Alfa Romeo's Giulietta Veloce 1750 TBi might be the best current hot hatch you've never heard of. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
The Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce 1750 TBi lifts the 240PS 1750cc engine, the TCT twin clutch transmission and the launch control function from the brand's 4C sportscar, then wraps it all in a package that includes a touchscreen multimedia system with sat nav, 18-inch alloys, leather and Alcantara seats and a whole host of body styling extras.
We really can't stress this point strongly enough. If you tried one of the early Alfa Giulietta cars that arrived in 2010 and came away unimpressed, that's understandable. Alfa really hadn't fettled the car to a level UK enthusiasts expected. In the intervening years, the Giulietta has had so much effort poured into its development that it's probably our pick for biggest improver. Here, we're looking at the most powerful version, a variant that used to be known in the UK as the 'Quadrifoglio Verde' (English for 'Green Cloverleaf') but, as part of a Giulietta facelift, is now badged the Veloce 1750 TBi. Mechanically though, the package provided hasn't changed, so you still get the same 240bhp 1750 Turbo Petrol engine that's used in Alfa's pretty 4C sportscar, mated to TCT dual-clutch automatic transmission. This Italian contender might not get the same recognition as cars in the family hot hatch segment like the Ford Focus ST or the VW Golf GTI, but if you're in the market for a model like this, it deserves your attention.
Okay, so the four-cylinder 1750cc engine might not sound as good or feel as fast as it does in Alfa's lightweight 4C but it's still a potent unit, heavily turbocharged and capable of a hefty 240PS at 5,750rpm and 340Nm of torque between 2,000 and 4,000rpm. Drive is deployed via a six-speed ALFA TCT twin dry clutch transmission which has also been inherited from the 4C. As with all Alfa Romeos, the car's character can be customised by the driver using the Alfa D.N.A. driving selector, which employs different throttle, transmission and steering settings depending on the driver's choice. The Veloce 1750 TBi also includes a Launch Control system as part of the TCT transmission software. It's activated by pressing the brake and accelerator pedals all the way down, squeezing the down-shift paddle on the steering wheel and then releasing the brakes. The system then automatically controls the traction control system, engine power delivery and transmission upshifts to maximise acceleration. It's effective too. The 0-62mph benchmark is dealt with in a mere 6.0 seconds and the car will run on to a top speed of 152mph.
Design and Build
Like other facelifted Giulietta models, this one gets sleeker front-end styling that includes a striking honeycomb grille, piano black bumper inserts with red highlights and revised headlamp and fog lamp surrounds. The idea is to emphasise the Giulietta's close genetic links with Alfa Romeo's premium segment Giulia sports saloon. Otherwise, not much has changed from the package offered when this car was badged the 'Quadrifoglio Verde'. The stance is completely different to most Giuliettas courtesy of lowered sports suspension, then you might well spot the Veloce emblems on the front wings - and the dark-tinted rear window glass. The mirror cappings are finished in anthracite, while that colour scheme is also extended to the front grille, door handles and fog-light frames. There's a pair of beefy exhaust tailpipes and a set of 18-inch alloy wheels come as standard. Look carefully and you'll spot the red, four-piston Brembo brake calipers and 320mm brake discs behind. The interior also features a number of upgrades. The bolstered wraparound sport seats get a one-piece backrest and are trimmed in leather and Alcantara. The steering wheel is finished in leather with contrasting white stitching and there's a set of aluminium sports pedals, some specific kick-plates, a dark interior headlining, and a leather-trimmed gear lever and parking brake lever with matching contrast stitching. Materials quality isn't at all bad. There are some cheaper plastics if you go looking for them but the controls are extremely simple, with the 6.5-inch TFT display taking care of most of the minor functions.
Market and Model
The Giulietta Veloce 1750 TBi's value proposition is a tough one to nail down. To ardent fans of the brand, £28,500 isn't an unreasonable ask for a car that's had a lot of work done to it and which packs a 240PS punch. Those who don't have quite such loyalty to Alfa Romeo might well wonder whether spending another £3,000 on a Volkswagen Golf R, a better-built car that packs a 300PS punch, a more talented all-wheel drive chassis, and which will be faster and more composed than the Alfa on typically wet and bumpy British roads. We'll leave it to you to decide which camp you fall into there. As well as the QV specific parts, this Giulietta also comes with a smarter infotainment system called Uconnect, which works well with a range of smartphone and MP3 devices, either cabled or accessed via Bluetooth. Streaming your smartphone's music library is easy to do and if you get bored of that, you can play DAB radio. There's a full complement of six airbags plus ABS anti-lock braking with Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD); Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) - Alfa Romeo's interpretation of Electronic Stability Programme; Cornering Brake Control (CBC), Dynamic Steering Torque (DST), Hydraulic Brake Assistance (HBA) and a Pre-Fill function for the brakes.
Cost of Ownership
The good news with this model is that it records some pretty good economy and emissions figures. There aren't too many hatches this quick that will better 40mpg, but the Giulietta Quadrifoglio Verde nets 41.5mpg on the combined cycle which equates to emissions of 157g/km. Of course, you probably won't match those figures in typical road driving, but as a benchmark it shows that quick needn't always mean thirsty. Of a little more concern to buyers might well be this car's residual value after three years and 30,000 miles. Your Alfa would be worth in the region of £9,100, while if you'd bought a Golf R it would still command over £14,300. Factor in insurance, servicing fuel, road tax and such like and the pence per mile figures come to 71ppm for the Volkswagen and 82ppm for the Alfa. That might sound bad but a Renaultsport Megane with the Cup Chassis pack will cost around 83ppm to run. It's not that the Alfa is inherently bad, merely that the Volkswagen stands out as extremely good. At Group 31 it also has markedly the lowest insurance costs of the trio, the Golf rated at group 34 and the Renault a hefty group 40. For buyers in their twenties, that could be the deciding factor right there.
The Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce 1750 TBi isn't your average hot hatch model. It's a lot more committed than that. It's also a car that requires you to be committed to the Alfa badge if it stands any chance of securing your order. As good as it is, and as far as Alfa has come in developing the Giulietta, it faces some fearsome rivals and on an objective basis alone, it can't really hope to face them down as a pure hot hatch. Instead think of it as a luxury sports hatch that has something about it, not as a car that demands to be driven at ten-tenths all the time. Yes, the engine and gearbox require you to be right on top of them to get the best out of them, but think of that as an essential part of this car's character. There's space in the market for cars like this. It's not a big space and you have to put objectivity aside to a certain extent, but it exists and we're thankful for that.