A manual gearbox is no longer the default choice for sports car fans. Take VW’s DSG or Porsche’s brilliant PDK systems, for example. Manufacturers and customers alike are now realising both the performance and economy benefits of fitting a self-shifter to their fast cars. So, how will Alfa’s latest hot hatch – complete with a six-speed dual-clutch auto – fare on our country roads?

On paper, the Giulietta QV looks good. It lifts the punchy 1.75-litre turbo petrol engine from the 4C coupe, along with the same dual-clutch auto box. It’s eight-tenths faster from 0-62mph than before and, thanks to the engine being lighter, slightly more economical, too.

• Best hot hatches to buy now

Unfortunately, despite the box, the QV simply doesn’t feel as urgent as a VW Golf GTI or SEAT Leon Cupra. Once you’re up to speed, it can cover ground at an alarming rate, but on a twisty B-road, you’ll find the car searching for gears.

The electronic diff struggles, too, leaving the front wheels scrabbling for grip on greasy tarmac. The ride is unbearably jittery at times and the standard 18-inch alloys are attracted to ruts in the road like magnets. A Ford Focus ST feels much more direct, and even with the QV in Dynamic mode, you won’t keep up with an Audi A3 quattro.

Visually, the Giulietta QV stands out like no other hot hatch, especially in the £490 matt-grey Magnesio paint on our test car. Inside, quality is still an issue, but the flashes of Italian on the dials and big Alfa logos are neat touches.

The real issue is the price, though. This QV Launch Edition costs in excess of £30,000, which is considerably more than its main rivals, including the Golf. It does benefit from cosy leather and Alcantara sports seats, sat-nav, dual-zone climate control and all-round parking sensors, but the fact that a SEAT Leon Cupra offers all of this without breaking the bank is damning.

In fact, the QV has very little to brag about over its rivals. The hot hatch game has moved on in the past five years, but the Giulietta hasn’t kept pace.

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