MOTORS REVIEW: Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce Ti

I WOULD find it hard to argue that Alfa Romeo doesn’t have the sexiest saloon car in the UK in its handsome rear-wheel-drive Giulia.

As with all Alfa Romeos, it seems, it’s an argument that you might find yourself having if you ever find yourself locked in conversation with one of the many “Alfisti” that make themselves apparent whenever the Italian carmaker is mentioned in an office, down the pub or at a party.

They will chuckle and wave a dismissive hand at the mention of the brand’s historic reputation for questionable reliability but gush about the allure of tan leather, the magic of the GTA’s 3.2-litre V6 and the badge that evokes images of historic road races in exotic locations.

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They are now likely to talk almost as wholeheartedly about the latest editions to the brand and the Giulia Veloce Ti tested here is one of the pick of the new breed.

Sitting below the Ferrari-inspired, 510PS 2.9- litre V6-engined Giulia Quadrifoglio flagship, the Veloce is something of Quadrifoglio-light.

Its two-litre turbocharged petrol engine delivers a 280PS and a maximum torque of 400Nm payload which is less scintillating on paper but that remains enough to propel it to 62mph in 5.7 seconds and on to a 149mph top speed.

And its subtly toned-down take on the performance styling tweaks applied to its big brother make it a stand-out contender in a sector populated by the BMW 330i and the wildcard Kia Stinger GT S.

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The Veloce gets the Quadrifoglio’s arch-filling five-hole wheels as well as carbonfibre exterior trim and yellow brake callipers.

The Veloce Ti adds a Quadrifoglio lip spoiler, side skirts, gear selector and copious interior trim crafted from the distinctive lightweight weave of carbonfibre.

From the outside the carbonfibre details add aggression to what is a sophisticated and effortlessly stylish design — its rearward cabin and broad haunches communicating a reardriven drivetrain — while inside it deliver an air of the exotic.

The interior also shares the Quadrifoglio’s leather and Alcantara sports seats with eight-way electric adjustment, carbonfibre interior trim and the same enormous aluminium gearchange paddles which look and feel like they have been lifted straight from a Ferrari.

You don’t get this sort of thing in a BMW…

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While so much of the aesthetic of the Veloce Ti is shared with its more potent stablemate, its £46,005 price pales and is some £15,000 less (£61,564).

And the key component that seems to deliver that saving seems to be the engine.

The aluminium four-cylinder unit delivers it torque readily through an eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox and pulls strongly, but the lack of an appealing soundtrack means that it can feel a little workmanlike.

In many ways it feels and sounds like a sophisticated, large capacity diesel unit and even claims pretty respectable 46.3mpg fuel economy and 141g/km CO2 emissions.

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Ultimately it is an engine with enough muscle to enjoy the very best part of the Guilia…it’s handling.

Electronics developed by Megneti Marelli ensure that an almost hyperactive helm is twinned perfectly to a driven rear end which is readily adjustable through corners.

Safe and extremely subtle power oversteer is the attitude that the Giulia is inherently predisposed to through almost any corner, flattering the driver with a stance that settles the car in readiness for the next straight.

Although I have yet to spend time in the rangetopping Kia Stinger GT S which has attracted such aplomb (having instead sampled the diesel derivative), the Giulia Veloce Ti, like the Quadrifoglio, places the Italian contender as this sector’s most enjoyable steer.

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Alas, one of very few shortcomings I could identify during my time with the car was a dial-controlled infotainment system which just felt a little flaky and old hat compared to its key rivals.

Away from the expensive-feeling carbonfibre, Alcantara and brushed aluminium some of the plastics on show are also a little below par.

But such are the levels of style and design finesse on show that these things can pretty much be forgiven, if not totally dismissed with a derisory wave of the hand.

Alfa Romeo has yet to hit the sales stride that it might have aniticipated with the Giulia and its SUV sibling the Stelvio – but getting behind the wheel, it is easy to be turned into an advocate of their very unique qualities.

And in Veloce Ti form, perhaps the Giulia has the ability to bring out the “Alfisti” in all of us…

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