I generally don’t like reviewing older cars. While it’s good to get behind the wheel after some time and reacquaint oneself with the car in question, this more often than not only serves to highlight the shortcomings of a car that was once probably great – but now flails in the wake of its more modern rivals.
The Alfa Romeo Giulietta you see here is eight years old now (it’s been in South Africa for seven). While the model had been updated every couple of years and received a little nip and tuck in September 2016, I feared that driving it would only highlight how far behind Italy’s Golf rival has been left in recent years…
And so, when the Giulietta Veloce (which is now the top-spec model in the range) arrived on my doorstep, I immediately fell in love with it all over again… I mean, how could I not? The Giulietta’s design is truly timeless and looks even more gorgeous with its wider honeycomb grille, revised bumper and – in Veloce spec – carbon fibre-look headlamps.
She was like a gorgeous lady in a fine black satin dress. Beneath the surface, though, we wouldn’t get along…
Jump aboard and the stunning leather and alcantara sports seats are easily the most delightful part of the by now dated cabin. You’ll notice the distinct lack of storage, the outdated 6,5-inch Uconect infotainment screen lifted from other Fiat Chrysler products, and the rough-as-sandpaper upper door mouldings.
Typical of an older Italian car, the driving position is poor: the steering wheel is mounted high with a limited range of adjustment, and the seat then needs to be raised too high to compensate, while the pedals are positioned far too close to the driver.
Then there’s the drive itself. Being the sportiest model in the range, the Giulietta Veloce’s suspension is naturally stiff. Nevertheless, it rides quite compliantly while the handling is exciting enough – thanks in part to the electronic Q2 differential.
Powering the Veloce is the same 1750i turbopetrol engine that featured in the previous QV model. Like most modern turbo units, it sounds quite racy under power and once on the boil its delivery is strong. In raw numbers it’s well up there with the power produced by its rivals – 177 kW and 340 Nm torque are on tap. It’ll dispatch 100 km/h in a claimed six seconds – also par for the hot-hatch course.
However, like a bad one-night stand that began with so much promise, it is the way the Veloce delivers its performance that is the most disappointing – or, rather, it’s the way the TCT dual-clutch transmission does it. Unlike similar units we’re used to from other manufacturers, with their crisp, rapid-fire shifts, the six-speed TCT is slow to both set the car off and to shift up and down the ratios.
To be honest, it is quite possibly the worst of its kind to be fitted to a modern performance car… Making matters worse is that Alfa Romeo no longer offers the six-speed manual on this model.
So, other than looks you’ll never tire of, one would think that the Giulietta Veloce is a complete loss … but the picture changes ever so slightly when you consider the competition.
On paper, the Veloce stacks up against the Golf GTI DSG (R545 900), the Mercedes-Benz A250 Sport (R552 200) and the BMW 125i M-Sport (R524 000). However, at R479 900, it’s actually priced against lesser models that offer far less performance for the money…
Unfortunately, though, that’s just not enough to make up for the Giulietta’s generation-old flaws … which is a pity, because it’s still so damn gorgeous.
CyberStoep rating: 6/10