Alfa Giulietta Cloverleaf

Is hot hatch beauty a match for best in class?

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

THE Cloverleaf is clearly the most fun Giulietta in the range. It ticks all the boxes for fans of fast Alfas, with a charismatic 235bhp 1,750cc turbo engine, great looks and a classy, well equipped cabin. But while the chassis will allow keen drivers to push the car through corners, it fails to truly inspire. The steering is numb and the DNA set-up doesn’t really offer a decent compromise in Normal or Dynamic modes. The price is another stumbling block.

HAS Alfa Romeo turned over a new ’leaf with this hottest version of the Giulietta? Less powerful versions of the hatch haven’t exactly impressed us – so the company will be hoping that the range-topping Cloverleaf, with its 235bhp 1.7-litre turbo engine, will fare better. And it gets off to a good start, as it looks much more stylish than Volkswagen’s Golf GTI. The coupé-style body has been lowered by 10mm, while 18-inch dark titanium alloys are included as standard. The front wings are finished off with green Cloverleaf badges. Mind you, if you want our car’s special 8C Competizione red paint, it’s a £1,750 option on top of the £24,495 asking price.

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Taking pride of place in the cabin is Alfa’s familiar DNA switch, which alters throttle response, traction control intervention and steering weight. In Dynamic mode, it boosts torque to 340Nm, and even has a brake pre-fill function. The latter senses if you’re about to hit the anchors, and primes the system for faster reactions.

The engine’s 1,750cc capacity is the same as classic Alfa units – and the direct-injection variable valve timing powerplant lives up to the heritage. It’s smooth and sounds sporty, and gives strong performance, with the benchmark sprint from 0-62mph dispatched in 6.8 seconds, and decent mid-range punch.  

So it’s a shame the gearshift is vague and the pedals awkwardly offset to the centre of the car. In Normal mode, there is next to no feel through the throttle; switching to Dynamic makes it very snatchy in traffic.

Plus, the hard, high-set seats don’t provide much under-thigh support, and the rear cabin and boot aren’t as roomy as a Golf’s. In corners, the Giulietta is agile, with the taut suspension set-up giving strong resistance to body roll and the quick steering allowing the car to dart into bends. Yet the wheel is short on feedback no matter which DNA setting you’ve selected. It’s fast, but just not that much fun.

Dynamic mode activates an electronic limited-slip front differential, and although this offers good traction in the dry, the wheels can still spin on wet roads.

The ride isn’t too bad. While the big wheels transmit large bumps to the interior, and it’s certainly stiff in Dynamic mode, the Giulietta has a much more compliant set-up than the MiTo supermini. The Cloverleaf is very well equipped as standard, too,with leather, climate control, those 18-inch wheels and Bluetooth all included.

But while this flagship performance model is certainly fast, it’s another Giulietta that’s some way behind the class leaders. And for only an extra £385, you could buy a Golf GTI.

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