They say that you're not a real driver until you've owned an Alfa Romeo. They also say that most of that ownership time will be spent waiting for breakdown services to arrive. With a motoring heritage as rich as that of Alfa Romeo, reputation and expectation is a double-edged sword.
The Alfa Giulietta name has been in use for much of the company's history, as has the Quadrifoglio Verde that adorns this hot model. The cloverleaf symbol first appeared in 1923 and has been displayed on many models in various forms since. The previous version of this particular car was marketed as Cloverleaf, but there's something stirring about Italian names: just look the Maserati Quattroporte.
In the current Giulietta the Quadrifoglio Verde is a badge that tells the casual observer this is the 240bhp model, something that's a mite more enhanced than the regular Giulietta. It's a Giulietta that wants give the Volkswagen Golf GTi a run for its money, throwing you to 62mph in 6 seconds, with a flourish of Italian passion.
Giulietta Quadrifoglio Verde design
With the cloverleaf proudly displayed on the wings, there are subtle differences between this model and the regular Giulietta. Much of the design is the same, with that symbolic front detailing and creased bonnet which runs up into a low roofline. There's an elegance to the Alfa that stands it slightly apart from the likes of the Golf, which is boxy by comparison.
That's what Alfa Romeo really delivers: a car that's different from the norm. The off-centre number plate is now iconic; it might look a little odd by current standards, but it's a sign that suggests Alfa just wants to design the front of a car and the rest be damned. The Giulietta brings with these signature touches, such as those hidden rear door handles, which make this car distinctive.
Sure, it's easy to look at the Giulietta and see the mid-sized hatchback that it is (don't mention the Fiat Bravo), but it is different. The Giulietta has been around a couple of years, having replaced the 147 in 2010 and then receiving a facelift in 2014 when this new Quadrifolio Verde was born.
You'll get all the trimmings with purchase, including branded kickplates, 18-inch wheels nicely exposing the red Brembo brake callipers and aluminium pedals, dark wing mirror and door handles, and the option to swap these for carbon fibre for if you have a spare £2,000 (along with different spoiler and skirts in that pack too).
But this is a car that's very much about the person in the front. Those hidden rear door handles open up to reveal rear Alcantara seats that don't give passengers a huge amount of space, albeit ones that are comfortable enough.
Further back there's the boot, which is a little smaller than its rivals, but still useful at 350 litres capacity.
There's a lot about the Giulietta Quadrifoglio Verde's interior that we like. Yes, there are some throwbacks to Fiat in the switchgear in places and the top trim along the door is a rough as 60-grit sandpaper, so you'll likely find you leave some of your skin on it. But as much as the darkened interior makes the rear feel small, it lends a sense of the serious to the front.
Sinking into the QV leather seats, unashamedly branded with a huge Alfa Romeo badge split between the two, it's a lovely and comfortable place to be. These are sports seats that deliver a supportive and comfortable ride, stopping you rolling off the edge of the seat when you hit a fast corner.
However, the headrests are a little large and, combined with the wide rear pillar, it means visibility from the driver's seat isn't as good as we'd like it to be. You'll be obsessively checking blind spots when you change lanes.
The leather of the steering wheel is good quality, but the wheel might be a little large for those who want something seriously sporty and easier to turn at speed. But the driver display carries that Quadrifolio symbol again, in among those Italian labels we like; Benzina puts a smile on our face every time we look at the fuel gauge.
The downside to the driver display is that it's too glossy and can be blighted by reflections, so it's relatively conservative in a technology sense. There's no navigation instructions in the centre, so you're left having to glance at the new UConnect 6.5-inch system in the centre instead.
Technology treats, updated
That UConnect system, however, is rather nice - especially as there's a mute button on the steering wheel and an easy button to switch the display off. The inclusion of Bluetooth, SD card slot and USB makes it easy to add music from your phone, to complement the built-in DAB radio tuner also on board.
Navigating the system is easy too, whether for radio and media functions, the connected phone features, or the satnav. It's practical and works well, even if the satnav lacks the sort of modern features you'd get from the latest TomTom.
The voice control system is a little hit and miss, for example, and with big buttons to punch and a nice responsive touchscreen we can't say we'd really be drawn into using it.
Our test car also featured the £600 upgraded Bose sound system, delivering eight speakers in the doors, one in the centre and a subwoofer neatly tucked into the spare wheel in the boot. It sounds great. If you want punchy bass to accompany the throaty roar of the engine, then look no further.
Add to that a huge refrigerated glove box and it's smiles all round; there's certainly enough space for a good-sized sandwich lunch. We did find ourselves missing any sort of central armrest or cubby hole, though, but that pushes you to drive with both hands on the wheel, rather than lounging like you're on the sofa in front of the TV.
Cruise control comes as standard, in addition to dual-zone climate control and parking sensors. That's most bases covered, so there are few technology upgrades to pine for beyond the standard outlay.
Alfa DNA on the road
There are oversized twin exhausts on the Giulietta QV, with something called a "sound intake generator" (a growing trend) to enrich the noises and help stir your sporty passions. Shame there's no start button to lend a sense of excitement to firing up the Giulietta.
However, we're quite taken with the exhaust note and the accompanying pops and coughs as you skip down gears while under-braking, and the enthusiastic purr as you power up hills. Enhanced it is, but every manufacturer is doing that these days, from Ford through to McLaren.
Known as Alfa DNA, there are three driving modes in the Giulietta Quadrifoglio: dynamic, natural and all-weather. These govern the way the engine and gearbox perform, changing the driving style of the car. We've seen it plenty of places elsewhere, but its ability to help us raise an eyebrow in the all-weather setting makes it a little different in the Alfa. When conditions are likely to be more slippery it will cut in earlier to keep us safe, but we'd rather not have to engage that mode if we're honest, we sort of just want it to happen anyway.
It's hard to ignore the headline 240bhp on this front-wheel drive car. Many manufacturers are moving to four-wheel drive when offering these levels of power (Audi Quattro, VW 4Motion) and we found it easy enough to spin these Alfa wheels, even on dry roads. Accelerate hard and you'll have the front of the Giulietta Quadrifoglio squirming, and with the lightening of the steering at starting or slow speeds it can feel a little lost.
The standard arrangement is paring that 1.75l petrol engine to a dry twin clutch 6-speed autobox, with steering wheel paddles for shifting backup. And we found ourselves reaching for the paddles fairly quickly.
Although there's plenty of power in this flighty hot hatch, things can be a little slow to react from the gearbox when you really want them, such as cornering or speeding around roundabouts, where dropping a gear to keep the revs up delivers a better delivery of that power.
Once underway, it's a lovely smooth gearbox and there's plenty of power when you want to cruise past those pottering along the motorway. The 18-inch wheels and tight suspension give a slightly harsh ride, but that's fitting with the sporty aims of this car. It means there's a little more noise from the road than you might want, but we found it comfortable enough.
The steering weight changes as you drive which, again, is fairly common - although we'd much prefer the option to set it to something heavier all the time. Without that heavier steering, this Alfa sometimes feels a little disconnected. For a typical city driver that probably won't matter, but those who want to put the performance side of this car first might feel it lacks the desirable control.
Once you're on the road the Quadrifolio Verde, although faster in a straight line than some of those obvious rivals, doesn't quite feel as adept as it should. It's a lovely car, but such strong hot hatch performance from rivals - whether that's the affordability of the Ford Focus ST, refinement of the Audi S3, or practicality of the VW Golf GTi - arguably leave this Alfa struggling to find its place on the starting grid.
The Alfa Romeo Giulietta Quadrifolio Verde is a nice car; it's a welcome boost over the standard editions of the Giulietta and ideal for those seeking something a little more sporty.
But for hot hatch fans it might not hit the mark. The Quadrifolio price point pushes it towards more capable models, while it's also undercut but those manufacturers offering better bang for your buck.
That doesn't mean there isn't a market for it though. For those who want to escape the boy racer stigma, who want something a little more distinctive, without feeling like they're joining the amassed ranks of owners of those other cars, then the Giulietta still has plenty of appeal.
We've loved driving the Giulietta Quadrifolio Verde: it's well specified, comfortable up front, and has an iconic design. However, it's neither the most premium mid-sized hatch, nor the best performer, so the temptation to look elsewhere is this Alfa's single biggest issue.