The Alfa Romeo Cloverleaf is back. Or at least it is if you speak Italian, as Alfa has rebranded the historic badge as Quadrifoglio Verde, which is a less semantically pleasing ‘Green four-leaf clover' if you come from the land of pizza and pasta. All well and good, but it's playing havoc with our spell-checker, so we're going for QV.
The Giulietta is among the first to get the new treatment, and has the 1.7-litre turbo from the 4C. It's an impressive lump, because despite its modest size, it still manages to produce 237bhp and 251lb ft, and 80 per cent of the torque is available from just 1,800rpm, so it's usefully tractable. Like the 4C, the Giulietta QV comes with Alfa's twin-clutch gearbox and launch-control function, so it'll sprint to 62mph in six seconds dead. The economy figures run to 40.4mpg and 162g/km CO2. Again, perfectly respectable.
But the big news isn't the raw data, it's the passion and flair, and specifically the engine noise. Which is lightly epic. Yes, yes - we know. Trotting out the usual Alfa clichés about emotion. To be fair to the Italians, they've worked hard on making the sound as evocative as their back catalogue's. And it's largely worked. The engine note is pumped into the cabin but it doesn't sound fake - there's even a nice parp when you change gear. Granted, it doesn't sound as spine-tingling as something like a Sixties GTA, but it's an impressive effort. Combined with the insistent turbo and snappy gearchanges, it's got a decent powertrain. Throw in a handling balance that walks a handy margin between comfort and hot hatchery, and the Giulietta is an easy and satisfying car to do miles in.
But it's not as entertaining as it should be. Drive the QV at 70 per cent, and all is well. But up the pace, and it comes up short, mainly because it isn't adjustable enough. An example? When you lift off the throttle mid-corner, the engine doesn't react quickly enough, holding onto revs for too long, so that the nose doesn't tuck back in. Lifeless steering doesn't help.
It's a pity, because the QV is a likeable car from a most likeable car company. Everyone wants to love an Alfa. But the hot-hatch sector is more competitive now than ever, and others manage the bipolar thing of being comfortable and entertaining better than the QV. Close, but not quite.
The spiciest Giulietta is comfortable and fast, but not fun. There are better hot hatches.
1742cc, 4cyl, FWD, 237bhp, 251lb ft, 40.4mpg, 162g/km CO2, 0-62mph in 6.0secs, 152mph, 1320kg, £28,120