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Alfa Romeo Giulietta Cloverleaf
7/10

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Road Test

Alfa Romeo Giulietta Cloverleaf driven

Driven August 2010

Additional Info

235bhp. Through the front wheels. In an Alfa Romeo. Normally, that's all you'd need to know to make sure you didn't buy this Giulietta Cloverleaf. After all, power and Alfas have not been happy bedfellows in recent years... 147 GTA, Brera, 156 GTA - I could go on.

The new Cloverleaf alters all that. This is the most powerful variant in the model range, and its 235bhp pitches it slap bang in the middle of hot-hatch world. But the Cloverleaf isn't your classic, slightly unhinged hot hatch. Plant your foot on a dry bit of road and the steering wheel doesn't fidget in your hands, the 235bhp and 251lb ft are delivered smoothly from the new 1.7-litre turbocharged engine, and everything is strangely civilised. Previous cooking Alfas, right up to the recent MiTo, always felt like the car was under-chassised - as if there was far too much power, and the suspension and tyres couldn't really cope. Drivers were left exhausted due to the effort of constantly fighting to keep everything in check, with the result that you never drove them all that quickly.

Not so in the Giulietta. Even on a gentle run on some knackered British roads, there's a brilliant compliance to everything. It's comfortable (despite having a 10mm lower ride height than normal Giuliettas), doesn't torque steer noticeably and has minimal wind noise. Even the interior is tastefully understated, without a ribbed leather seat in sight.

But there is a problem. If you drive the Giulietta on the raggedy edge, it loses some of that composure. Where Megane RenaultSports or Golf GTIs keep on giving no matter how much they're pushed, the Cloverleaf doesn't become better the quicker you go. The steering bucks around in your hands more and the damping can't keep up with the higher speeds. Go barrelling into a corner in the Alfa too hard and the car gets too nose heavy, with no sensation of the Cloverleaf pivoting around you like the best hot hatches have. The natural chassis balance isn't quite there.

The Cloverleaf feels like Alfa has tried to make a Golf GTI rival, but it hasn't got there. To be fair, the Alfa does the Golf part of Golf GTI very well. It's comfortable and refined, you get a decent-looking car into the bargain. Plus, at £24,495 it's £385 cheaper than the five-door VW. But the GTI, bi-polar part of the Golf is missing. That final little bit of fun isn't there. Buy it because it's different, not because it's better.

Piers Ward

Performance: 0-60mph in 6.8secs, max speed 150mph, 37.2mpg
Tech: 1742cc, 4cyl FWD, 235bhp, 251lb ft, 1320kg, 177g/km CO2

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