Piers Ward11 June 2014

First drive: Alfa Giulietta QV

Quadrifoglio Verde. Not a cheese pizza, but a game stab at hot-hatchery

So what is this unwieldily-named thing?

The Giulietta Quadrifoglio Verde is Alfa's version of the Golf GTI, a hot hatch with a legendary badge and a heritage to match. It's been updated for 2014 with a new-for-Giulietta engine and some interior trim upgrades such as a flat-bottomed steering wheel and bucket seats, with prices starting from £28,120.

But I don't recognise the name...

That's because you're not from the land of pasta and pizza. Quadrifoglio Verde means Four Leaf Clover in Italian, and from now on all hot Alfas will be known by the Latin version. Which is wonderful news for traditionalists, but plays havoc with our spell checker.

Molto bene. What else is new?

The engine, for a start. It's the same 1750cc turbo lump out of the beautiful 4C, with 237bhp and 221lb ft, and is usefully tractable because 80 per cent of the toque is available from just 1,800rpm. It's a reactive little thing, at least in terms of turbo lag, and the 0-62mph sprint takes just 6.0 seconds thanks to a launch control setting on the dual clutch gearbox (no manual option is available). All very respectable numbers.

But to be honest the real news is not the figures, it's the emotion. Yes, yes - we know. Trotting out the usual Alfa clichés of passion and flair. But give the Italians credit where credit's due because despite this being a turbo, the Giulietta QV (we've given up on typing out the full name) does at least sound impressive.

Alfa's engineers spent hours listening to the harmonics on classic 1960s Alfas to try and replicate the noises of old. Let's be honest, they were never going to get an exact match, but they have got close-ish. The rasp from the exhaust gives the car a bit of character and there's a tiny parp from the engine when you change gear. It's a nice reminder you're in a hot hatch.

What about the handling? Is that not a reminder you're in a hot hatch?

Not as much unfortunately. First, though, the good news. The QV manages that delicate balancing act of being fast, but still comfortable. This is not from the hardcore school of hot hatchery. The body control is good, the damping seems fine on the Italian roads we've been on, the front wheels don't scrabble around for grip like a dog on a frozen lake - all in, it's not an unpleasant car to spend time in.

But it's not exciting. The chassis adjustability isn't where it should be and you don't get much feel through the steering or seat. There's precision, but not much reward when you start to throw it around. It's a good car to drive at 70 per cent, but it doesn't have any hidden depths once you start to up the pace. Likewise the gearbox, which has accurate changes that never leave you hanging around for a gear, doesn't snap through the cogs with much attitude or vigour.

It all feels a bit... normal.

So should I bother?

As with most Alfas, it's a left-field choice. Not one that you should rule out completely, because it's still a good-looking thing. And, it's got a four-leaf clover on the flanks - an appealing badge for anyone with a sense of history.

But the VW Group has got some amazing cars in the QV's price bracket - the Seat Leon Cupra and VW Golf GTI for starters - and the Giulietta isn't quite as dual purpose as those. A pity, because it's a car we'd like to like more.

6/10

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