£30,000 - £55,000 Price range
35 - 67 MPG
The Alfa Romeo Giulia is the Italian company’s latest offering in the fiercely competitive small executive class, whose ranks include rivals such as the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-Class and Audi A4. It’s due on sale in the UK in September 2016.
While we don’t often talk about looks, most people will agree it’s one of the most eye-catching new models of 2016, with flowing lines and a ground-hugging V-shaped grille that mark it out in what is a notoriously conservative class.
The interior also wins points for its sporty feel. The dials are heavily cowled, you get a three-spoke steering wheel that looks great, shapely circular air vents and metal pedals. Despite this, it can’t quite match the build quality offered by its German rivals.
The steering is the quickest in the class, helping the Alfa feel very responsive in corners and the suspension strikes a nice balance between comfort and control. All models get Alfa’s DNA system that lets you choose from three driving modes – Dynamic (the sportiest), Natural (read normal) and Advanced Efficiency.
UK buyers can choose between four engines – a 2.2-litre diesel with 148 or 178hp, a 197hp turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol, or a 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged petrol V6 that’s been fettled by Ferrari to produce a massive 503hp.
An eight-speed automatic gearbox – an expensive option in most rivals – comes as standard, along with 16-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, cruise control and an automatic emergency braking system.
The Giulia looks great in any colour, but to see them all in one place and compare – head over to our detailed colours guide.
Rumours are hinting that Alfa could launch a larger saloon, called the Alfetta, to sit above the Giulia and compete with the likes of the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes E-Class and Audi A6. Find out how this new car could look by reading out dedicated Alfa Romeo Alfetta price, specs and release date article or check out the Italian brand’s upcoming SUV with our exclusive Stelvio render.
Alfa Romeo has made a real effort to make the Giulia feel sporty inside and, in this respect, it leads the class. The hooded dials could have been borrowed from Alfa saloons of the past and the three-spoke steering wheel isn’t just pleasing on the eye, it’s pleasant to hold, too – with a rim that’s isn’t needlessly fat in your hands.
We would recommend going for the luxury pack, which lifts the interior plushness significantly with leather and electrically adjustable heated seats, plus bare wood trim.
Sub-par build quality is something Italian saloons have been known for in the past and, sadly, the Giulia doesn’t banish that reputation completely. We drove two cars and both had small issues including a whistling ventilation system and shaky passenger seat that vibrated over bumps. Although fit and finish was generally fine, it can’t match exacting German standards and the plastics used for the control stalks and gearbox selector felt cheap.
The infotainment system performed flawlessly and we took no wrong turns in two hours of driving – a rare occurrence, believe us. Its screen is a little dimly lit and the graphics not quite as crisp as some, but the controls are easy with a straightforward scroll knob between the two front seats. We would prefer it if the map’s zoom function was quicker to access – handy if, say, you want to preview your route when you’re late for your flight back from the Giulia launch.
Passenger space is decent for the class with room to comfortably accommodate four six-footers and more headroom in the back than a Mercedes C-Class. Taller adults sitting in the front passenger seat may find legroom a little down on some rivals, but you’d only really notice this when struck with the urge to stretch your legs on a long journey.
Cubby spaces cause more of an issue – to our eyes the door bins would struggle to swallow a litre bottle of water and the space under the front centre armrest isn’t particularly useful either.
The Alfa’s 480-litre boot capacity is among the best in class, although a decent chunk of underfloor space is taken up by polystyrene filler that holds a small bottle of tyre repair fluid.
While the Giulia’s adaptive cruise control will soon be joined by a suite of autonomous driving aids, company bosses were keen to stress that this is a driver’s car first and foremost.
It has the quickest steering in the class so a series of bends can be dispatched with minimal steering inputs. There’s no denying that the car darts into corners with real verve, aided by its rear-wheel drive setup, but unnatural weighting and limited feedback mean it’s not as rewarding to drive quickly as a BMW 3 Series.
In fact, the steering’s a little too quick for the suspension which errs on the side of comfort and leans more than you might expect in a sports saloon. On the flip side it’s rarely uncomfortable, though, making the Giulia a relaxing cruiser on the motorway even if road and wind noise chip away from this ability a little.
You’ll struggle to notice the eight-speed automatic gearbox as it shuffles through the gears and, in manual mode, it responds to your demands quickly. Fans of winding back roads should consider specifying the optional steering-wheel mounted metal shift paddles, which let you change gear quickly with your hands on the wheel and feel significantly nicer to use than the plasticky standard shifter.
While the Ferrari-engined Quadrifoglio might have grabbed all the attention, ultimately it’s the diesel versions that will make or break the car in the eyes of most buyers.
Alfa Romeo Giulia diesel engines
In the UK, we’ll get to choose from two 2.2-litre models with either 148 or 178hp. Alfa Romeo was keen to inject a sporty feel into them and the result is that the top-spec version we tried revs keenly with an even power delivery. However, that also means it does without the kind of effortless power that makes diesels an appealing choice if you spend a lot of time on the motorway and, in truth, the car we drove never felt as quick as the healthy 332Ib ft of torque would suggest – even if it does get from 0-62mph in a nippy 7.1 seconds.
While we enjoy the shove of a diesel engine, we buy them for their excellent fuel economy and in this department the Giulia doesn’t let the side down – frugally drinking fuel at 67.2mpg and emitting CO2 emissions of 109g/km for an attractive annual road tax bill of just £20 and low company car tax.
Alfa Romeo Giulia petrol engines
For many Alfa fans only a petrol model will do and the cheapest is the 197hp MultiAir 2.0-litre. Its sparkly engine note is significantly more appealing than the relative drone of the diesel engines and its keener to rev, too – feeling sportier as a result. The lighter engine means it even handles better and it has more of the performance you might expect of an Italian saloon – getting from 0-62mph in a hot-hatch-worrying 6.6 seconds.
The extra turn of speed doesn’t come hand in hand with big running costs – fuel economy of around 50mpg should be possible, which might not be up to diesel standards, but falls well within the realms of affordability.
Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio
On the outside the 503hp Giulia Quadrifoglio gets numerous aerodynamic additions that make it look far more aggressive than the standard car while, from behind the wheel, it feels sporty thanks to body-hugging sports seats and lots of carbon fibre trim pieces.
Cranking the engine leaves you in no doubt that this is something special – it burbles at idle before transforming into a Ferrari-like scream at higher engine speeds.
We sampled the car at Alfa Romeo’s Balocco test track on a rain-sodden day, where it proved itself to sit firmly on the scary side of rapid. It gets from 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds – nearly half-a-second quicker than a BMW M3 – and makes you rethink what performance is possible from an everyday executive saloon.
While some manufacturers bamboozle their customers with various specifications and a wide selection of options packs, Alfa Romeo keeps things simple with just two models to choose from – Giulia and Giulia Super – and a couple of self-explanatory packs called Luxury and Sport.
Alfa Romeo Giulia
Everything you could hope to have on an entry-level small executive saloon comes as standard on the Giulia including cruise control, autonomous braking, alloy wheels, the firm’s Connect infotainment system and the excellent eight-speed automatic gearbox.
Alfa Romeo Giulia Super
Super models look smarter thanks to their 17-inch alloy wheels that are a better match for the car than the 16-inch versions on the basic model. The interior is also spruced up by the addition of half-leather seats and steering-wheel mounted paddles for operating the automatic gearbox.
Alfa Romeo Giulia Luxury Pack
Using either model as a base, the Luxury Pack adds a sizeable dose of, well – luxury! That comes thanks to smart naked wood trim and a full leather interior. The car’s seats are also heated and electrically adjustable, while the windows get chrome-look surrounds and more powerful xenon headlights than the basic model.
Alfa Romeo Giulia Sport Pack
The Sport Pack, meanwhile, ditches the wood veneer in favour of aluminium trim, but loses the authentic Italian feel, some of which is won back by the addition of a sports steering wheel. It also has xenon headlights.
Harald Wester, Alfa Romeo’s CEO, has called the Giulia a “make or break car” for the company and it’s clear a lot of thought has gone into its design. Its gorgeous looks, quick steering and free-revving diesel engine mean it offers something unique to the market, it is sure to appeal to Alfa fans or anyone looking for an alternative to a German saloon.
But, in a segment where build quality is king, the Giulia can’t compete with the likes of BMW, Audi or Mercedes and, for that reason, it’s likely to remain a less-popular choice in what is a brutally tough class.