrifoglio Verde 1.75 TP 240HP E6

Price £28,120 0-62mph 6.0sec Top speed 152mph Economy 40.4mpg CO2 162g/km Kerb weight 1320kg Engine 4 cyls, 1742cc, turbocharged petrol Power 237bhp at 5750rpm Torque 250lb ft at 2000rpm Gearbox 6-speed dual-clutch transmission

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Comments
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TS7 11 June 2014

Emperors New Clothes Moment:

Damn, that's one UGLY car, looks like a frog that's been dead half a week. The driving experience seems to indicate it's a case of mutton dressed as mutton.
Dark Isle 10 June 2014

LOL

Personally, I love the way it looks, and think the above poster is mad, but each to their own! :-P

Whether a car is interesting and special takes precedence over whether or not it's nought-point-something of a second slower to 60, or is made with slightly softer plastics. This is why even though I'm not in the market for a small hatchback, I'd choose the Alfa Romeo Giulietta over any of the boring VAG products, as good as they might be, any day.

Lightningduck 10 June 2014

Soooo predictable...

Of course Autocar doesn't like it-it's not JLRGerman is it?

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