2013 ALFA ROMEO GIULIETTA REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Small performance hatchback
Price: $39,150 (plus on-roads)
Engine/transmission: 1.7 litre turbo petrol/six-speed manual
Power/torque: 173kW/300Nm (340Nm on overboost)
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.6 l/100km | tested: 9.4 l/100km
After a major price adjustment earlier this year, the entire Alfa Romeo Giulietta range is now more affordable, and is, let's face it, more realistically priced.
Under the stewardship of Fiat-Chrysler Australia, Alfa’s new distributor, $2840 was lopped off the performance Giulietta Quadrifoglio Verde’s sticker price to take it down to $39,150.
That puts it smack-dab between hot hatches like the $38,290 Ford Focus ST and the $40,490 Volkswagen Golf GTI. But does the shapely Giulietta have the cojones to go toe-to-toe with hot hatches of such calibre?
It’s a curly question.
After all, the Giulietta QV has a displacement disadvantage thanks to its 1.7 litre turbo petrol four (other hot-hatches are 2.0 litres at a minimum), and its marketing seems to emphasise styling and luxury more than performance.
So what is it? Luxury sports hatch, or bona-fide pocket rocket? We put the Giulietta QV under the TMR eyeball to find out.
Quality: There’s plenty of visual and tactile flair inside the Giulietta QV, but boy is it dark.
Black headliner, black dash, black seats, black carpet... if it wasn’t for the big slab of metallic trim in the centre of the dash and some red contrast stitching, you’d feel like you had been sucked into a black hole.
But everything feels pleasing to the touch, with fine-grained soft-touch plastics and good switchgear. The ribbed seat upholstery is also a distinctive feature. Overall, there is a distinctly premium feel to the interior of the Giulietta QV.
We also like the red backlighting of the instrument panel and centre stack. When all lit up at night, the QV’s dashboard looks fantastic.
Comfort: The QV’s sports seats are quite firmly padded but have decent lumbar and under-thigh support. Side bolstering could be a little more generous, but these seats run a good compromise between comfort and snugness.
Ergonomically, the driving position could use a re-think.
The steering wheel adjusts for reach and rake and the seat has a good range of movement. Not so good is the tight grouping of the pedals, there’s also no footrest and the flip-down centre armrest gets in the way of your left elbow when changing gears.
The gear knob is just too damn big to feel comfortable too, and the silver finish on it is prone to scratching from rings and the like.
All-round vision is good though, even with the very shallow rear window.
The back seat feels a little claustrophobic thanks to the black headliner, shortage of headroom and high windowsills. However the rear bench itself has nice contouring and is very comfortable, even on long journeys.
Equipment: Standard features include dual-zone climate control, cruise control, trip computer, LED daytime running lamps, auto-on headlamps, rain-sensing wipers and an auto-dimming mirror.
The audio system in the QV is a high-end 6.1 speaker Bose stereo, and includes a USB audio input, steering wheel mounted audio controls and Bluetooth audio.
It sounds pretty good when cranked up, but had the most irritating habit of changing the radio station to a random preset frequency every time we started the car.
Sat nav is available for a premium, and the Tom Tom-made unit plugs into a receptacle on the top of the centre stack.
Storage: The boot has good width and depth, but a high loading lip can make it difficult to load large or heavy items.
The rear seat backrests are split 60/40 and there’s a small ski port for long, thin items. In-cabin storage is generally good, but the small storage tray under the centre armrest lid is really only good for storing wallets or phones.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Wow. Is it really a 1.7 under there? From the way the Giulietta accelerates, we’d have guessed that something larger was lurking under the bonnet.
But the QV’s turbo lag gives the game away. Because the 1.7 litre engine moves less air when off-boost, there’s more turbo lag than you get in 2.0 litre turbocharged motors.
It’s not an especially lengthy pause, but there is lag and it is noticeable. It’s less of an issue when you have more than 3600rpm showing on the tachometer though, so the key to keeping the QV happy is to keep its engine spinning fast.
It’s a strong motor once it’s in its comfort zone, and peak outputs of 173kW and 300Nm (340Nm with overboost) are very impressive for an engine this size.
Put the DNA switch in D (for Dynamic, natch), and throttle response is appropriately sharp. Dynamic mode also unlocks the full 340Nm overboost function, giving the Giulietta QV a fair bit more shove at full throttle.
The six-speed manual is the only gearbox offered, and while it’s got a good set of ratios it’s not quite slick enough through the gate as other manuals in this segment.
Refinement: Loud tyres, plenty of engine noise and a bit of wind rustle too. The Giulietta is not a quiet car, but it’s got a pleasingly rorty exhaust note.
Suspension: The QV has difficulty managing torque steer and wheel hop, at times.
But torque steer aside, the QV is quite entertaining around a corner. The suspension is on the firm side but still reasonably compliant, and when pushed hard rear grip can break away on sharp throttle lifts.
It’s predictable though, and a firm re-application of power is usually all that’s needed to get the QV tracking straight again.
The ride is also comfortable on big undulations, however can feel a tad jittery and over-damped on minor corrugations.
There’s a bit more body roll than most hot hatches, but the Giulietta QV’s blend of comfort and cornering prowess pleased us mightily.
Braking: You get strong performance from the QV’s all-disc brakes, but the pedal feels sloppy in its take-up.
That’s most likely due to the linkages needed to link the pedal with the brake master cylinder itself, which is positioned on the passenger side of the firewall rather than the driver’s side.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars
Safety features: Standard active safety features include stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD, brake assist and Cornering Brake Control (CBC).
All occupants get a three-point seatbelt, and the Giuletta has six airbags as standard - front, front-side and curtain.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km
Service costs: Servicing costs vary. Consult your local Alfa Romeo dealer before purchasing.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Volkswagen Golf GTI ($40,490) - The Golf GTI helped define the hot-hatch genre, but now it’s overshadowed by its competitors for power, value or both.
Even the Giulietta QV’s 1.7 litre outguns the GTI’s 155kW/280Nm 2.0 litre four-pot, however the Golf still benefits from exceptional cabin quality, a sublime suspension tune and an ultra-refined driving experience. (see Golf reviews)
Ford Focus ST ($38,290) - The Focus ST delivers the most bang for your buck, and its 184kW/340Nm 2.0 litre turbo is a real firecracker of a powerplant.
There's a little torque-steer and wheel spin during standing-start acceleration, and the fussy interior detailing may not be to everybody’s liking.
Still, with the most generous equipment list here the Focus ST is the most value-packed hot hatch around. (see Focus reviews)
Mazda3 MPS ($39,490) - Big power (190kW) and big torque (380Nm), but it’s all channeled through a chassis that struggles to contain it - even when accelerating in a straight line.
The Mazda3 MPS is a fun car but now falls behind on interior space and cabin quality. Then again, being right near the end of its lifespan it is by far the oldest car here, so some compromises are to be expected. (see Mazda3 reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Alfa Romeo Giulietta Quadrifoglio Verde is a bit of an enigma.
But whenever you feel the need to crack the whip, the Giulietta QV responds with gusto. That Alfa could extract so much power and torque from a 1.7 litre engine is impressive, but it’s not quite a bona-fide hot hatch.
Perhaps it's best described as a quasi-performance car, quasi-luxury hatch.
Is that such a bad thing? In our opinion, you get plenty of comfort for the daily grind, but there’s more than enough power on tap to have some fun with on the weekend.
It’s a solid all-rounder, a jack of all trades. It’s also gorgeous, and we’ve no doubt many will buy it for its style alone.