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Alfa finally goes electric with an unusual but curiously enticing take on the hot hatchback

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The weight of expectation dangles ominously from the fearsome jaws of Alfa Romeo’s serpent mascot. Make no bones about it: of all the cars charged with revitalising the Italian firm’s fortunes over the past few decades, this fashion-first but family-friendly B-segment crossover must surely – surely – be the car that does it. 

But to succeed where so many have valiantly failed in an attempt to dramatically swell the company’s coffers, not only does the Alfa Romeo Junior Eletricca have to be a pretty decent EV – touting all the requisite range, efficiency and charging specs to put it on a par with its increasingly numerous rivals – but it must, first and foremost, be an Alfa Romeo.

It’s logical, then, that our first acquaintance comes at the venerable Balocco proving ground between Milan and Turin, where we’ve previously clipped apexes and exposed tyre cords in the likes of the Giulia Quadrifoglio, 8C Competizione, 4C and SZ

We are at the test track mainly because the car is still not fully homologated but you could interpret it as a testament to the engineers’ confidence in the Junior’s propensity to entertain, and small wonder given that many of them were pulled straight onto the development programme from fine-tuning the rip-snorting, track-honed Giulia GTA. Not that anyone at Alfa, perhaps understandably, has gone so far as to invite direct comparisons between the two.

It’s also an obvious statement of intent. It might be Alfa’s first electric car but the Junior shares its fundamentals with a whole host of similarly conceived small EVs from Peugeot, Vauxhall, Citroën, Fiat and Jeep - and we didn’t glean our first impressions of any of them on a circuit. But there are some crucial and wide-reaching differences to consider here. 

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As one executive we spoke to put it: “A platform is not just everything beneath the badge.” So while the Junior is dimensionally and proportionally a close match for the Avenger and 600, for example, it’s far more homegrown than you might expect - particularly in the case of the hot Veloce range-topper we’ve driven here. Reassuring given the praise that was markedly not heaped on the Stellantis-platformed Tonale for its handling credentials.


alfa romeo junior veloce review 2024 02 front tracking

Like so many segment-straddlers before it, the Junior is difficult to pigeonhole into any one clear market category before you see it - and even then it’s not immediately obvious.

It bears emphasising, though, that it’s deceptively small, at just 4173mm bumper to bumper and 1505mm Tarmac to top - just 25mm taller than a Giulietta, don’cha know? Segmentation be damned: let’s call a spade a spade and recognise the Junior for what it really is: a family hatchback that’s had a growth spurt. In practice, it’s no more an SUV than it is a steamroller. 

Striking with it, too. As the bellwether for a new design era at Alfa Romeo, the Junior ushers in a raft of distinctive and disruptive styling cues that nod to the brand’s heritage – clock the ‘scudetto’ grille, ‘telephono’ wheels and ‘coda tronca’ rear end – while looking ahead to the electrified, digitised era with all the clever air intake trickery and LED illuminations you’d expect.


Felix Page driving Alfa Romeo Junior

It’s a fresh start inside, too - of sorts. The switchgear is mostly familiar from every other mainstream Stellantis product, but Alfa’s commitment to driver engagement manifests in a cockpit arrangement that is at once cosseting and focused but prevailingly practical.

The instruments are arranged clearly and thoughtfully in the charismatic cannochiale binnacle, behind a flat-bottomed, Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel that’s enticingly chunky of rim and endowed with a sensible amount of physical buttons and switches. There’s a 10.25in touchscreen pride of place, naturally, but it’s on hand to help rather than hinder, with sensibly arranged menu structures, quick response times and impressively crisp graphics.

The low seating position, driver-facing dashboard and high centre console all help to create a cosy, cocooning ambience that helps to psychologically shrink the Junior. Speaking of cosy, I wouldn’t mind the Veloce’s bucket-style seats – comfortable enough though they are – to be a bit wider between the bolsters (this isn’t an actual sports car, remember) and the 400-litre boot is small for the class and you’d have no trouble filling it with the requisite kit for just a family day out.

Otherwise, for outright space and utility, it’s on a par with its platform-mates. The rear seats will accommodate a pair of adults semi-comfortably for short hops, there’s enough cubbies and boxes for all your chewing gum wrappers and even a few neat tricks to boost usability: the mock engine cover hides a dedicated charge cable storage bay, for example, and the boot floor can be adjusted through three levels for ease of loading. 


alfa romeo junior veloce review 2024 20 front cornering

The warmed-up Veloce was revealed a few months ago with an adequate-sounding 237bhp and is now officially rated at an appreciably meatier 278bhp - identical, coincidentally, to the Veloce versions of the Giulia, Stelvio and Tonale. 

The floor covers a familiar 54kWh battery (usable capacity) – with enough juice for a pretty poor 208 miles of range and a faintly unimpressive 100kW maximum charge speed. That battery will be shared with the cooled-down standard car, launching shortly with 156bhp, a more acceptable 255-mile range and a more sedate chassis set-up.

There’s a pair of petrol cars inbound, too, one mildly hybridised and front-driven, and the other with an EV motor at the rear for four-wheel drive - though don’t expect the latter to cross the Channel any time soon. 

On paper, the Veloce would seem to represent the biggest bang for your buck. It’s quick, too, but not with that tiresome and rather passé whip-crack pace that’s amusing once or twice but then rarely ever deployed again.

Even in full-bore Dynamic mode, the Junior’s generous reserves are dished out considerately and predictably, rarely overwhelming yet always sufficient for a rapid exit from corners. The urgency tails off some way short of the claimed 124mph top speed, but there’s always a hefty dose of punch in reserve for overtakes at a cruise.

Based on experience of the Junior's platform-mates, I'd expect even the entry-level 156bhp EV to have enough shove on tap for zipping around town and whisking you up to a motorway cruise with no hassle, though it won't have quite the same grin factor. 


alfa romeo junior veloce review 2024 21 rear tracking

In what Alfa claims is a world-first for front-driven EVs (a tenuous claim even before you consider that sibling brand Abarth is doing the same with the new 600e), the Junior is equipped with a Torsen limited-slip differential to balance power across the front axle - minimising understeer and boosting precision.

The warmed-up car also sits 25mm lower and gains bespoke dampers, stiffer roll bars and a more direct steering rack with a characteristically Alfa-quick ratio of just 14.6:1. Huge, 380mm ventilated front discs (which make the comparatively diddy rears look a bit silly) are on hand to bring it all to an abrupt halt, and the sports wheels are wrapped in bespoke Michelin Pilot Sports for a dash of extra stickiness. 

The results are eye-opening. It will wash wide if you’re overly boisterous with your inputs mid-corner, and you can feel a dip in traction as you really start to unload the inside front, but after a couple of quick corners you quickly adapt your driving style to get the most out of the Junior. It’s a car that’s fun and rewarding to push to the limit, and not just in the context of what it is. 

Those beefed-up suspension components keep roll in check but do still allow you a sense of the weight transfer around the chassis in tight corners, which helps to build a sense of involvement on a fast, twisting stretch of heavily cambered B-road. 

The heightened agility and precision brought by the differential and rack, meanwhile, give the driver the confidence to probe the limits of what is genuinely quite a fast car. You can chuck it into corners at fairly silly speeds, safe in the knowledge that the front axle will do what’s needed to pull it cleanly out the other side. Naturally, with that much power going through the steered wheels, it can get a bit scrabbly and chirpy, but the traction control is quick to combat any slippage and keep you in the lines. 

Crucially, though, is that it’s fun - far more so than any car of this shape and size I’ve driven, electric or otherwise. It will be a slightly uncomfortable truth for traditionalists to confront, but the closest comparable car on sale currently – in terms of price, positioning, weight, power and performance – is the Ford Focus ST, and while the petrol car burns the brightest flame for engagement and driver thrills, the disparity is not so overt as you might think. 

This surprising dynamic calibre does not seem to have been instilled at the expense of rolling refinement, which is probably testament to the stringent focus on weight-saving throughout the cabin, bodyshell and chassis - Alfa touting the Junior as the lightest car in its segment. Even with the Veloce’s almost comically outsized 20in alloys, the Junior remains composed over cobbles and quiet at a cruise, if prone to a bit of jolting and juddering.


alfa romeo junior veloce review 2024 25 rear static

Perhaps counterintuitively, we’ve tried the Junior first in the flavour that’s destined to be the least popular. Alfa estimates that around 70% of Junior sales will be electric in the short to medium term, and of them just 10% will be of the sporting variety. But while we wait to try the main course, this is quite the aperitif. 

The absolute and uncorrupted essence of Alfa Romeo it is not, but the brand's first electric car – and its most mainstream-focused model in years – was always going to be fairly resolutely anti-traditionalist in its conception. What's remarkable is that it makes Alfa ownership a much more credible prospect for a much wider market, without entirely sacrificing the nuanced dynamic character and design flair that have always given its cars an edge over direct rivals. 

Much of the Veloce’s distinct dynamic appeal stems from its highly bespoke chassis tuning and heated-up electricals, but first impressions suggest the Junior will be fundamentally a well-rounded and appealing family runaround, irrespective of specification. 

Felix Page

Felix Page
Title: Deputy editor

Felix is Autocar's deputy editor, responsible for leading the brand's agenda-shaping coverage across all facets of the global automotive industry - both in print and online.

He has interviewed the most powerful and widely respected people in motoring, covered the reveals and launches of today's most important cars, and broken some of the biggest automotive stories of the last few years.