Alfa Romeo Giulietta at Brands Hatch

Players from Harlequins rugby club raced the cars around the famous circuit to celebrate the brand’s third year sponsoring the rugby union side.

The Cloverleaf model, named after the badge adorning Alfa’s famous racing cars of the last 100 years, is fitted with a 1.75-litre turbocharged engine capable of 235bhp and delivers a 0-62mph sprint time of 6.8 seconds.

Designed as a competitor to the evergreen Volkswagen Golf GTI, the Cloverleaf version of the Giulietta impressed ‘Quins stars Nick Evans, Will Skinner and Chris Robshaw at the track.

The players were assessed in different areas, including changing gear, taking the racing line and use of power.

New Zealander Evans, who won the race on the day, said: "It was a great day and we thoroughly enjoyed putting the Giuliettas through their paces – they can certainly handle."

The Alfa Romeo Giulietta was launched last year to compete in the hatchback market with the likes of the Vauxhall Astra and Ford Focus.

The five-door hatchback offers three trim levels in addition to the Cloverleaf version; Turismo, Lusso and Veloce. Petrol and diesel models are available, including an efficient 1.4-litre MultiAir petrol engine offering 36.2mpg in fuel economy and 134g/km of CO2 emissions.

The Giulietta was awarded a five-star EuroNCAP safety rating on its release in 2010 and offers typical Italian styling with Fiat’s award-winning engine technology.

Alfa has used the 8C Competizione supercar to influence the design of the Giulietta hatchback and the upmarket look includes LED headlamps, alloy wheels and a new, premium interior.

Starting from £17,450 on-the-road, the Alfa Romeo Giulietta is available from UK dealers now.