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
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.
The Giulia's suspension is a little unsettled in town but only the Jaguar XE can put as big a smile on your face
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 wrythe 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.