Alfa Romeo Junior Veloce Review: A Sign Of Hope For The EV Future

Combining low-ish weight with petrol hot hatch-like driving manners, the Junior gives us hope for the future, albeit with a few snags
Alfa Romeo Junior Veloce, front 3/4, driving
Alfa Romeo Junior Veloce, front 3/4, driving

Pros

Hot hatch-like driving experience
Striking looks

Cons

Still not as fun as an ICE hot hatch
Expensive

Right now, it seems there are two main schools of thought when it comes to making a performance EV. You either give it all-wheel drive, a metric shit tonne of power and all manner of gizmos, like the Hyundai Ioniq 5 N, the most convincing fast EV we’ve yet tried. Or, you go for something light with a single motor, keep the weight down, and don’t worry so much about straight-line performance, like the Alfa Romeo Junior Veloce.

Yes, we’re talking about that Alfa which was known to the world as the ‘Milano’ for all of two days, before the Italian government kicked up a fuss about a car being named after an Italian city despite being made in another country. Away from the headlines (which had the unintended effect of bringing in a boatload of free marketing), it turns out the Junior is actually pretty interesting in its range-topping Veloce guise because Alfa has done a lot more than just whack on a beefier motor.

Said motor powers the front wheels, unusually for an EV, via a mechanical limited-slip differential from Torsen. The car sits 25mm lower than other Juniors and has a wider track, thicker anti-roll bars and bespoke Michelin Pilot Sport EV tyres. Finally, there’s a 14.6:1 steering ratio, which is fast for a car like this, if not as speedy as the rack in the Giulia and Stelvio.

Alfa Romeo Junior Veloce, front, driving
Alfa Romeo Junior Veloce, front, driving

Going back to the motor, it mysteriously gained some extra power during the homologation phase of the car, kicking out 276bhp for a 0-62mph time of 5.9 seconds. Comfortably quicker than both the new Mini Cooper SE and the Abarth 500e, in other words. 

As is often the case with EVs, though, it never feels massively fast, due to the nature of the power delivery. There’s a nice kick up the arse when you put your foot down, but after that, it’s all very linear. Things get more exciting if you boot it mid-corner, though. You can light up the front wheels quite nicely, and although it’s - frustratingly - only possible to bin off the traction control at low speeds, the system is lenient enough to allow for a fair bit of slip.

The effect of the differential is obvious, with a noticeable tightening of your line under power. The level of traction is impressive - really, you need to be applying unreasonable amounts of throttle on tight corners to get wheelspin at the front.

Alfa Romeo Junior Veloce, rear 3/4, driving
Alfa Romeo Junior Veloce, rear 3/4, driving

Do this with an ambitious entry speed, then back off the throttle at the right time, and there’s even a hint of lift-off oversteer. We’re not talking masses of tail-wagging - only once did I manage to unsettle it enough to need a touch of opposite lock. But even so, it shows the Junior Veloce has an old-school hot hatch-like fun side.

Even when you’re not purposefully trying to upset the car, it’s a fun thing to drive. The fast steering helps, even if it is a little light and wanting for feedback. More of it, most likely, is down to the weight figure. Setting itself apart from those high-power, high-complexity all-wheel drive EVs like the Ioniq 5 N, the Junior Veloce weighs only 1590kg, some 600kg less than the Hyundai and about 800kg less than something like a Porsche Taycan. Meanwhile, it’s not massively heavier than a traditional ICE hot hatch like a Ford Focus ST.

The effect of this is a car that changes direction eagerly, stops keenly, and generally likes to be chucked around. If you were to ignore the lack of gears or engine noise (admittedly hard to do), you might well think you’re in a petrol hot hatch - in terms of handling, it really isn’t that far away. It also does all this without comfort being compromised too much. Admittedly, driving was limited only to Alfa Romeo’s Balocco proving grounds, but the course we used does a decent job of replicating real roads, and includes many a crappy surface.

Alfa Romeo Junior Veloce, interior, driving
Alfa Romeo Junior Veloce, interior, driving

Crucially, the Junior feels distinct enough from the many other cars that use this Common Modular platform, including the Jeep Avenger. But, it’s still not an entirely effective substitute for the ‘real deal’, which leaves the Junior Veloce with a bit of a problem. A driving enthusiast will still have more fun with that aforementioned Focus ST, which at £37,000 is going to be a whole load cheaper than the expected £40,000+ Junior Veloce price tag, unless they’re taking advantage of its low tax figure as a company car.

The entry-level electric Junior with its 150bhp motor will do fine for most while costing a more reasonable £34,000, while the three-pot hybrid is a massive chunk less again at £24,000. These versions still look the same, and that’s - for the most part - very nice indeed. It looks great from the front with its SZ-inspired headlights and the usual ‘trefoil’ grille, a bit more generic from the back, and quite nice from the side on one of the sets of available teledial wheels.

Alfa Romeo Junior Veloce, interior
Alfa Romeo Junior Veloce, interior

Inside, there are some cheaper feeling bits like the door cards and the plasticky air vents, and there are all sorts of familiar bits we’ve been seeing in Peugeots and Citroens for years already, but it’s a far nicer space in there than the Tonale. Alfa Romeo hopes the model as a whole will bring a whole bunch of new people to the brand, with some 80 per cent of buyers expected to be of the conquest variety.

Given the hoards of dull, generic-looking new cars kicking around, a decent amount of pretty-looking Alfas in the mix can only be a good thing. As it uses tried and tested bits and pieces, it’s a car that can be recommended easily - it merely comes down to whether you prefer the looks and cabin of the Alfa or one of the other platform mates like the Avenger.

Alfa Romeo Junior Veloce, brake calliper
Alfa Romeo Junior Veloce, brake calliper

And as for the Veloce, it’s going to be more of a niche choice. But who cares if it doesn’t set the sales charts alight - it’s a sign that electric cars can be fun, light and reasonably simple. Here’s hoping for more of the same in the years to come.

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