Alfa Romeo Giulietta shows its pure pedigree
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Latest versions of Giulietta grab attention with best of Italian styling
Some hatchbacks are born conservative types, just blending in as a standard commuter - but then there are cars that are natural attention seekers.
And taking the top spot as a vehicle that sees nothing wrong with having all eyes on it has to be Alfa Romeo's Giulietta Quadrifoglio Verde.
The Giulietta first went into production in 2009 and was introduced at the 2010 Geneva motor show. The five-door Giulietta replaced the 147 in the Italian car company's line and now the second generation has been launched in New Zealand.
The new Giulietta has a larger front grille with a more dominant V plus the company's new Uconnect infotainment system.
The grille, plus the off-set number plate, the sculptured bonnet and a quartet of LED daytime running lights add together to create a vehicle that's more than a hatch.
Instead, it's a compact car that shows its Italian pedigree and that is prominent in the hidden rear door handles that are integrated into the window frame, which were originally found in the Alfa Romeo 156.
Two models are available here. The Distinctive has the 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine boosting 125kW of power and 250Nm of torque.
Priced from $40,990 for the manual Distinctive, the car comes with 15in alloys as standard plus new leather upholstery and a cooled glovebox, ideal for summer road trips.
Canterbury | Christchurch
$524.34 p/w $2,097.37 p/m
Also available is Driven's test car, the Quadrifoglio Verde (QV), which means Four Leaf Clover in Italian, and the symbol is all over the car inside and out.
Because the four-leaf clover is so prominent, you do spend a bit of time explaining to the uninitiated people that this isn't an Irish version of the Italian car.
Instead the name Quadrifoglio Verde and the green four-leaf clover symbol have strong links to Alfa Romeo's motor-racing history, which began in 1923.
But once you see inside the vehicle, it's pure Italian styling. The QV gets new wraparound sports seats with one-piece backrest. There's also a new steering wheel and instrument panel with the QV logo.
It's priced from $55,990 for the manual QV. We had the $59,990 version paired with the six-speed twin clutch transmission, taken from Alfa Romeo's 4C supercar - due in New Zealand mid-2015.
This is powered by a 1.8-litre, four-cylinder, direct injection turbo petrol engine, with 177kW of power and 340Nm of torque - a more than capable engine.
The QV also gets 18in alloys plus red calipers for a more hard-core sports car appeal and to differentiate it from the Distinctive it has oversized twin tailpipes.
Those tailpipes are handy, too, as the QV gets the intake engine sound that produces the famous Alfa Romeo attention-seeking roar that buyers love - and require.
It's a superb sound that makes you want to turn off the car stereo, wind down the driver window and listen to it perform.
On the road, the vehicle's dual clutch transmission means it moves through to optimum gear quickly and there's even launch control setting which sees it go from 0-100km/h in 6.0 seconds.
The suspension is more comfort-mode than sports, meaning long drives are smooth, and heading to the more challenging road conditions of winding country roads the body control is earnest rather than the finicky feel of past Alfa Romeo hot hatches.
Around the city, I was impressed with the car's turning circle and confidence in stop-start traffic, though there was a slight lag in ratio between the second and third gear when moving off.
Inside, the car's Uconnect touchscreen infotainment system is simple to use and the dash has a conservative feel, though the car suits a more adventurous look that mirrors the fun exterior.
It's also a genuine five-seater with the rear bench providing plenty of room for three adults, while the QV's wraparound seats were more comfortable than I expected.
Competing against the Giulietta QV in New Zealand for price and performance are Volkswagen's Golf GTi hatchback, Audi's S1 sportsback and BMW's 125i.