ROAD TEST: Alfa Romeo Giulietta & MiTo ‘Quadrifoglio Verde' @ Circuito di Balocco

Alfa Romeo: The name alone makes petrol heads all over the globe go all misty eyed, and rightly so. It's a legendary car manufacturer, with 10 Targa Florio races, two F1 championships, one World Sportscar Championship, 11 Mille Miglia races, four Le Mans titles and 17 Euro Touring Car wins to its name, not to mention a whole host of beloved road cars, sold to generations of happy motorists. Now throw in the epic motorsport-derived, said to be good luck 'Cloverleaf' brand – born in 1923 on the Targa Florio, that most iconic of historic open road endure events, based around the hills of Sicily – and you have the makings of something very special right? Think Giulia Ti (the 1st road-going Cloverleaf) Alfasud, Sprint, 75, 33 and 164. Or event the new 4C super car. Pretty epic rides, right?
But Cloverleaf is dead.
It's now long live Quadrifoglio Verde – Italian for Cloverleaf.
Don't be... Alfa Romeo has decided to drop the old brand name, in favour of the new Quadrifoglio Verde branding (which I will now refer to as QV, for simplicity/or further confusion!).
But does this modern re-branding – which thankfully, keeps the ace green triangular symbol – mean an end to the traditional brand values – lightness, efficiency, style, design, performance and "the true spirit of Alfa Romeo"?
Not if you listen to the very excited and enthusiastic engineers and Alfa Romeo team behind the new QV cars – the £28,120 Giulietta ‘Quadrifoglio Verde’ 1750 Turbo Petrol 240 HP TCT (featuring 4C engine and running gear) and the £20,120 MiTo ‘Quadrifoglio Verde’ 1.4 MultiAir Turbo Petrol 170 HP TCT.

MiTo ‘Quadrifoglio Verde
Giulietta ‘Quadrifoglio Verde

These two new cars are the fresh face of the QV brand. All of Alfa Romeo's unreal pedigree, incredible history and mass expectation of greatness lies on their modern, flared arches now. Will they represent the "Alfa DNA" their forefathers had? 
Well, luckily for Road Magazine, we've been invited out to Circuito di Balocco – Alfa's enormous,  private proving ground facility since 1962, between Milan and Turin – to find out, by testing the two new QV's on the track, and on the Euro roads around: Bellissimo!
Let's get one thing out of the way immediately. There's no manual gearbox options. Both cars have the twin clutch semi-auto, paddle or 'manual' shift transmissions, with Alfa's DNA (Dynamic, Normal, All-weather) mode settings, and no ability to turn off the traction control, or e-diff influences. Read into that what you will... 
The Giulietta QV's transmission is straight from the 4C, with it's state-of-the-art six-speed twin dry clutch Alfa TCT unit, also matched to the 4C 1750 Turbo Petrol 240 HP engine. Interesting...
The Giulietta's 4C-derived turbo lump knocks out 240 HP and 340 Nm torque, 80% of which is impressively available at only 1,800rpm. And the MiTo's new MultiAir turbo petrol offers 170 HP, with 230 Nm torque. As such, both engines are class leading for torque.
Does that equate to performance to justify the Quadrifoglio Verde logo then? Well, the Giulietta gets a (not as exciting as it sounds in reality, sadly) Launch Control system, which apparently delivers a 6.0s to 62mph time (0.8s faster than without, allegedly), and it'll crack on to 150mph. So that's very quick (even if a tad undramatic in reality).
And the MiTo? Well, it'll also knock on the door of 140mph (137mph if you're being pedantic) and does 0-62mph in 7.3s. So, that's also darn pronto, for such a small, light car. 
The new QV cars also boast a new design steering wheel (too big, too fussy, too plastic), new leather/alcantara seats (look great and decent support in the Giulietta & look great, poor comfort in the MiTo), fresh 18-inch alloys (superb designs) and big Brembo brakes (good at stopping, poor at feeling). 
And both new QV's have been 'acoustic-tuned' – on the intake systems, not exhausts (emissions issues) – to "represent the spirit of Alfa Romeos of old" which is PR-speak, for sound great when you boot it. 
Again, the Giulietta does this really nicely, with a deep, rorty, boost-laden soundtrack, whilst the MiTo just sounds a tad strained, rough and strung-out, sadly. And neither sounded that incredible on the 'tunnel test' - windows down, big bootful. But the Giulietta hits the right notes from inside.     
Thankfully, outside, both new QV cars really look the part – which is the bare minimum an Alfa should do, right? Stir the senses. Make you want to drive them on a early morning, on a mountain pass, with just a single look? Nailed... 
And this is especially true when you get the new matt Magnesio Grey body colour – which was also on show on both normal Giulietta & MiTo, and looks absolutely fabuluso! It's been created exclusively for the Limited edition (999, of which 100 will come to the UK) Giulietta ‘Launch Edition’ special, which comes with some nice extra touches, but costs a whopping £30,280. 
Even without the matt finish I really loved, they are pretty cars, the Giulietta especially. And they look great static, and moving: So that's a big QV brand score!

Out on the road, the 240 HP, 150mph Giulietta feels quick – accelerating virtually without lag and seamlessly through the gears on a great slug of turbocharged torque, whatever DNA mode it's in. 
And the Giulietta has the perfect balance of ride quality and handling ability. It's comfortable, but dynamic – especially in Dynamic mode! 
The engine sounds really good too, most noticeably on part throttle, with a lovely 'bwaaarp!' And it even let off a nice few snap, crackle and pops from the red hot turbo exhaust pipes, which is what I wanted to hear. 
It's got nicely balanced steering and a very, very capable chassis too. But I expected the 4C transmission to be smoother, and less fussy. More than once on the road route (and lots on track), it was slow to react, confused and awkward. That somewhat detracted from my enjoyment, and I didn't expect that at all. 
I also reckon the interior should feel a tad more special too, for a car costing near-as-darn-it £30K. It just doesn't feel that tactile, or even nice in places, nor does it all gel together as one package (as many of its rivals do), or indeed give the sense of occasion I expect from an Alfa carrying the Quadrifoglio Verde logo. That's a bit of a shame, on an otherwise superb car.     
The MiTo's interior looks good from a distance, but don't touch it! It actually feels a bit cheap and nasty in places. Also, it's ride and handling balance is not so composed – over-sprung and under-damped. As such, it really doesn't cope with the bumps at the speeds it's undeniably capable of. Although it does change direction really well, and the steering has a decent weight to it. Sadly however, overall, the driving experience was a tad under-whelming, from my POV. I really wanted to like it, based on how it looks. The acid test? I didn't look back at it after a drive... 
But I did look back at the beautiful-lines of the Giulietta Quadrifoglio Verde, which I also got to drive on track for a few hot Balocco laps. Here, the chassis and superb handling really shone again finding grip – even if it's a lot softer than I thought it was after the 70Km road test, pitching on the brakes and rolling on turn-in and change of direction. But, even with the roll, it kept its lines, and had minimal understeer to drive around – even on the tight hairpins – thanks to its only mildly intrusive e-differential. 
However, the 240 HP seemed less impressive on the open track than it did on the open road. Sure, it's no slouch, and torques its way out of bends sweetly, but it never felt that rapdio. This was not aided by the TCT, which was more than occasionally a bit lost on track. I guess a large chunk of it not feeling so fast on the track must surely be its weight: It does feel heavy, which is not so Quadrifoglio Verde. 

It's great to see Alfa on a mission and all fired up about their cars again. The 4C has revitalised the brand. And the Quadrifoglio Verde brand is a strong, amazing one, and has festooned some incredible cars since 1923 – on track and the road – and I for one want to see it do well and make it to 2023 to celebrate 100 years of QV Alfa action. I'd also really like to see folk be braver, and pick these QV cars over their (mostly German) rivals... and not just for the badge, but for how they look, drive, sound and feel.
The sad fact is (here in the UK at least), most won't even go and test drive one, and that's a crying shame and based on nothing more than current brand familiarity, or misconception of what Alfas stand for. 
Both new Quadrifoglio Verdes are very good cars, even with some (pretty minor) flaws that could easily be seen to. 
And the Giulietta is a cracking looking, and very capable performance car – 50% road car to use every day, 50% little fiery monster. And in that matt finish, it looks really, really special. 
But, ultimately neither car is all that special – which I had expected, from Alfa Romeo, and from the Quadrifoglio Verde brand. 
At the moment, it's a question of close, but no Toscano cigar.
The solution...? Personally, I'd drop the MiTo QV. It's a good car, but not worthy to carry the brand IMO: It feels like a car on its last legs, being tarted up to sell a few final editions. And that diluters the Quadrifoglio Verde brand. 
The Giulietta just needs some rear-drive, with a new 4WD system, and wind up that superb engine to 280-300bhp and fit switchable traction control. Think Lancia Delta Integrale, but done C21st Alfa style. Then you'll get the S1 & S3 Audi, BMW 1M, Seat Cupra and Renaultsport drivers sitting up and noticing – ney respecting – the iconic brand, as they should do. Then the Quadrifoglio Verde will be back... with something truly unique, Alfa Romeo and Quadrifoglio Verde.
Go on Alfa, give the Giulietta a 60th birthday party to remember. You know you want to! 

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