The Alfa Romeo Giulia was an eagerly-awaited car. On the face of it, the chances of Alfa creating an executive saloon to rival the likes of the BMW 3-series and Audi A4 seemed unlikely. But it arrived in the UK, on a wave of media praise and accolades. The most exciting model is the Giulia Quadrifoglio: a 2.9-litre, 510PS fire-breather with rear-wheel drive and a £61,595 price tag. But we will have to save that review for another date (don’t worry, we’re working on it!) For now though, let’s take a look at one of the more ‘mortal’ models. We got hold of a 2.2-litre diesel Giulia Super to see if it really has the goods to take on the Germans.
Looks – 9/10
If there’s one thing you can be sure of, it’s that an Alfa Romeo will have style. The Giulia is no exception. I hear people say it’s not as nice as previous models, but I disagree. I mean just look at it. The sleek lines that frame the signature inverted triangular grille continue right up the bonnet. The offset front number plate is a nice touch, as is the large honeycomb pattern on the grilles. To the side, a prominent sweeping line from the front wing breaks up what is a curvaceous, fluid side profile. At the rear the natural lip in the boot lid is all the spoiler you need. Twin exhaust pipes provide both symmetry and a sporty image. My test car had optional 18-inch alloy wheels with a matt finish, and they looked superb against the Silverstone Grey of my test car. That being said, the standard wheels aren’t the best, which is disappointing when the rest of the exterior is so handsome.
When opening the door of an Italian sports saloon, you know what to expect. And that’s exactly what you get in the Alfa Romeo Giulia. Sumptuous, leather bucket seats feature the Alfa Romeo logo embossed on the headrest. The steering wheel is big, but flat-bottomed. It even has the engine start button on the wheel, which is the obvious sign of a sports car. The dashboard is fluid, from the deep pods of the instruments, sweeping down over the integrated 8.8-inch Uconnect screen to the prominent circular air vent to the passenger side. If you have the Performance Pack, the fixed-position gear shift paddles are prominent. There are a host of colour options available in the cabin, from the seats to the finishers and even the stitching. Build quality feels good, but unfortunately there are still some iffy plastics about, mostly on the lowermost parts of the doors and dashboard. And that’s a shame.
Handling/Performance – 8/10
The engine in our Alfa Romeo Giulia Super was a 2.2-litre diesel. It puts out a respectable 180PS and 450Nm of torque. This power is sent to the rear wheels – yes this is a proper driver’s car – through an 8-speed automatic gearbox. And thanks to the Giulia’s slim figure of 1,445kg the 2.2 Super can get a shift on. 0-62mph takes just 7.1 seconds and the top speed is 143mph. I think the 8-speed gearbox helps on the acceleration front, and it is simply a delight to drive. On the motorway it keeps the diesel engine to its quietest. When you drive a little more enthusiastically it offers instant changes to keep you on the wave of torque. This is a good engine, and it comes with Alfa’s D.N.A. drive mode select as standard. But somehow a diesel just doesn’t seem to suit a sporty Alfa Romeo such as this. Especially when the alternative is a 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine: with either 200PS or 280PS.
My test car was fitted with the optional Performance pack (£1,950) which adds a limited-slip differential, steering wheel paddles and adaptive suspension. And it’s worth every penny. Because now when you select ‘Dynamic’ on the D.N.A. system, the suspension firms up, the throttle response sharpens, and with those huge gear shift paddles you feel like a racing driver. Even a modest B-road turns into a rally stage, and I have been in few diesel saloon cars that made me feel this involved in the drive. The steering is perfectly weighted and surprisingly sharp. And although 180PS doesn’t sound a lot on paper, the Giulia feels fast. The car is well balanced, and thanks to rear-wheel drive there’s no annoying axle tramp or excessive understeer.
Economy – 10/10
As well as being perfectly capable of hauling the Giulia around, the 2.2-litre diesel is rather economical. It has Start&Stop technology. The 8-speed automatic gearbox keeps the revs at an optimal level whatever the speed. Selecting the ‘All-weather’ mode on the Alfa D.N.A. system gives a more gradual power delivery. Great in adverse weather, indeed, but also great for a more economical drive. Fuel consumption is an impressive 67.3mpg on the combined cycle, and CO2 emissions are a mere 109g/km. That equates to a first payment of £140 upon vehicle registration, and £140 thereafter. Just be careful, because it is possible to tip this car over £40k (my test car was) and that will bring with it a £310 surcharge for 5 years.
Practicality – 8/10
So what’s the Alfa Rome Giulia like to live with? Well, in the front it has ample space. The driving position is superb: the seat and steering wheel has great adjustment to ensure you can set them up so everything is perfectly within reach. Move on to the back of the car, and you will find a frustrating lack of leg room. I’m 5ft7in, and a taller adult would struggle to sit behind me for a longer drive. As with any saloon, the boot is vast albeit with a limited opening. Standard equipment on the Giulia Super includes Alfa D.N.A. driving mode selector, autonomous emergency braking, rear parking sensors, forward collision warning and an 8.8-inch Uconnect navigation and multimedia system. For an extra £950 you can add the Driver Assistance Pack Plus: reversing camera, dimming rear-view and wing mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, auto high beam and blind spot detection with cross-path alert.
Fun – 10/10
I have tried my best to avoid the usual clichés that make up the review of an Alfa Romeo. I could have talked about ‘heart’, ‘soul’ and ‘passion’; but I haven’t. The problem is we are now in the section of the review where I must explain what it is about the Giulia that puts a smile on your face. The styling is superb, and unlike German rivals that’s true of all models. Barring the wheels – of which there are some boring choices – even the entry-level Giulia looks great. The drive is engaging, especially with the optional Performance, which complements the D.N.A. system. The Uconnect system works well, and can be enhanced by a Sound Theatre by Harmon Kardon (£950), to create the perfect driving soundtrack. But above all what puts a smile on your face is the sheer ‘Alfa’-ness of the car. It tells other motorists you like cars: cars with heart, soul and passion. (I couldn’t help it).
The Alfa Romeo Giulia has a lot of things going for it. The looks, even on the base models, are exciting. Not like you would expect any less from an Alfa. The 8-speed automatic gearbox compliments the 2.2-litre diesel, making it a brilliant motorway cruiser. But with the optional Performance Pack it turns into an exciting sporty saloon. The Alfa Romeo Giulia has a lot of character, and it certainly has the goods to compete with its rivals. But it isn’t perfect: rear legroom could be better, and the 2.2 diesel isn’t the most refined at higher revs. I can forgive these minor issues, because from the driver’s seat, I felt like the Giulia was designed with me in mind. This is a driver’s car, which evokes an emotive response amongst petrolheads. In other words: it’s a proper Alfa. The Giulia range starts from £29,875. My test car, with a few options, was a touch under £41,000. That’s perhaps a little closer to rivals than I would have hoped, and it remains to be seen what the residuals will be. So for now, why not head over to the Alfa Romeo website and configure yours. Now where’s that Quadrifolgio…