Muted hatch

The new Giulietta QV may be more powerful than the old Alfa Romeos but it does not sizzle.
The new Giulietta QV may be more powerful than the old Alfa Romeos but it does not sizzle. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM
The new Giulietta QV may be more powerful than the old Alfa Romeos but it does not sizzle.
The new Giulietta QV may be more powerful than the old Alfa Romeos but it does not sizzle. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Alfa's new Giulietta QV is a little less beguiling despite being more capable

In the old days, three things defined an Alfa Romeo: a huge turning circle, cabin rattle and doors that require some force to close properly.

In the Giulietta 1.8QV, the turning circle and doors are no longer an issue, but the rattle emerged on the second day of this test-drive.

Ah, it is an Alfa after all.

The Giulietta 1.8QV is powered by the same potent direct-injection turbocharged engine that propelled the hyperactive Alfa Romeo 4C. But in the Giulietta, it feels a little underwhelming. Even though the car is on paper in the same performance ballpark as other front-wheel-driven pocket rockets such as the VW Golf GTI and Mini Cooper S, it does not feel as sizzling.

At least not when left in its default "Natural" setting, which offers the most efficient drive mode in the city.

  • SPECS/ALFA ROMEO GIULIETTA  1.8QV

    Price: $165,800 with COE

    Engine: 1,742cc 16-valve inline-4 turbocharged

    Transmission: Six-speed dual-clutch with manual select

    Power: 240bhpat 5,750rpm

    Torque: 340Nmat 2,000-4,000rpm

    0-100kmh: 6.6 seconds

    Top speed: 244kmh

    Fuel consumption: 7.3 litres/100km

    Agent: EuroAutomobile

In "Dynamic", the Alfa brio surfaces and it begins to have some semblance of the hot hatch that it is meant to be.

To bring it to a boil quickly, you will have to flick the transmission lever over to manual. This way, you can drive the car via steering- mounted shift tabs or you can go completely manic and keep the accelerator floored until the gearbox shifts at redline.

Either way, the car begins to sound like the Alfas of old, especially those special enough to wear the Quadrifoglio Verde (QV) clover leaf emblem.

Sound is an important element when driving an Alfa and it is a pity that the Giulietta is so muted when in its city-friendly modes.

The car would also have been more entertaining if it had a better chassis. Torque steer is obvious when you kick down, which makes hard driving a little scary.

The steering, while sharp as can be, feels a little too light and disconnected for confidence at high speeds.

Its dual-clutch transmission has improved vastly from the time it was first used in the Alfa MiTo. It is reasonably smooth and, at the same time, quite responsive and sporty.

But you still feel like you are better off with a manual gearbox. In fact, you suspect the car might be more enjoyable even with the heftily weighted clutch pedal Alfas were infamous for.

Despite all their niggles (and there were many), the old Alfas were absolutely charming and intoxicating. Besides their lovely engine notes, they had a way of connecting with the driver (no, not with Wi-Fi) and making him feel like he is part of the car.

In fact, that is the hallmark of hot hatches. Alas, this is not quite the case with the new Giulietta QV. The car is only a bit more exciting than cold pasta.

Even as it gets up to a credible pace (0 to 100kmh in 6.6 seconds, for instance) and there is no real flaw in its roadholding, it fails to involve and engage the part of your brain that determines pleasure.

Still, there are impressive bits about the car you cannot dismiss, such as its Brembo four-piston brake callipers clasping oversized discs (which would have been more impressive if rust stains did not form so easily).

Visually, the car looks fairly similar to the Giulietta launched in 2010, except for big chrome tailpipes and a polished finish on its grille, door handles and mirrors, as well as foglamp housings.

Inside, it gets a new multi- function steering wheel, new instruments with the QV logo and leather-and-Alcantara seats. Aluminium pedals complete the sporty look.

The car is also fitted with modern amenities, such as a touchscreen infotainment monitor (the smallest you will find) with Bluetooth, text reader, audio streaming and voice controls. There is no reverse camera though.

As a hot hatch contender, the Giulietta QV is not as enticing as the GTI's, ST's and Cooper S's of the world (or as roomy). But for Alfa aficionados, it is probably the closest new thing they have to sweet memories of a bygone era.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 08, 2015, with the headline 'Muted hatch'. Print Edition | Subscribe