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New Alfa Romeo Junior 2024 review: the best Alfa in a generation

The new Alfa Romeo Junior is an impressive EV that’s great to drive and packed with quality

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

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Verdict

The Alfa Romeo Junior Elettrica Veloce is the best mainstream Alfa in a generation. It hits the bullseye on numerous levels. Not just because it’s great to drive, but also because it’s well packaged, contains lots of usable technology, and is seriously high on quality, inside and out. In fact, it shows just how good a small electric car can be if the details are done right. It’s expensive, though, and the battery could be bigger, but then there’s a cheaper version to come with less performance and more range. Overall it’s an absolute belter.

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There is one number that defines the new Alfa Junior Elettrica Veloce, and it is not the one you might think. It has nothing to do with how much power or torque its electric powertrain develops (277bhp and 345Nm if you’re wondering), and nor does it concern its raw performance, which is strong but by no means rule-bending. No, it’s the car’s kerb weight of just 1,590kg. 

For a normal five-door hatchback with a combustion engine beneath its bonnet, this number would be nothing much to boast about. But for an electric car with this much technology contained within its DNA, and this much style and sporting substance oozing from its every pore, it is revolutionary. 

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Alfa claims the Junior EV weighs “200kg less than its best rivals” and is nearer half-a-tonne lighter than many others. More than any other factor this defines the new Junior EV. Why? Because it provides the base point from which this car’s entire dynamic repertoire is built.

Alfa’s done it by paring back the essentials of a platform that’s used extensively throughout the Stellantis stable (think Peugeot E-2008, Jeep Avenger, Citroen e-C4) then fine-tuning the details to make a largely bespoke car. It’s one with a sparkling personality all of its own; the engineers have managed to put the fun into affordable family motoring – and there are various reasons why.

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The 54kWh battery is not especially large or powerful, but is all the car needs, says Alfa Romeo, to deliver just the right amount of performance but not a millimetre more. So there’s zero excess fat contained within the Veloce’s front-driven electric motor, unlike those of most rivals.

Next, Alfa fitted a fully mechanical Torsen differential – a world first for a front-drive EV – which has also helped reduce weight. How? Because there are simply less parts required, and less complicated electronics needed to transmit the e-motor’s energy to the road. Hence less overall weight.

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Then there’s the rear suspension, which is also of a far simpler, more traditional design than you’ll find in most other small EVs, which improves the packaging at the back (hence the excellent 400-litre boot) and further reduces weight.

On top of these fundamentals they’ve also fine-tuned the steering, brakes, suspension, dampers – you name it, they’ve done it – to give the Junior a bespoke dynamic personality. One that’s chock-full of slightly old-fashioned pizazz. And being an Alfa it also happens to look sexier than most rivals, with genuine head turning looks that are enhanced by a quartet of standard fit 20-inch (on Veloce versions) alloys with unique Michelin Pilot Sport EV tyres.

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Elsewhere, it has a really neat cabin – one that’s as well built as it is packaged and equipped, with a superb pair of electrically adjustable front seats, a terrific driving position and decent, if not quite luxuriant levels of space in the rear seats.

As ever there’s a big 10.25-inch central touchscreen that takes care of most main functions, yet the cabin still retains a pleasingly analogue feel to it. The main instruments still dominate the view from behind the wheel, which makes the Junior feel very much like an Alfa inside. The tech is all there but it’s presented subtly. Plus even on these pre-production cars the tech all worked intuitively and just as it should.

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There are three drive modes; Dynamica, Natural and Advanced Efficiency (continuing Alfa’s DNA theme). But the first thing you notice is the noise the Veloce makes. There’s the distant thrum of an Alfa flat-four that appears out of the speakers, the timbre and volume of which increases as you apply more throttle. You can switch it off if you wish, but we really rather liked it.

The steering is light and wonderfully precise, as is the throttle response. There is recuperation from the brakes, but again it’s subtle. The ride is instantly comfortable, yet at the same time engaging and alive. The Junior has a fluidity to its controls and a delicacy of touch to its steering, suspension and brakes that no other small EV has ever got anywhere near to replicating.

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And it’s quick, not in a shocking way but with enough vim to fully unlock the chassis – without ever feeling like there’s too much torque for the front tyres to deal with. In Dynamica mode there’s the faintest whiff of torque steer when you crack the throttle right open, but this disappears completely in the Natural drive mode, so it’s there to make the Veloce feel engaging (and it does) rather than because the engineers struggled to get rid of it.

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Grip is also mightily impressive, at both ends. Yet the Veloce never feels surgically glued to the road. It moves around a bit beneath your backside if you drive it really hard, but in the most delightful of ways. There’s even a hint of lift-off oversteer if you fancy it, but with a nice natural intervention from the ESP system if you overcook it. It’s hard to overstate just how sharp the Junior Veloce is to drive.

There really aren’t many downsides on this evidence. The range isn’t that great (Alfa quotes just 208 miles), but then with a bigger battery it wouldn’t be as light. It’s also pricey (at £42k), but then there are almost no options available – so what you see is what you get. Including the big and undeniably beautiful 20-inch wheels and tyres.

Charge times are also on a par with but no better than its rivals, which is maybe disappointing given how class-busting the rest of the car is. At a DC charger it takes 27 minutes to refill from 20-80%. At which point you’ll have approximately 180 miles of range – or a little less in the real world.

Fortunately the lower powered 155bhp model – known simply as Junior Elettrica – will go further (255 miles combined or 371 miles in city-only driving) and takes no longer to charge. It also costs less (£33,895 in base form rising to £35,695 in Speciale trim) but doesn’t get the Torsen diff. We haven’t driven that one yet, though, so can’t pass judgement on it dynamically.

Model:Alfa Romeo Junior Elettrica 280 Veloce
Price:£42,295
Powertrain:54kWh battery, 1x e-motor
Power/torque:277bhp/345Nm
Transmission:Single-speed auto/front-wheel drive
0-62mph:5.9 seconds
Top speed:124mph
Range:208 miles
Charging:100kW, 20-80% in 27 minutes
Size (L/H/W):4,173/1,781/1,505mm
On sale:Now
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