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EWN in the Fast Lane: The 2016 Alfa Romeo Giulietta QV, the emotive choice

Matthew Young takes a critical look at the new Giulietta QV from Alfa Romeo.

The Alfa Romeo Giulietta QV has been around for a good few years now, and while it's unmistakably beautiful, it hasn't sold nearly as many units in the five-door hatch market dominated by its German rivals. I was recently given the 2016 offering to see if it will change anything.

Alfa Romeo have something of a cult following in South Africa, and I have to start this off with a disclaimer that I'm right up there in with the priests of the brand - but I promise to be as objective as possible.

At first glance the 2016 Giulietta QV stands out from its main rival in the Golf GTI for one reason alone - prettiness. It doesn't look very different from the previous Giuliettas, with Alfa opting for a few external facelifts rather than a completely different look. Some may say that it's beginning to look a bit stale, but I think it still holds the attractive look that it had when it first emerged on the market some six years ago.

Those music-notes-on-their-side tail lights for example… Wow.

The model I had was the range-topping Quadrifoglio Verde (QV for short), which has a 1,750cc turbocharged engine, as opposed to the base Distinctive model, which comes with a 1.4 litre turbo. Apart from under the bonnet, differences include 18-inch wheels, more aggressive skirting and the all-important four-leaf clover badge present on all QV models. My test car was black, which toned down the carbon fibre coloured side mirrors and door handles which come as standard on the hot model.

Speaking of more power, the Alfa comes with 173kW, and 340Nm of torque, the latter of which is accessible from just 1,900rpm to help with the inevitable turbo lag. The end result (when in Dynamic Mode, more on that later) is a 0-100km/h time of under 6.8 seconds, and a top speed of 242km/h which puts it squarely into the territory of its rivals. One thing that the Italian does deserve a special mention for though is the sound. While four-cylinder engines aren't known for their drama, putting your foot down in the Giulietta rewards you with a very satisfying deep growl to go with the usual popping on gear change.

It's a good thing you get this kind of reward for flipping the car into Dynamic though, because one thing the Alfa Romeo can be is thirsty. When driving the car like it wants to be driven, I managed figures of around 13.5l/100km. Ouch. When driving as sensibly as a pensioner on the way to Tuesday bingo club, the figures only dropped down to around 10l/100km. Ouch, again.

So far it's looking pretty good for Team Italy, but we haven't stepped inside yet.

The interior of the Giulietta has changed quite a bit from the earlier versions, and now sports the useful touchscreen infotainment system that you get in the Fiat 500X Cross I tested a while ago. It has all the technology you'd expect, with Bluetooth, voice control, media player, etc. although I was left wondering why the USB and auxiliary ports were placed in the centre console instead of next to the actual radio. Alongside the USB and Aux ports, you also find Alfa Romeo's now traditional DNA rocker, which shifts the driving mode between Dynamic (Sport), Natural (Economy), and All-Weather (Not really necessary, but they needed an 'A' to complete D-N-A). The various dials also keep with tradition, and are just as hooded as we've come to expect from Alfa Romeo over the years. I also like how they kept the untranslated 'Benzina' (petrol) and 'Giri' (revs) on the clocks just to keep you on your toes.

The seats in my QV model come standard with a mix of leather and suede, with handlebar type holes in the top to add to the racy feeling of the cabin, something which works because the seats are so comfortable. If they were uncomfortable, you'd be left shaking your head wondering why they went to such an effort to make them look great, without actually sitting on them. At first glance, the Giulietta has a classy, elegant and sporty feel to it. However…

As has often been the case with Alfa Romeo, the downfall comes when you take a really close look at the build quality of the interior. While it's by no means terrible, a few days of driving the car and you can't help noticing that the plastic in some places feels a bit cheaper than its rivals, for example. The air vent controls are accessible, assuming you had the misfortune of being born with toothpicks for fingers. The centre console doesn't have a storage compartment, although it has two cup-holders next to each other - one of which doesn't fit a normal sized can. Presumably over in Italy take-away espressos are a common thing, because that's about all it'll fit.

Pricing options also put the Giulietta QV in and among its rivals. My version comes in at a base price of R459,000, while the equivalent GTI is priced at over R453,000 plus extras. Alfa Romeo offers the car with the standard three-year 100,000km warranty and maintenance plan, which is sufficient now that they've sorted out the reliability issues that plagued them for so many years.

Even as a die-hard Alfa fan, I can see why people struggle to come to terms with the brand though. It's the confusion above which makes me think the guys over in Italy had a meeting to decide on 10 ideas, came up with nine ingenious solutions and then went to have lunch.

A mate asked me if I'd recommend him buying one, and it was almost impossible to give an answer. If I was in the market I'd have my name down already, but recommending it to someone else is telling them that it's overall a better car than its rivals. And while it isn't better in some ways, it's miles ahead in others.

What I said to him is this: If you buy this car, you do it knowing that it'll make you scratch your head here and there. But you're also buying it because you're the type of person who appreciates how it makes you feel. Alfa have dropped the 2016 Giulietta QV into a tough fighting pit, but it comes armed with the style, sound and performance to hold its own against some very good cars.

Have you ever wanted something and been unable to describe why? If that's how you feel about the Giulietta, follow your emotions and buy it. They'll thank you later, and in an unusual trend for an Alfa Romeo, so will your brain.

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