What is it?
The Alfa Romeo Giulia is the Italian brand’s latest mid-sized saloon, competing in the most competitive sector of the premium market.
Bold styling, rear-wheel-drive, all-wheel-drive top model
The Alfa Romeo Giulia maintains much of the reputation long held by the Italian brand, being a very stylish, sporty contender but with a host of minor irritations that take the edge off its appeal.
However, the car offers enough to make it worthy of consideration for those wanting something different to the mass-selling mostly German rivals such as the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4.
Its diesel engines, in particular, feel pacey but return impressive economy and emissions. On the road, it displays impressive ride quality, while still driving like a sporty car. And it offers a good selection of standard equipment with an impressive standard safety package.
There is quite a lot riding on the success of the Alfa Romeo Giulia. The Italian brand has always considered itself a premium player, pitching itself against the might of the German badges of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
Problem is, competing against these brands means taking on the all-conquering Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. And Alfa hasn’t been doing that since 2011, when the not exactly earth-shattering 159 was discontinued.
In that time not only have the Germans upped their game, but British pretender Jaguar has carved itself a place with the much-admired XE. The Alfa Romeo Giulia, reviving one of the Italian brand’s most classic badges not seen for close on four decades, faces pretty tough competition.
On paper, there is much to breed optimism. Firstly, the car looks the part. Built on the same brand-new platform as the Stelvio SUV, it offers sharp, purposeful proportions, with a very attractive version of the deep plunging vee-grille that really makes one wish that front registration plates were not mandatory in the UK. Its distinctive profile will certainly stand out amongst a sea of 3 Series and A4 clones.
That platform is also rear-wheel-drive, with an all-wheel-drive big-engined top model available too. This suggests that the Giulia should have the performance to go with the visual promise.
Buying and owning an Alfa Romeo Giulia
Potential buyers of the Alfa Romeo Giulia are not short of choice – the range includes five engine options from frugal to frantic, all of them we are told new units, and six trim levels.
The majority of customers are likely to be driving the Giulia as some form of company car, so two versions of a 2.2-litre turbodiesel form the core of the range, with either 150 or 180hp on tap.
With the increasing shift to petrol, Alfa Romeo will no doubt be glad that the Giulia range includes a 2.0-litre unit with 200hp, along with the 280hp 2.0-litre unit exclusively offered in the Veloce model.
The range-topping Quadrifoglio, meanwhile, is a serious performance machine. The Quadrifoglio employs a 2.9-litre V6 bi-turbo petrol engine of some 510hp, along with 600Nm of torque and all-wheel drive. Such potency propels the Giulia into the very exclusive climes of the sub-four second club, achieving 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds.
Sadly there is just one transmission available, an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic. While such gearboxes are normal in the executive market, the availability of a proper manual shift, particularly for the performance-pitched Quadrifoglio, would be desirable.
Giulia prices start from £29,875, which buys the entry-level 2.0-litre petrol car. An extra £1,700 gains the second level Super Trim, while the cheapest diesel, the 150hp variant in Super trim, costs £32,115.
At £33,315 the 180hp diesel Super is £1,200 more than its 150hp sibling. Both diesels are also available in Technica trim – which was formerly just £245 more than Super but since September 2017, weirdly, retails for £1,080 less! The 180hp version is also offered as a mainstream range-topping Speciale model at £35,515.
The Veloce sits above the rest of the range at prices from £38,260, while the Quadrifoglio, with its engine sourced from a little-known Alfa Romeo sister brand called Ferrari, has its own exalted status at prices starting from £61,595…
A definite highlight of the standard specification is the highly-awarded safety package. Autonomous emergency braking is included on all cars, as part of a forward collision warning system that also encompasses pedestrian recognition. Also standard on all cars is lane departure warning, resulting in the Giulia not only gaining a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating, but also the best–ever score at the time for adult passenger protection at 98%.
Despite DAB digital radio, parking sensors and cruise control all being standard on the entry-level trim, Super is a preferable choice if budgets allow. The alloy wheels are 17-inch instead of 16, the seats gain leather bits and notably, the centre console screen grows from six inches to almost nine, and includes navigation.
Inside the Alfa Romeo Giulia
Generally, the Giulia is spacious inside with a good-sized boot, though it is much more a four-seater than five-seater. The slope of the rear roofline might also prove slightly uncomfortable for taller occupants in the back seats.
Alfa Romeo has always been known for style and the Giulia interior certainly meets the brief. For a start, it’s quite minimalist, with no host of buttons and switches complicating matters, just the controls one needs.
The dash and instrument panel look as though they have been crafted, with lots of pleasing swoops, deep-set binnacles for the instruments and the like, and all slightly angled towards the driver’s position. Particularly impressive is the infotainment screen, contained behind a big glass panel that makes it appear truly integrated with the car, much more so than those on German rivals.
The trouble is, while maybe not so stylish, the interior fit and finish on those German rivals feels more solid than does the Alfa’s. And the Italian contender irritates in lots of little ways. The switches and knobs do not quite feel as decisive in action, even though the big rotary dial that controls most of the infotainment functions is quite easy to use. And that screen might look good at rest, but is less impressive in action, the graphics, in particular, a bit ‘last generation’.
Driving the Alfa Romeo Giulia
Our test car is diesel powered and the immediate question when choosing the oil burner is 150hp or 180hp? The only relevant factor is cost.
At 7.1 seconds the more powerful engine is 1.1 sec quicker to 62mph than its less potent sister – yet it quotes the same combined cycle fuel economy and CO2 emissions. Both of these are impressive at 67.3mpg and 109g/km respectively.
This efficiency by no means restricts the car’s performance appeal. Alfa Romeo has a reputation for pace and the diesel engines maintain it. While a little noisy at idle, the engine in our test car quickly evens out under acceleration and feels as swift as it is.
The lack of a manual gearbox is a shame, but the eight-speed auto is very efficient and smooth. And if you really must shift yourself, on all models above the entry-level Giulia the spec does include steering wheel paddles.
Playing its part to the full is the chassis. To succeed in this market the Giulia must take on the epitome of on-the-road excellence that is the BMW 3 Series, and it does a very good job of it. The chassis is slightly on the stiff side, but this does not transmit itself into the cabin, and miles of motorway progress will not leave occupants fatigued.
In corners, the Giulia’s power steering is rapid to the touch, perhaps too much so, which does lead to corrections when cornering enthusiastically. However, the body stays upright and never feels any less than totally stable.
In many ways the Giulia is a typical Alfa Romeo – it is chock full of the style that the Italian brand does so well, while also retaining many of the minor irritations that seem to be equally reminiscent of this badge.
However, the Giulia also offers enough to allow one to overlook its little foibles. Its diesel engines, in particular, feel pacey but return impressive economy and emissions. On the road, it displays impressive ride quality, while still driving like a sporty car.
The Alfa Romeo Giulia will never be as numerous in the company car park as the mass-selling German machines – and that could make it an appealing option, especially for the fleet driver looking for something just a little different.