Time for two very different takes on the hot-hatch formula to face off
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The Top Gear car review:Alfa Romeo Giulietta Cloverleaf/QV
For:It’s a looker and the 235bhp engine is great
Against:It's not the great drive it needs to be to take on the class best
1.75 TBi Cloverleaf 5dr
Alfa’s sporty branch is back with this spicy Giulietta. Can it do justice to its name?
The spiciest Giulietta is confortable and fast, but not fun. There are better hot hatches.
Quadrifoglio Verde. Not a cheese pizza, but a game stab at hot-hatchery
An interesting hatch in the right ways. Sensible but desirable, and fun to use. Updates this year are small but effective
Once, an auto Giulietta was a total no-go zone, but the modified TCT ‘box changes all that
An Alfa that doesn’t try to whip the wheel out of your hands. Not quite a RenaultSport beater, but it does comfort better
Can Alfa’s new Giulietta out-Golf the Golf? No, not really.
What we say:
The handling is responsive and it rides well. So, why does the Cloverleaf feel like it's missing something?
What is it?
Now Alfa is down to selling just three car ranges in the UK, there’s a lot riding on the success of the Giulietta. It has sensibly broadened the appeal of mainstream models but, as a sporting brand, there’s a considerable burden of expectation on any performance range-topper: the bar for the Cloverleaf is automatically set high by real motoring enthusiasts.
The hot hatch sector is a pretty unfriendly place anyway, with the mind-boggling talents of the Golf GTI, the superb handling of the Renaultsport Megane and the surprise all-round abilities of the latest Ford Focus ST. And there’s the catch: pretty and individual the Giulietta Cloverleaf may be, it still can’t unsettle the big boys.
The Giulietta Cloverleaf is a fine handling car, but very much a GT rather than a hot hatch. It rides nicely, cruises comfortably and it’s without vice. Doesn’t sound very raw, does it? No it’s not, which is why enthusiasts will prefer a Renaultsport Megane, and those after more comfort-orientated hot hatchery will just buy a Golf GTI.
Alfa makes a big deal about its DNA system, which supposedly gives the car several different characters, but this is as silly as it sounds: only ‘Dynamic’ is worth bothering with. It quickens the throttle, enhances low down torque and opens up the exhaust. The steering also weights up and the braking becomes more immediate (neither get any more feel, sadly). Why isn’t it just configured like this and be done with? The 1.75-litre turbo may be a gem, but overall the Cloverleaf is off the pace.
On the inside
The Giulietta’s cabin is interesting to look at, and in Cloverleaf form is nicely trimmed in smart materials. But it’s not of a comparable quality to the better cars in this class, and there is an impression that things may not last as long as they would in something a bit more, er, German. Another gripe is the absence of a proper place to rest your clutch foot. It’s an oversight that makes distance driving a real pain, sometimes literally.
One boon for the Cloverleaf, however, is those hidden rear doors. You get the practicality of a proper five-door hatch here, but with the attractive coupe-ish profile of a three-door model. So it’s got that Italian style thing sorted…
The Cloverleaf is a £25k car. That’s less than the Golf GTI, but not by much. You have to ask yourself how badly you really want an Italian five-door hatch, that is slower, less economical and less competent than the archetypal Golf GTI. Even so, for a 235bhp car, it’s fairly fuel-efficient and its relative rarity should mean retained values are better than Alfas of yore.