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Car Review

Alfa Romeo Junior review

Published: 09 Jul 2024
The Alfa Junior is a lot of fun… just know the range means you’ll be having that fun briefly

Good stuff

Veloce is quickish and has engaging handling, compactness is handy

Bad stuff

In Veloce spec its range is too limited for one-car households


What is it?

A new Alfa Romeo? Exciting. Curb your enthusiasm. It's probably not the new Alfa Romeo you were hoping for. Not a new V6 roadster, and not a Giulia Quadrifoglio Sportwagon.

Thing is everyone wants Alfa Romeo to flourish, but far too few people do the actual thing that would give Alfa any chance of flourishing. Which is to buy an Alfa.

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So in a world where V6 roadsters and 500bhp petrol estates sell in teeny-tiny numbers, Alfa has decided to raise its chances by dipping into a hot segment where there are squillions of buyers. A small proportion of squillions is many more than a small proportion of teeny-tiny.

The Junior, then, is a compact crossover with either electric or mild hybrid power. If you think Alfa shouldn't be making cars of that description, go buy a Giulia or shut up.

Anything Alfa in its looks?

In mid-2021 Alfa got a new design director, Alejandro Mesonero-Romanos. This is his first car here apart from the deliberately retro 33 Stradale supercar, so it gives an indication of his new direction. It's well-proportioned for its type, with a chunky nose carrying the Alfa shield in cut-out form, and a groove beneath the bonnet edge. A reference to the step-nose 1963 GT Junior perhaps? The ski-jump tail profile helps aero, of course, and that peak above the rear wheels is becoming an EV cliche.

What's the size and power?

It's 4.17m long, which is more than a supermini but not bloated, the Junior uses the platform basics of multiple other Stellantis small cars; from superminis to crossovers from Peugeot, Vauxhall, DS, Jeep, Fiat, Lancia. The petrol ones are called Ibrida and use the 136bhp mild-hybrid outfit launched last year in Peugeots. It's a three-cylinder 1.2 petrol with a six-speed DCT auto and it works very pleasantly. But as we write in early July, it's not confirmed for Britain. We’d predict demand here.

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The battery-powered one is known as Elettrica. Again the base version is propelled in a way we've seen often elsewhere in the Stellantis empire, a 156bhp motor with 51kWh battery.

But that's not why we're here. We're here for the top-end Elettrica Veloce. Alfa wants to position it as the best-driving car for its size, regardless of whether its energy is stored in a petrol tank or a battery. To that end it has a 280bhp motor, peaking at 254lb ft of torque.

To get that top the road, the Veloce adds a mechanical Torsen limited-slip differential, wider track, lower stance, unique knuckles and quick steering rack, a special rear torsion bar, bigger front brakes, 20-inch wheels, and stiffer springs and dampers. There have been pretty decent hot hatches that got less fiddling.

But be aware this is £42,295… more than £3k above a Golf GTI.

That's a lot for a small crossover…

Yup, but few have more poke than this. Not just actual power, but performance because it's lightish for a battery car at 1,590kg. But again, it's smallish and has a small-capacity battery so anything otherwise would be a fail. Anyway, the performance is strong, cracking through 62mph from rest in 5.9 seconds, and still feeling lively at motorway overtaking speed. Best of all, the limited-slip diff gives it the traction to take advantage.

The equipment is decent too, with this launch edition having extremely racy electric bucket seats, Alcantara trim, LED matrix lights and a decent double-screen system.
What it doesn't have is long range. While the low-power version will just scrape past 250 miles WLTP, the Veloce is only just above 200. Call it 150 real-world if you're quick or it's chilly. Two and a half hours on a motorway. So it's a car tuned for having fun not for undertaking long rapid trips.

How much fun?

Actually, a lot. This surprised us. The related group crossovers are mostly pretty tidy through twists and undulations, but not exactly fun. The Junior is. Its steering isn't only sharp but the chassis joins in: in D-for-dynamic mode the ESP is loosened and the tail edges playfully outward if you lift off into an apex. The LSD helps haul you out. Well-contained body motions mean it stays accurate to your inputs. The simulated sound isn't too loud but it does give you a sense of the swelling and abatement of speed and power. 

But an old Alfa Brera V6 is fun too…

Well yes but the Junior is also a useful family hack. The back seat's surprisingly habitable given the short overall length, and boot space is 400 litres-plus.

What's the verdict?

The Junior is usefully packaged, and feels solidly made in its structure, even if cabin materials aren't the plushest

We've yet to drive the Junior on UK roads but early indications are positive. It's quick and has a hot-hatchy vibe to its cornering.

Other little electric crossovers are far more straight-laced – the Hyundai Kona Electric, Kia Niro EV or Honda e:Ny1, plus all the in-house EVs. Twin-motor versions of the Volvo EX30 and Smart #1 have heaps of power if not much vivacity. We have yet to try the Mini Aceman Cooper E. Or you could go towards a hatch and suddenly the Cupra Born VZ presents itself as a real challenge.

The Junior is usefully packaged, and feels solidly made in its structure, even if cabin materials aren't the plushest. Outside, it has some smart detailing and a purposeful stance.

If you often need long, uninterrupted battery range, look elsewhere. But if you fancy a crossover that'll make life fun in your local countryside, the Junior Veloce is very strong.

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