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  • Italian flair and style like nothing else in this segment; punchy turbo engine offers proper hot hatch performance; great seats; bags of character
  • Where to start... it's not like other cars; huge gaps in expected equipment list; ergonomics from another planet; thirsty; old-school dynamics

OUR RATING
7.5 / 10



It was apparently a wise person who once suggested to never let emotion cloud your judgement. Sage advice for sure, but I would wager the philosophical thinker in question was not Italian.

Italy has a rich and passionate culture, with a history of emotion ruling judgement more often than not. Build a beautiful 56-metre tall bell tower on soft ground, why not. Impress your girlfriend by swinging your cruise ship really really close to those rocks, sure thing.

Talking cars, and right now the 2016 Alfa Romeo Guilietta QV is possibly the most Italian car you can buy. So it would be fair to say that what it lacks in sensible ‘judgement’, it makes up for in pure, passionate emotion.

Put simply, this is a car that in my role I can’t really recommend, but if given the chance, would myself line up to buy with wistful abandon.

Alfa Romeo has tried to make the Giulietta a bit more approachable, by shortening the ‘Quadrifoglio Verde’ moniker to straight-up QV. The car is a Corolla-sized hatchback, and in its most-sporty guise here, now packs a 177kW/340Nm turbocharged four-cylinder engine.

It’s a motor taken from Alfa’s svelte 4C sportscar and a worthy mill for a hot hatch. Plus, the $42,000 price (plus options and on-road costs) makes the Alfa, on paper, a higher-rated B-road fighter than the 162kW/350Nm, $43,490 Volkswagen Golf GTI.

2016 Alfa Romeo Giulietta QV Review

The problem is, for your $42k you don’t really get all that much beyond the zippy engine and Italian flair. There’s no reverse camera, keyless entry, keyless start, heated seats, electric seats, driver assistance tech or any other cool, fancy whiz-bang type goodies.

In a sense, the top-of-the-range QV is actually quite basic.

It’s not new either, the fundamental design dates back to 2009. Sure there was an update in 2013, but a minor tweak to the grille does not a new car make. That said, the design is still one of the Giulietta’s strong points.

More beautiful than it is muscular and aggressive, the Giulietta was designed in-house at Alfa by Lorenzo Ramaciotti, a man whose design CV reads like a who’s who of the world’s most beautiful modern classics. Ferrari 550 Maranello, Ferrari F430, Maserati GranTurismo, Alfa Romeo 4C – it’s fair to say the Giulietta comes from very high-quality, and more specifically, very Italian breeding stock.

We had a pre-update one as a long-term review car back in 2014, and it surprised us just how often people would stop on the street and ask questions about the Giulietta. The years have done little to dull the Alfa’s appeal, and our 2016 test car in Ghiaccio White (one of ten colour options), with contrasting grey 8C 18-inch wheels and panoramic glass sunroof ($2000 option) still garners sideways glances and extra looks from passers by.

2016 Alfa Romeo Giulietta QV Review

Emotion is still at the forefront of the Alfa’s being.

Inside, the sports seats are extremely comfortable and again, stunning to look at. The white and green stitching, combination of Alcantara and leather and brushed-metallic racing harness holes (we aren’t sure anyone will ever use these) result in a sense of sporting luxury that makes the Giulietta feel just that little bit more special.

The back seats aren’t hugely roomy but they are comfy, and the centre armrest exposes a ski-port to the 350-litre boot. The 60:40 seats don’t fold totally flat, and our parcel shelf clips broke. While not a pinch on the 480L boot on the Peugeot 308, it is bigger than the Ford Focus at 316L.

Headroom in the back and front was mildly affected by the large sunroof, but we noticed you can open the top and close the blind – which is pretty handy on a very sunny day when you want the breeze but not the burn.

The giant steering wheel too, is nice to hold but really should have the white and green stitching instead of plain white. The aluminium pedals and dash trims are great.

However good it looks though, there is a pretty major issue. Ergonomics are not a strong point of the little Alfa.

For a start, there are buttons all over the place. You’ve got audio controls on the wheel, as well as a wiper and indicator stalk – all good there, but there are also a set of menu buttons behind the wheel, more menu functions on the stalks and further lighting switches next to the touchscreen.

2016 Alfa Romeo Giulietta QV Review

The 6.5-inch touch screen itself runs the U-Connect software that should be familiar to Fiat and Jeep drivers around the world. The system works and the sound from the BOSE speakers is pretty good, but the interface can be slow to react and we had a few niggles with Bluetooth and hard-connected iPhone audio.

There’s a cool ‘conference call’ function of the telephone, but the traffic alerts feature of the navigation never shows any data. Give and take as they say. Plus, this is a 2016-model range-topping hatchback with a screen smack-dab in the middle of the dash, but no integrated reverse camera.

These are small things on their own but they collectively add more points to the ‘why would they do this’ list.

We still love the ‘Benzina’ and ‘Acqua’ gauges for the driver, and the look and feel of the DNA drive-mode switch, but the seemingly random placement of the media interface next to it still raises eyebrows.

The layout and features are one thing, but the real world use and application is another. It’s as if the Giulietta was designed but never field-tested.

I have normal sized hands and when driving using the paddles to change gear, they are just a bit too short and the function stalks just that little bit too far away to feel natural and comfortable. Sit in a Golf GTI, and while a bit ‘colder’ than the Alfa (despite the super-cool tartan), everything is just where it should be. This isn’t a style thing, it’s a basic usability thing and somewhere again the Alfa just shrugs its shoulders and mumbles something in Italian.

2016 Alfa Romeo Giulietta QV Review

We will say though that the triple-dial climate control interface is really self explanatory and easy to use, and again another basic function that has been firmly given the style makeover, just for the sake of it.

Build quality is good, but not great – with a few stray pieces of trim here and there. It does feel solid and as we said, quite special, so these are quickly forgiven as part of its Italian-ness.

What does the ad say again? It is not a car, it’s an Alfa Romeo.

Part of the appeal of an Alfa is the drive, and it’s here that the QV doesn’t disappoint – providing you’ve gone in with your eyes open. Bottom line, the Alfa is a hoot, albeit a specific one.

Off the line there is noticeable delay as the car gathers steam. With peak power at the top of the rev range, and peak torque from around 2000rpm, once you get moving – you get moving.

There is plenty of hustle out of the 1299kg hatch, but you need to really understand it to get the most out of the plucky Italian. Catch it off-boost and the lag is frustrating. Nail the throttle for some second-gear tyre chirps and you’ll need to manage the power delivery otherwise it’s a one way ticket to axle-tramp town on the torque-steer express. Wet roads? Forgedaboutit.

Figure things out though and the Giulietta QV is a hugely entertaining drive. It pulls hard throughout the rev range and, like many Italian cars, responds well to high-revving and drawn-out gaps between changes.

2016 Alfa Romeo Giulietta QV Review

For 2016, the Giulietta traded its lovely six-speed manual for a six-speed DCT dual-clutch auto gearbox with the aforementioned paddle shifters.

There are some of the typical elastic gear engagement traits of other dual-clutch systems, but it seems less finickity than the Volkswagen DSG, despite not being as swift to change gears.

We didn’t experience the same rolling-delay that is inherent in the VW gearbox when parking, but did find the gear lever in our test car wouldn’t always ‘click’ into reverse and needed to be double-checked more than once.

Driving with vigour though, and the DCT works really well, treating you to a delicious exhaust pop on upshift.

Throw the Alfa at a winding B-road and it is surprisingly nimble. It’s an ‘older’ driving experience, you do need to understand the car to get the most out of it. Tighter corners will induce push understeer and powering out hard will get the traction control systems thumping away as they try to translate that entertaining turbo-oomph into grip.

There’s not a lot of the electro-mechanical jiggery-pokery you find in other hot hatches. My rudimentary Italian skills suggest there is no direct translation for ‘Revo Knuckle’ or quite possibly even the concept of limiting the effects of turbocharged front-wheel drive torque delivery. The Peugeot 308 GTI and Volkswagen Golf GTI get their power to the ground much more efficiently in every situation.

2016 Alfa Romeo Giulietta QV Review

The DNA drive mode switch spent most of its time in D (Dynamic) as that is where this car is supposed to live. You can basically save a bit of fuel in the N (Natural) setting – but the changes to steering weighting, throttle sensitivity and overall fun are worth more than a few litres at the pump.

That said, it is thirsty. We saw 16.3L/100km around town which relaxed to a still-high 12.9L/100km with some highway driving. Alfa claims 7L/100km for a combined cycle, which may be achievable in N-mode and more conservative driving… but that’s not as much fun.

Our test car was fitted with the authentic Alfa Romeo roof racks too, which wouldn’t help fuel economy. They too are beautifully designed and really suit the car, but aerodynamically are possibly the loudest racks we’ve used in a long time.

Despite the vortex disruption blades and aero-friendly mounts, even without a bike on top they made driving with the sunroof open at over 80km/h almost unbearable.

You may find this review a bit all over the place. The car is good, but this is bad. It’s fantastic here but flawed there.

As I noted earlier, the Alfa Romeo Giulietta is not what you’d call a sensible car in any way. If you are buying a European hot-hatch, there are any number of more ‘complete’ offerings available, but I challenge you to find one with as much flat-out character as the Alfa.

2016 Alfa Romeo Giulietta QV Review

This is a passion car. Heart over head every time. Yes it is fun, and yes it is special, but it is almost hilariously silly in so many ways.

If you are a head-based decision making person then move on. But for those who let their emotion govern their judgement, despite a raft of quantifiable reasons you should not buy this car, there is one big reason you would – and that is passion.

I can’t really recommend it, but given the chance, I would buy it and I cannot give you a tangible reason as to why.

Click on the Photos tab for more images by James Ward and Tom Fraser.


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ALFA ROMEO GIULIETTA BREAKDOWN

2016 Alfa Romeo Giulietta QV Review
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Alfa Romeo Giulietta Specs

QUADRIFOGLIO VERDE : MY15 : 1.7L TURBO MPFI - 6 SP AUTO DUAL CLUTCH - PREMIUM UNLEADED PETROL - 5D HATCHBACK
Car Details
Make
ALFA ROMEO
Model
GIULIETTA
Variant
QUADRIFOGLIO VERDE
Series
MY15
Year
2016
Body Type
5D HATCHBACK
Seats
5
Pricing
New Price
$42,000 MRLP
Private Sale
$33,330 - $37,880
Dealer Retail
$33,390 - $39,710
Dealer Trade
$25,900 - $30,300
Engine Specifications
Engine Type
TURBO MPFI
Engine Size
1.7L
Cylinders
TURBO 4
Max. Torque
340Nm @  1900rpm
Max. Power
177kW @  5750rpm
Pwr:Wgt Ratio
136.3W/kg
Bore & Stroke
83x80.5mm
Compression Ratio
9.2
Valve Gear
VARIABLE DOUBLE OVERHEAD CAM
Drivetrain Specifications
Transmission
6 SP AUTO DUAL CLUTCH
Drive Type
FRONT WHEEL DRIVE
Final Drive Ratio
0
Fuel Specifications
Fuel Type
PREMIUM UNLEADED PETROL
Fuel Tank Capacity
60Litres
Fuel Consumption (Combined)
7L / 100km
Weight & Measurement
Kerb Weight
1299
Gross Vehicle Weight
Not Provided
Height
1465mm
Length
4351mm
Width
1798mm
Ground Clearance
113mm
Towing Capacity
Brake:1300  Unbrake:500
Steering & Suspension
Steering Type
RACK & PINION - POWER ASSISTED
Turning Circle
10.9
Front Rim Size
7.5x18
Rear Rim Size
7.5x18
Front Tyres
225/40 R18
Rear Tyres
225/40 R18
Wheel Base
2634
Front Track
1554
Rear Track
1554
Front Brakes
DISC - VENTILATED
Rear Brakes
DISC
Front Suspension
MacPherson strut, Coil Spring, Gas damper, Anti roll bar
Rear Suspension
Multi-link system, Coil Spring, Gas damper, Anti roll bar
Standard Features
Comfort
Auto Climate Control with Dual Temp Zones, Sport Seats
Control & Handling
18 Inch Alloy Wheels, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Hill Holder, Performance Suspension, Traction Control System, Vehicle Stability Control
Driver
Cruise Control, Leather Steering Wheel, Multi Function Steering Wheel, Mobile Phone Connectivity, Parking Distance Control Rear, Power Steering, Satellite Navigation, Trip Computer, Voice Recognition System
Entertainment
Radio CD with 9 Speakers
Exterior
Body Kit, Fog Lights - Front, Rear Spoiler, Xenon Headlights
Interior
Centre Console Box - Multi-purpose, Leather Upholstery, Power Windows
Safety
Dual Front Airbag Package, Anti-lock Braking, Head Airbags, Side Airbags, Seatbelts - Pre-tensioners Front Seats
Security
Central Locking Remote Control, Engine Immobiliser
Optional Features
Exterior
Metallic Paint
Other
Service Interval
12 months /  20,000 kms
Warranty
36 months /  100,000 kms
VIN Plate Location
Driver Side Front Floor
Country of Origin
Italy