Alfa Romeo Giulia Review
The Alfa Romeo Giulia is a sleek, stand-out saloon car that’s spacious and enjoyable to drive. Audi and BMW alternatives beat it on interior quality.
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If you’re looking for a mid-size saloon car, but don’t want to lose it in a corporate car park among all the BMWs and Audis, the Alfa Romeo Giulia is a solid contender. Its characterful looks are joined by efficient engines and pretty good practicality.
Unlike similar alternatives such as the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series, the Alfa Romeo Giulia has a much bolder exterior design and is a sure head-turner if you spec it in Alfa Romeo’s signature bright red. There are, of course, tamer colour choices but even in grey, the Giulia looks more exciting than its German alternatives.
The stylish design continues inside. There, you’ll find a cockpit that’s slightly angled towards the driver, giving you better access to all the knobs and buttons. That said, some of the plastics you touch, such as around the centre console, are a step behind what you’d find in a BMW.
Unfortunately, the Giulia’s infotainment system is also a step behind the iDrive system in a 3 Series. As standard, you get a 6.5-inch infotainment system, but it doesn’t have sat nav or smartphone screen mirroring so it’s worth updating to the 8.8-inch system. This does have sat nav, but the graphics, ease of use and functionality aren’t up to par with the best in class.
The Giulia claws back some points thanks to it’s great driving position that puts you low down, a bit like in a sports car. There’s good amounts of space up front and good kneerom in the back, once you’ve maneuvered around the protruding rear wheel arch, that is. Headroom in the back is better than in German alternatives, but the middle seat is too narrow for an adult passenger.
The Alfa Romeo Giulia is a car you buy mostly with your heart, but there's more than enough practical reasons for your brain to be happy too
You can get the Alfa Romeo Giulia with a selection of petrol and diesel engines, but there’s no hybrid yet. There’s also a 510hp performance model, but the 2.0-litre petrol should serve you well without the crazy running costs of the quickest model. Only pick the diesel if planning to do lots of long journeys since it’s a little loud and grumbly around town.
Arguably the Giulia’s best feature is the way it drives – put simply, there isn’t an alternative that can match its agility around fast corners, the directness of its steering wheel or the planted feel you get on twisty roads. The Jaguar XE comes close, but can’t quite match the Giulia in overall joy of driving. If there had to be a criticism, it has to be towards the ride, which is a tad unsettled over bumpy roads.
If you’re a keen driver, it’s worth going for the performance pack, which adds adaptive dampers and a limited-slip differential that’ll help shuffle power between the rear wheels for better traction. It’s a worthwhile upgrade not only because it improves the handling experience, but also because the adaptive dampers, when set to the softest setting, do take the edge of the worst bumps in the road.
All this adds up to a car that’s an absolute joy to drive with head-turning looks and an individualistic interior design. Yes, German alternatives beat it on quality and technology, but by looking at out Alfa Romeo Giulia deals, you can treat yourself to a level of equipment that may be out of budget on a BMW, for example.
The Alfa Romeo Giulia will let anyone get comfy in the front, but it’s not quite as spacious in the back; and, although the boot seems quite spacious on paper, it’s not as easy to use in daily life
It seems to have been ages coming, but finally here's an Italian executive car with a decent driving position
Basic Giulia models get front seats with six-way manual adjustment that’ll let you get comfy no matter how tall or short you are. The steering wheel also moves for height and reach, and the Giulia doesn’t suffer from the long-arm/short-leg driving position that used to be the preserve of Italian cars. Speciale models and above have seats that offer the same range of adjustment but move electrically.
Getting into the back of the Alfa is restricted by a wheel arch that eats into the door opening, but once you’re in knee room is plentiful. However, anyone over six foot will find headroom is tight – if not quite as tight as in the back of a Mercedes C-Class or Jaguar XE, but for most passengers, most of the time it is going to be absolutely fine.
Unfortunately, the Giulia’s not great for carrying three people in the back because the middle seat is a little bit uncomfortable and the hump in the floor means there’s not that much room for everyone’s feet. However, this is a common problem the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-Class and Jaguar XE also suffer from.
You’ll find it is easier to fit a child seat in those models because in the Alfa you have to navigate the larger top half of the seat around the protruding wheel arch. Once it’s in, though, it’s easy to fit the base of the seat.
The Giulia has plenty of interior cubby spaces, but they are rather small. Neither the front or the rear door bins will fit a large bottle of water – something an Audi A4 has no trouble doing – and the glovebox is also lacking in the size department. That said, you get two cupholders in the front and the back, and a deep storage area under the front centre armrest.
The Alfa Romeo has a 480-litre boot – it’s exactly the same size as the load bays in the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes C-Class, and 25 litres bigger than the Jaguar XE’s. However, it isn’t quite as usable as the on-paper figures suggest – the thin shape means it can’t quite carry as much as an Audi A4. It isn’t jampacked with features, either, but you do get a smaller storage area on the left-hand-side of the boot and a hidden cubby under the floor where you can hide valuables such as a camera.
The boot’s shape means a set of golf clubs has to be wedged in, but there’s plenty of space for a stroller and a soft bag or two. Because boot floor’s not very wide, it can only carry one large suitcase with a smaller one wedged in alongside it – again, you’ll fit more in an Audi A4.
Rear seats that fold and split 40:20:40 – so you can carry two rear-seat passengers and something long (like a snowboard) through from the boot – are standard on Speciale and Veloce model and a £255 option on the rest of the range. With them fitted, the Giulia can swallow a bike with its front wheel removed.
The Alfa Romeo changes direction like a cheetah that’s been fed pure caffeine and it has a decent range of engines, but it’s neither as comfortable nor as quiet as some German alternatives
The Giulia's suspension is a little unsettled in town but only the Jaguar XE can put as big a smile on your face
In a saloon that’s as overtly sporty as the Giulia it’s almost a hanging offence not to specify an smooth, snappy petrol engine over a rougher diesel. The entry-level 200hp 2.0-litre gets from 0-62mph in 6.6 seconds, making it faster than either of the diesel options. It also sounds nicer, responds quicker to prods on the accelerator and isn’t as noisy at a steady cruise. Fuel economy can’t match the diesels, but it isn’t half bad – Alfa reckons you’ll be able to eke out 47.9mpg, so the high 30s is a more realistic real-world figure.
The same engine’s also available with 280hp. Performance is very impressive – 0-62mph takes just 5.2 seconds as it spears onto a top speed of 149mph. It has enough mid-range grunt to overtake slower traffic without having to be thrashed, but pushing it to its limit is worth it simply to savour the exhaust’s growl, and official fuel economy of 46.3mpg is nothing to be ashamed of. This more powerful 2.0-litre is only available with Veloce trim, which comes with more powerful brakes and also the gearbox’s lovely metal paddle shifters as standard.
Choosing one of the 2.2-litre diesels might be contrary to the spirit of Giulia ownership, but their cheaper running costs make them a sensible buy if you cover lots of miles. Even the 150hp model gets from 0-62mph in 8.2 seconds, but it isn’t as keen to rev as the petrols, doesn’t sound as sweet and is also rougher than Audi diesels. The payoff for those sacrifices is fuel economy of 67.3mpg.
The 180hp version gets exactly the same fuel economy, yet accelerates from 0-62mph in 7.1 seconds. Which means, if you’ve got to go diesel, it’s the one to choose.
The Giulia is the first Alfa saloon in 25 years to be rear-wheel drive. As a result it grips hard in corners and has steering that doesn’t writhe in your hands under acceleration like an entry-level Audi A4’s. It’s worth mentioning the sweet-handling BMW 3 Series and Jaguar XE use the same setup.
Neither of those can shoot into corners with the enthusiasm that the Alfa displays, but the Jaguar feels more composed – the Giulia never truly settles over smaller bumps and it can feel a little bumpy when you’re not in the mood.
The jiggly suspension can be felt most in town, but other than that it isn’t a pain to drive in the city. There’s a bit of a blind spot caused by the pillars that run up the sides of the rear windscreen, but that’s only really an issue when pulling out into traffic. Even entry-level models have rear parking sensors so reversing into spaces isn’t a problem. The Alfa’s standard eight-speed automatic gearbox behaves well in all situations, but it comes into its own in the city, shifting smoothly and giving your left leg a rest from having to operate the clutch.
As the speeds rise the Giulia starts to settles down, and it’s quite comfortable on the motorway. There’s not much road noise to worry about, but the Alfa suffers from more wind noise than in the hushed Audi A4.
The Giulia scored five stars for safety when it was crash tested by Euro NCAP in 2016 – in fact, its 98-per-cent rating for adult safety was the highest posted that year. Autonomous emergency braking and a blind-spot monitoring system come as standard on all models, however hazard lights that flash when you brake hard are a little too keen to spring into life during normal driving.
The Alfa Romeo has a lovely looking interior that makes alternatives look about as sporty as a La-Z-Boy sofa, but its build quality is hit and miss