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Driven: Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce. Image by Alfa Romeo.

Driven: Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce
Silky-yet-punchy drivetrain and sparkling chassis mark Giulia Veloce out as beauty.

 



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Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: drivetrain, handling, handsome looks, surprisingly economical when it needs to be.

Not so good: interior finishing leaves something to be desired, why can't you switch the traction control off?

Key Facts

Model tested: Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce
Price: Giulia starts from £29,880; Veloce from £38,260; car as tested £39,205
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: rear-wheel drive, eight-speed automatic
Body style: four-door saloon
CO2 emissions: 141/km (VED £205 first 12 months, then £140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 46.3mpg
Top speed: 149mph
0-62mph: 5.7 seconds
Power: 280hp at 5,250rpm
Torque: 400Nm at 1,750-2,250rpm

Our view:

This is the Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce, designed to bridge the gap between the regular range of 2.0-litre petrol and 2.1-litre diesel models and the Quadrifoglio. On paper, the 1,429kg Veloce is closer to the former Giulias than the fire-breathing latter, as it uses an uprated derivation of the existing 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol motor to churn out 280hp and 400Nm, enough for a sub-six-second 0-62mph time and a top speed of almost 150mph, but some way off the mighty biturbo Quadrifoglio's 510hp and 191mph capabilities.

However, do not despair. Because we're here to tell you that the Veloce might be all the fast Giulia you'll ever need. For a start, fitted with metallic paint and the Climate Pack, the total options on our test car came to £945. That meant the Veloce we drove was less than £40,000, which is not only great for year two road tax purposes onwards, but also simply excellent value. All of its heated sports seats, heated steering wheel, all-round parking sensors, 8.8-inch Uconnect infotainment system, powered front seats, cruise control, dual-zone climate control, eight-speaker sound system and a whole host of driver-assist safety systems are standard-fit items, making the Veloce feel like a luxurious car.

It also looks lovely, especially on the outside with its 18-inch turbine alloys and finished in a rich, dark blue. There's a special-order blue available on the Veloce only, called Misano, but we think the deeper Monte Carlo Blue is a better bet. Should've had tan leather, though. And, while we're on the interior, we need to address the Alfa's biggest failing: the quality of its finishing. Strangely, the sub-par plastics and occasionally flimsy haptics (the rotary dials being particularly makeweight in their operation) would be more acceptable if the whole cabin was lacklustre. But it isn't; what frustrates is that there are areas where Alfa's genius shines through in coruscating fashion, and then there are others where it looks like the Italian firm simply couldn't be bothered benchmarking the opposition.

We quite like the design of the dash, with the sweeping cowl incorporating the satnav and infotainment screen (another whinge: the graphics on this are laughable by today's standards, they really are), and the seats look beautiful. But there's a lot of unremitting black, and the quality of some of the ancillary switchgear really does need to be overlooked, if you're going to ignore the sturdy brilliance of a modern Audi interior in order to buy the Giulia. Also, there's a notable sharp edge to the sides of the gear lever, which is unacceptable in this day and age.

Yet we're going to finish with the highest praise for a few details, which just about save the Alfa's passenger compartment overall. Such as the driving position, which is as near to bang-on as we've ever encountered in an Italian car over the decades. Or the wonderful - the utterly wonderful - thin-rimmed steering wheel of the perfect diameter, which is connected to some of the most direct and communicative steering you'll find on anything this side of a Porsche 911. Or, the Alfa's pièce de résistance, those huge, metal paddle shifts for the automatic gearbox. These are the best in the automotive business, bar none. Not a single one of the German brands, not the Swedes nor the Brits nor the Japanese nor the Yanks, can get close to these beauties. Operating them is a tactile delight and they're almost worth the £39,000 entry fee all on their own.

And then we come to the dynamics. Cor blimey, Alfa has got its chassis engineering mojo back, and how. Striking a superb balance between the comfy, day-to-day refinement required of these premium saloons, and the sharp handling that should accompany a 280hp Alfa Romeo, the Giulia Veloce does exactly what it set out to do: bridge that gap between the regular models and the Quadrifoglio. The engine and gearbox combine to create an absolute jewel of a drivetrain. The delivery of power is eerily smooth, yet the car is happy to rev out and it makes a thoroughly decent, unassisted sound while doing so. The gearbox is unbelievably slick, to the point that you begin to irrationally suspect there are no physical cog ratios in it at all and that actually Alfa has developed the world's best CVT but just not thought to tell anybody.

And the performance this little lot serves up is more than fast enough for most people's daily needs. Which is good, because it allows you to exploit a marvellous chassis. There's one more gripe here, which is the lack of the ability to get the ESP and traction control fully switched off. It's not a bad electronic safety net by any measure, as it doesn't operate intrusively, but this rear-drive platform would be more than capable of running senza electronics should the mood take its driver. Back on the best bits of the Veloce, uprated brakes provide fantastic stopping power and the pedal has terrific modulation, and did we mention the rapier steering and magnificent paddle shifts? We did? Oh. Well, anyway, it would be a cold-hearted - to the point of being dead - soul who couldn't have fun behind the Alfa's wheel.

Yet this 2.0-litre Giulia just as good at cruising about the place in serene style as it is tearing around B-roads in the proper and correct Italian manner. The springs and dampers are fixed-rate items, without recourse to adaptive support, so they have to level out the worst road surfaces as well as they keep the body in check during spirited cornering. Luckily, the car pulls this trick off with plenty of aplomb - and the mechanical refinement is exceptional, so it's utterly adept at long-distance mile-munching. It's even frugal on fuel; we got an overall 32mpg out of 275 miles in the Veloce at a 39mph average, but on a steady motorway run down to Millbrook and back, it was holding an indicated 47mpg as it tootled along at 70mph. That's remarkable stuff for a petrol car capable of 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds.

Which leaves us with the easiest of summations: the Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce is exactly where it needs to be. It's better and more rewarding to drive than the regular models further down the range, yet it's considerably cheaper to buy and run than the stellar Quadrifoglio. It also pulls off a very neat con of being in its own niche when it comes to performance and price, compared to rivals - it's not as potent as the Audi S4, BMW 340i, Jaguar XE S and Mercedes-AMG C 43 vehicles that you might consider its opposition, but then all of the above are six-pot machines that cost well north of £40,000, long before you even dare to think about cost options. Similarly, the Alfa has more punch than the next models down each of these companies' line-ups and yet it costs about the same cash - the Veloce will easily see off the likes of the 2.0 TFSI A4 (252hp), the now-four-cylinder 330i (252hp), the 240hp version of the XE and the Mercedes C 300 (258hp) in terms of acceleration, and it's more fun to drive than any of them to boot.

So it very neatly fits in with the Giulias we've already tried. If the regular cars are four-star machines, and the Quadrifoglio completely deserves its top critical billing, then the Veloce slots in conveniently between them. It's an exceptional sports saloon that doesn't need stupid amounts of power to get the job of rewarding its driver handsomely done. Although... it does make us wonder whether Alfa might next consider a 350-400hp all-wheel-drive model to sit betwixt Veloce and Quadrifoglio. We can but dream, eh?

Alternatives:

Audi A4 2.0 TFSI: Smooth four-cylinder engine and advantages of quattro traction - plus its gorgeous cabin - but the Alfa is better to drive in all respects.

BMW 340i: Not as exciting as you might imagine a 326hp rear-driven BMW to be. Due for replacement soon, as well.

Mercedes-AMG C 43: Faster than the Alfa, has a lovely V6 engine and the cabin quality's in another league... but so is the price tag.


Matt Robinson - 5 Jun 2018









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2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce. Image by Alfa Romeo.2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce. Image by Alfa Romeo.2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce. Image by Alfa Romeo.2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce. Image by Alfa Romeo.2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce. Image by Alfa Romeo.

2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce. Image by Alfa Romeo.2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce. Image by Alfa Romeo.2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce. Image by Alfa Romeo.2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce. Image by Alfa Romeo.2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce. Image by Alfa Romeo.








 

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