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Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce review: Quadrifoglio drama on a budget?

4.5

The Good

  • Pleasing handling
  • Lightweight
  • Stands out from the Germans

The Bad

  • Slightly lower quality interior
  • Less dramatic than we hoped

Ask for a horse if you want a dog, or so goes the advice. In Alfa Romeo terms, that means asking for a Giulia Quadrifoglio gets you the Giulia Veloce. But is the £38,260 Italian saloon even half as epic?

What if you want an Alfa Romeo Giulia and the utterly brilliant Quadrifoglio is out of your reach? You could get the 197bhp petrol Giulia and persuade yourself that 503bhp would have been overkill. And there would be some truth to that.

Bu there is a less risky route, which involves buying the Giulia Veloce. This particular model was never offered at launch, but now you can get yourself the same 2.0-litre inline four-cylinder petrol tuned to a sportier 276bhp – Nissan Skyline R34 levels of power.

The £38,260 Giulia Veloce is £23,335 cheaper than the Ferrari-engined Quadrifoglio. The difference means taking a 1.3-second hit on the 0-62mph, which takes 5.2 seconds, and a 43mph hit on the QV's 191mph top speed.

You also lose out on torque. Lots of it, actually. The Veloce generates 295ft/lb of the stuff, compared to the Quadrifoglio's 443lb/ft. But does that really matter when you are stuck on the M25? Perhaps not.

Let's be honest, though. The Giulia Quadrifoglio is more than just fast, it eclipses every other sporty saloon when it comes to performance, handling and enjoyment. You know, the main reasons why you buy a fast saloon in the first place?

The problem is that nobody with a brain would buy a Giulia Quadrifoglio because every press car has broken down at some point – usually more than once. It is, therefore, a car you should buy in a year's time when the teething problems are sorted and depreciation has hit hardest.

Being considerably cheaper, nearly as striking to look at and based on similar DNA, the Giulia Veloce has the potential to be a budget Quadrifoglio superstar. We borrowed a Montecarlo blue example to find out just how close it gets.

Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce: What is it?

The Alfa Romeo Giulia is the Italian attempt at a saloon, which means it has to compete with the BMW 3 Series, Jaguar XE, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Not exactly easy competition, especially when you consider the last saloons it built were the 159 and 166.

You can have it with a 2.2-litre diesel, as you can with the Alfa Romeo Stelvio SUV, or you can go petrol. Rear-wheel drive is standard across the range, as is an eight-speed automatic because there is no six-speed manual option in the UK.

In its range-topping Veloce spec, which sits above Speciale, Super, Tecnica and Giulia (in that order), the Giulia gets a leather steering wheel and unique 10-spoke alloy wheels (not the 19s originally touted), double exhaust, better brakes, 8.8-inch infotainment display and Bi-Xenon headlights.

What works?

Stylish and practical alternative to the Germans that offers rear-wheel drive motoring.

What doesn't?

Looks a lot nicer in person. Trust us.

Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce: Is it fun to drive?

By being lighter than everything else in its class by a noticeable margin, the Giulia Veloce is extremely adept at rapid changes of direction and, with help from the compliant suspension and grippy tyres, able to corner fast without ever breaking a sweat.

It takes a moment to adjust to the sharp steering, especially if you have come from something German, but it soon makes sense and helps make the Giulia easy to carve through corners efficiently. The fact there is barely any body roll is another feather in its cap.

The ride quality is excellent to the point where it deals with road imperfections better than the BMW 5 Series we had on test around the same time. There are no gigantic, painful thuds if you hit a craterous pot hole, nor does it struggle with smaller undulations or ever get knocked off course mid-corner.

Then there is the seating position, which lets you sit very low in the car so you feel more attached to it, and the fact that visibility is, for the most part, excellent. For driving on motorways, it is exceptional, too, although road noise is a tad louder than in a BMW.

The Veloce never makes as epic an engine or exhaust noise as the Quadrifoglio, particularly as it changes gears rather early in the rev range – even in Dynamic mode – but the higher rev range does bring with it a likable roar you never get tired of.

Performance is another positive. 70-90 takes little time at all, while pulling away from the lights can be done abruptly enough to live up to its name. The back end can and will break away all-too easily in the wet unless you are careful.

If there is a common theme with the Giulia Veloce, it is that it is more civilised than savage. Even at full tilt, it never reaches the same deafening, all-encompassing crescendo the Quadrifoglio experience provides. But the DNA is close enough that you get more involvement than in an Audi or BMW.

What works?

You get a more involving drive than any other executive saloon.

What doesn't?

No way near the same drama as the Giulia Quadrifiglio, no matter how hard you pretend.

Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce: What about practicality and safety?

Euro NCAP testers gave the Giulia a five-star rating, which means there are quite a few cars that would be worse off in a crash. Its score for adult occupancy is just two per cent of perfect, while child occupancy is a decent 81 per cent.

Safety assist, at 60 per cent, is where the Giulia Veloce falls down a bit. Autonomous emergency braking is standard, mind you, and that works at city and motorway speeds, which is useful.

One of the few benefits of being slower than the Quadrifoglio is that triggering the overly cautious brake warning system is a much rarer occurence. It also means less chance of reaching death-inducing speeds.

The 8.8-inch display does look a bit low-rent compared to something from BMW or Mercedes and we also find displays that are wider than they are tall much less useful for navigation. The directions are, however, easy to follow because of the fast map refresh speed.

Practicality is another area where the Giulia is good. Boot space is 480 litres, the same as the 3 Series and C-Class, while the rear leg and head room is passable for those around six-foot. Not only that, the rear seats are of the versatile 40:20:40 split-fold variety.

In terms of everyday use, we found the Giulia Veloce is much less prone to jumping forward at light speed when trying to perform low-speed manoeuvres and the brakes are less grabby than the Quadrifoglio, making it easier to live with around town and in traffic.

As for running costs, the Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce managed fuel economy in the 30s during our week of testing and we rarely made any effort to be efficient, which bodes well for the claimed 46.3mpg figure. CO2, meanwhile, is 141g/km so expect to pay £200 in the first year then £140 after that.

What works?

Safe as houses, if you ask the Euro NCAP people.

What doesn't?

Rival offerings are more practical.

Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce: Can we discuss quality and reliability?

Take a long look at the Giulia Veloce and you will see a few quality issues. Some of the switches are too plasticy for our liking and there are some comically large gaps between a couple of panels. Alfa actually used one of them as a business card holder during the UK launch, which speaks volumes.

The Giulia Veloce is, however, well designed and stylish. That sweeping dashboard line and those Ferrari-esque vents really do make it look refreshingly sporty, where the Audi and BMW take a more luxury approach.

It is a comfortable car, too, as we found out after three hours of motorway driving, and a lack of interior buttons makes those annoying moments of fiddling around for the right button much less common. We lived with the Giulia Veloce very happily.

That is, of course, assuming it stays on the road. Consumer reports in the US and UK suggest you may well end up going to your dealer more than once in the first year, but these could be rare cases.

Plus Audi, BMW and Mercedes have their fair share of issues these days.

What works?

Nothing fell off during testing.

What doesn't?

Long-term reliability is unproven for the Giulia and typically bad for Alfa Romeo.

Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce: Should I buy one, then?

The Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce is rougher round the edges than its Germanic and British rivals, but for driving pleasure it blows them out of the water and is just as comfortable. It really is a decent and practical Alfa saloon that just about lives up to its price tag.

The downside is that long-term Giulia reliability is an unknown and it pains us to admit the Veloce never reaches Quadrifiglio levels of drama. But what you do get for the same price as a BMW 330i M Sport is something noticeably more exciting and much less common.

Key Specs

  • 2.0-litre inline four-cylinder petrol
  • 276bhp at 5,250rpm
  • 295lb/ft (400Nm) @ 1750rpm
  • 0-62mph in 5.2 seconds
  • 141g/km of CO2
  • 46.3mpg (combined)
  • From £38,260 (£38,205 tested)

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