Team Y tests a hot hatchback that deserves to be taken seriously – and above all – as a genuine Alfa Romeo.
It takes a lot of mettle for a car to wear an Alfa Romeo badge and even more for one to pass itself off as a true version of the breed.
This car was originally known for its stirring drivetrains – made known by its characteristic rear-wheel-drive layout, 50-50 weight distribution and V6 baritone exhaust.
These can even conjure the hearts of American muscle car-hugging rednecks, and today the Italian marque is something of a cult icon.
That said, what’s an Alfa Romeo badge doing on our tester – a four-door, front-wheel-drive hatchback?
As it turns out, it’s not out of place.
Named with true Italian passion as the Giulietta (pronounced: “Juliet-a”), the hatchback can be classified as an entrant into the brand’s ecosphere – albeit with a lot of perks you’d receive as you progress through their current range of performance cars.
To start things off, the Giulietta, despite its eight-year-old design, still manages to remain fresh when compared with its German rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf and the Mercedes-Benz A-Class.
A slew of LEDs upfront on the oval lamps salvage an otherwise dull fascia while the signature Alfa Romeo grille, the “scudetto” (little shield), provides the hatchback with its much-needed mojo.
Our ‘Veloce’ variant also came studded with carbon-fibre elements on the side mirrors, the lip of the bumper and on the outer edge of grille to distinguish it from the regular variants.
The side profile is made aggressive by the 18-inch inspired alloys and Brembo brakes, even if many of the elements – the bold character line that runs the length of the car and the disguised door handled on the rear – are designed to keep things rather simple and elegant.
It’s a thought that doesn’t extend to the posterior: bulky lights fitted with LEDs can really be a hit or miss depending on the colour you spec your car in. For instance, we found that our white tester accentuated the large lights while photos of the car in darker colours concealed any of its awkwardness.
It’s still positively striking to look at – and the rear end is rounded off with a pair of chrome-tipped exhausts and a cosmetic diffuser.
Moving over to the interior, we were greeted by a quirky yet simple cabin layout that was crafted, for the most part, in faux-carbon-fibre and high-quality plastics.
There’s also an easy-to-use 6.5-inch touchscreen on the centre console and a few physical knobs to master your HVAC controls.
Apart from that you’ll get a large steering wheel with just a handful of options to switch between music, comfortable seats that lean a bit towards sportiness from the onset, and just about enough space for four full-size adults.
The latter can be a bit constraining, especially when you try to cram in two tall adults into the rear. Still, during the course of our test, we could haul four passengers up and down the Al Batinah Expressway without too much hassle.
With a capacity of 350-litres, boot space in the Giulietta is reasonable, with it only slightly falling short to that of the Golf. But, with its seats folded down, you can easily take in some bulky baggage.
For the current Model Year, the Giulietta packs a surprise underneath the hood: a 1.8-litre (1.75-litre, to be accurate) in-line four-cylinder turbo engine that’s derived from their supercar – the 4C.
The resulting output is 240hp and 340Nms of torque, all of which is mated to a six-speed dual-clutch auto-manual that sends power to the front wheels via the ‘Q2’ electronic differential.
While it lacks the grunt of, say, a Volkswagen Golf GTi; from the get-go, the Giulietta can still keep up with the former. In fact, once the turbo has spooled up, it can rout its German rival.
The car’s ally – its stout power and torque – is also its greatest enemy: kicking past the 2,000rpm mark from a standstill will inevitably result in a wild bout of wheelspin and violent torque-steer to the right.
Nevertheless, it will do the 0-100kph run in about six seconds – a whole 0.5 seconds faster than the Golf GTI.
Thankfully, Alfa’s engineers seem to have found some middle ground with the tuning of the “new” Giulietta Veloce, with the engine offering a decent amount of grunt even in the mid ranges where both the A-Class’ and the Golf GTI’s turbo engines lose steam.
Then there’s the ‘DNA’ system – with the alphabets denoting ‘Dynamic’, ‘Neutral’, and All-weather’ – that changes the characteristics of the car depending on your driving requirements.
In ‘Neutral’ mode, the shifts are timely if a bit economy-minded. However, they are still snappy enough to respond to quick throttle changes while the focus shifts to aggression and sharpness when switched to ‘Dynamic’ mode.
The latter hastens gear shifts and throttle response, and adds a bit more weight to the steering wheel. It’s one of the better steering systems we’ve tried out in a long time – with excellent response and a substantial amount of heft added to make you feel comfortable in corners.
We couldn’t eke out the performance we’d hoped for during the course of our test but found that the car hugged the corners – albeit with a bit of body roll – when pushed with the electronic nannies kept on to keep things in check.
Even so, the systems weren’t as intrusive as that of the A-Class, with the ESP system only kicking in once we streamed past the limits of grip from the sticky 225/40 tyres and into the realms of understeer.
Is the Giulietta Veloce a worthy contender for the Alfa Romeo badge? Yes.
Sure, it may not possess the driving prowess of, say, its larger siblings like the Giulia or the Stelvio but then it stays within a reasonable budget that can undercut all its rivals by a stout margin.
There’s nothing humdrum about the Giulietta: it’s fast, fun to drive, and flatteringly aggressive when you need it to be.
Mind you, it’s not a Quadrifoglio. It’s not even close. But, when cruising along on the highway and immersed in the induction noise funnelled into the cabin by the engine, there’ll be no one to wipe that smug smile off your face.
• Engine: 1.8-litre ‘turbocharged’ in-line four-cylinder
• Transmission: Six-speed dual-clutch auto-manual
• Power: 240hp
• Torque: 340Nms
• Electronic differential
• 18-inch alloy wheels
• 6.5-inch infotainment screen
• Bose audio system
• Faux-carbon-fibre trim
• Brembo brakes
• Traction and stability controls
• Parking sensors
• Sports-tuned exhaust
• Cruise control
• Steering-mounted controls
• Panaromic sunroof