It seems the BMW 3 Series, the Mercedes C-Class and the Audi A4 won’t have the compact executive sector to themselves any longer. The Jaguar XE gets praise heaped on it from all corners of the motoring press, while the all-new Alfa Romeo Giulia might just be the most exciting of all.
Many critics believe the BMW is still the car to beat in the class, so what exactly is the new Alfa up against? We’re comparing the two side-by-side to check see how the latest challenger compares.
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A common theme for Alfa Romeo’s saloon models – they’re all very easy on the eye. The Giulia follows in the footsteps of the beautiful 156 and 159 with a very graceful look. The new car’s wheelbase is set to be the longest in the class, so short overhangs front and rear help it to look squat and sporty.
The basic shape of the 3 Series is clean and simple and, when fitted with the subtle M Sport body kit and larger alloy wheels, the proportions look spot on, too. Perhaps it’s a victim of its own popularity, but it isn’t the most head-turning of designs, especially when compared to the Alfa.
In order to compete with the best German offering in the sector, Alfa has produced an all-new cabin. A high centre console gives a sporty feel, along with the deeply cowled instruments ahead of the driver. Thanks to that long wheelbase, interior space should be competitive, though it remains to be seen how the boot measures up to the 3 Series’ 480-litre load bay.
The BMW scores big points here, thanks to a cabin which give a textbook example of how to get all the basics just right. All the plastics are of an impressive quality, the driving position is great, and the minimalist centre console is slightly angled towards the driver, boosting ergonomics. Head- and legroom in the back are more than accommodating enough to allow four people to while away a long journey.
Alfa’s last two attempts at a compact executive car have both been fairly engaging to drive, but each has ultimately fallen short of their closest rivals from Munich. Several major changes this time give the latest model a greater opportunity than ever to become the driving enthusiast’s choice in the class.
Unlike the front-wheel drive 159, power is now sent to the rear wheels, just like in the 3 Series, Mercedes C-Class and the Jaguar XE. Alfa also claims that weight distribution is 50:50 from front to back, which promises a finely balanced car. Its weight is set to drop below its closest rivals, so there’s undoubtedly potential for a car that’s fun to drive.
The Giulia’ chassis may be using a very similar formula to the BMW to ensure success, but the 3 Series has – on the whole – delivered on its potential already. There are one or two caveats, however – testers note that it isn’t as capable in the twisty bits as its predecessor, arguably lacking some of the fineness of old, and certainly missing some steering feel. It is, however, more comfortable than ever, which will be appreciated by drivers and passengers more of the time.
Aside from the range-topping Quadrifoglio Verde model, the Giulia’s engine lineup is yet to be confirmed. What we do know, however, is that there will be a range of petrol and diesel engines sporting either four- or six-cylinders. The new lineup will also be constructed mainly from aluminium in order to save weight.
It’s unlikely that the Giulia will offer the same range of engine choices as the 3 Series. In total, there are eleven engine options for the BMW – five petrol and six diesel. The preferred choice for company car users is the fuel-sipping 320d EfficientDynamics model – capable of 72.4mpg and with emissions of only 102g/km, it’s one of the most efficient units in the class. Regardless of which model you choose, power and economy figures are class-leading, while refinement is impressive, too.
Value for money
Details about the Giulia’s pricing are scarce currently. However, traditionally Alfa Romeo’s models tend to undercut the equivalent BMW by a couple of thousand pounds. In other words, we’d predict the entry-level petrol Giulia to cost around £23,000.
There was a time when base model 3 Series variants were best avoided, because they were generally very sparsely equipped. Thankfully, that’s no longer the case. Every new BMW is now fitted with satellite navigation as standard, so even buyers at the bottom of the 3 Series ladder won’t feel short changed.
Judging by the early details of the Giulia, it seems Alfa Romeo has taken on board criticisms levelled at the 159 when producing the latest compact exec. The rear-wheel drive chassis and low weight could make it one of the best handling cars in its class, while it’s hard to argue that it’s going to be one of the prettiest, too.
It’ll still have a huge task on its hands if it wants to topple the 3 Series though. The BMW’s vast range of frugal yet strong engines, top build quality and sharp handling means, if the Giulia can get anywhere near it, it will be a huge achievement.
We have all the details you need to know about the new Giulia. Our Giulia colours guide includes information and pictures of all the colours you can choose from, too. Use our BMW 3 Series configurator to see the savings available through carwow, or use our car chooser to help you find the new car that’s perfect for you.