BEFORE I tell you more about the Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce, just have another look at the car in detail.
The longest wheelbase in its sector, short overhangs, a long bonnet, muscular haunches and that utterly familiar trefoil nose, it looks fabulous doesn't it.
Add the optionally available Misano Blue paint exclusively reserved for this model and it's a real looker. Stunning.
But let's get back to the job in hand. Sitting between the Giulia Speciale and the fire-breathing flagship Giulia Quadrifoglio, the Veloce (there's a peppier Veloce Ti available too) carefully balances award-winning ride and handling with affordable performance and luxury.
It features a 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine tuned for extra power and torque, partnered with a seamlessly smooth eight-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel-drive. The four-cylinder engine generates 276bhp and maximum torque of 400Nm at 2,250rpm.
It officially returns 46.3mpg but, over 600 miles of driving, I averaged out at 30.7mpg. The best I achieved was 34.9mpg. There's probably good reason for that.
Veloce is, of course, Italian for ‘fast', and with sports bumpers, rear diffuser with dual exhausts, 18-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels and standout brake calipers, it certainly looks the part.
It's the same inside - a crisp and fuss-free, completely driver-focused layout, Ferrari 488-inspired aluminium paddleshifts and Italian leather Sport seats in a choice of black, tan or red. All the main controls are grouped together on the sporty steering wheel in a similar fashion to a Formula 1 car, while the human-machine interface consists of two simple, user-friendly knobs for adjusting the Alfa DNA selector and the infotainment system.
Premium materials, including carbon fibre and real wood, have been chosen for their visual and tactile pleasantness.
Standard equipment includes front and rear parking sensors, headlamp washers and an upgraded braking system with larger diameter front and rear brake discs. There's also dual-zone climate control, ‘Alfa DNA' rotary driving mode selector and an easy-to-use 8.8-inch infotainment system.
The Alfa DNA selector modifies the car's dynamic behaviour according to the driver's selection - Dynamic, Natural, and a new energy efficiency mode, Advanced Efficiency. It adjusts a multitude of settings, including those of the engine, suspension, steering, transmission, rear differential, instrument display, brakes and safety and driver aids.
In Normal, the Veloce is quiet, calm and comfortable and a lovely A-road cruiser. Dynamic is a different matter. It's where it lives up to its Veloce moniker and why official efficiency figures take such a hit.
It might not be the all-conquering Quadrifoglio, but you can have genuine, grin-inducing fun threading the Veloce down a twisty country A- or B-road. There's loads of low-down torque, masses of grip and the steering is quick, keen and agile. It's a clichÃ© but the Veloce goes where you point it - and very quickly.
Flicking up and down the gears with those paddleshifts is irresistible - especially as it's often serenaded by a growl from the exhaust. It is a real joy to drive.
Despite being a four-door, five-seater saloon, the Giulia Veloce is not what you'd call a ‘family' car. That said, if a couple with young children do decide it's the one for them, it is very safe, achieving an exceptional five-star Euro NCAP rating and 98 per cent score for passenger safety.
All models in the range are equipped with Forward Collision Warning, Autonomous Emergency Braking with pedestrian recognition, Lane Departure Warning, and cruise control with speed limiter.
There's also Alfa's new Integrated Brake System (IBS), an electromechanical braking system which combines the stability control system and traditional servo to improve brake responsiveness, reduce pedal vibrations of the ABS system and make record-breaking stopping distances possible.