Upon first glance, the Giulia easily passes the first essential test that any Alfa Romeo worth its salt must. Looking at it for a little while longer, with its squinty headlights, unashamedly wide triangular grille and athletic build, there’s a certain internal curiosity that builds about it.
But more than its visual appeal, which Alfa has successful regained following past years - and generations - of somewhat underwhelming rollouts, the Giulia marks a return to form in engineering as well. Once past the facade, its this that the car will be ultimately judged upon.
There’s a lot riding on this, a car that’s developed to be the vessel through which the world is presented with a modern, desirable Alfa Romeo. Built on a new rear-wheel drive platform and with new advanced materials and equally new (to Alfa Romeo) production techniques, the ground-up approach is well and truly being exercised.
With renewed purpose and verve, does the new saloon bring enough to the table to upset any of the contenders that are, for all intents and purposes relevant to Alfa Romeo, stronger than they’ve ever been?
The only other car to even attempt such a feat would be the Jaguar XE, and it’s debatable whether its disruptive intent has been successfully carried out. At the very least, it’s a worthy contender that’s especially endowed, dynamically, that makes the hill Alfa Romeo has to surmount even more challenging, one that is formed by the bedrock of the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
The non-QV Alfa Romeo Giulia is available in three trim levels. The ‘standard’ Giulia kicks off the range, above that the Giulia Super offers a more refined and luxury-leaning experience, while the range-topping Giulia Super takes things in a decidedly more sporty direction.
“As it turns out, you don’t need the fanciest Giulia sedan to make everyone curious, if not jealous.” - Digital Trends
That certain Italian flair is more prominent here than nearly every other recent Alfa Romeo product that preceded it, save for maybe the Brera. Those who lament any lack of emotionality with those previous efforts will very likely have little to complain about. Its lines are defined, but softly rounded and undulating.
That said, there are certain cues that give it a muscular undertone, and this changes depending on which angle you’re facing the car. Expectedly, its sculpted exterior is far more effortlessly handsome than the German competition, which more often than not requires some measure of add-on sports pack to look decent.
You’ll be glad to know that, whichever variant you might choose, the Giulia looks like an Alfa Romeo should. Just by virtue of its not being an Audi or Merc or BMW should be enough for it to stand out in the office parking lot, but there’s a lot more to keep your eyes fixed to its shapely figure than just novelty.
Even the base Giulia comes with some striking 18-inch alloys and bi-xenon front illuminators which, by themselves help to elevate its perceived value by filling up the wheel wells much better than if a smaller diameter set were used. Only the sportier Giulia Veloce larger wheels at 19-inches.
Engine and Drivetrain
“…if you don’t cover a lot of miles choose the 200hp, 2.0-litre petrol that’s quick, quieter than the grumbly diesels and feels like a better match for the Alfa’s red-blooded character.” - Carwow
All Giulias, aside from the Quadrifoglio Verde super saloon, which will be written about separately, are powered by a four-cylinder engine, which can seem fairly limited. It’s really just two motors in varying states of tune, which is a much narrower set than those of its competitors, the majority of whom also have hybrid options.
This lack of electrification might change quite soon, but right now its a common thread across the Fiat Chrysler portfolio. However, the turbocharged petrol and diesel offerings thus far do boast decent fuel economy to blunt that criticism. A sore point, though, is the Alfa Romeo’s stop/start system, no doubt a sizeable contributor to the low overall fuel consumption, which is more intrusive and abrupt in operation than in its German rivals or indeed Lexus and Infiniti.
For highway cruising and generally lower fuel costs, the Giulia is offered with a 2.2-litre four-pot turbodiesel that can boast a combined consumption figure of 4.2-litres/100km while generating 132kW and a bold 450Nm of peak pulling power from 1,750rpm.
Unfortunately, this powertrain is available only in the mid-tier Super grade, while the rest of the range is served by a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol that produces 147kW/330Nm in standard and Super variants, but boosted to a more potent 206kW/400Nm in the range-topping Giulia Veloce.
This does mean that, even in its most basic form, the Giulia is capable of hot hatch levels of acceleration, reaching 100km/h from a standstill in 6.6 seconds or 5.7 in the Veloce. While these numbers are indeed encouraging and the resulting punch off the line is impressive, they do seem more strained than the equivalent motors from BMW and Audi. In normal driving, though, they’re just as refined.
The 8-speed automatic transmission they’re all paired with also does an excellent job at keeping the proceedings civil, managing the shifts smoothly even when instructed by the DNA drive modes to execute them more quickly or manually via the standard shift paddles.
“Big strides have been made inside, where good-quality materials and slick design give the Alfa premium appeal. It has a stylish and sporty feel, especially thanks to some beautiful dials and a great steering wheel.” - AutoExpress
Now that Alfa Romeo, just as was expected, has pretty much nailed the Giulia’s exterior in terms of sheer head-turning desirability, all that effort could be undone by a lacklustre interior. This has, historically, been something of a weak point in previous cars where luxurious materials have been let down by poor ergonomics and questionable durability and build.
Thankfully, its rather obvious even on first impressions that plenty of effort has been put into distancing themselves from that sticking point. The flowing aesthetic of the car’s body has carried into the cabin, blending with a very functionally-minded approach to touch points, controls, and instruments.
On flair alone, the Giulia trounces the 3 Series, Jag XE, and Audi A4, but this time having this level of build quality back up visual appeal is new and uncharted waters for the Italian marque. Even the colour palette and the texture of material choices complement each other, giving lower-spec examples a sporty and yet premium air lacking in other entry-level offerings in this segment. This is matched with thoughtful storage areas and large cubbies.
It’s an elegant, sleek cabin that in many ways upstages the competition in making the driver feel special - from it’s nicely machined switchgear, the soft leather, superb seating position, and great steering wheel. It can’t match the Mercedes-Benz on opulence alone, but goes most of the way there until you start inspecting more closely.
In the rear, passengers will be treated to a generous among of legroom and headroom, but like all rear-drive cars in this space, the transmission tunnel does mean that middle seat occupants will need to awkwardly share footwells on either side. Alfa Romeo also had to make practicality compromises in regard to the Giulia’s boot in order to maintain a sporty looking rear end. While a volumetric capacity of 480-litres is far from a weak showing, there is a significant load lip and smaller aperture compared to class leaders.
Behind The Wheel
“Cruise around in it and you’ll notice too how little wind noise there is, and how deftly the gearbox interacts with the engine. You might in theory lament the absence of a third pedal, but in reality, I doubt very much that one would materially improve the driving experience.” - Autocar
Trim proportions, wheels pushed out to each corner, a 50:50 weight distribution, and rear-wheel drive all combine to present a dynamic endowed Alfa Romeo. And, thank heavens, the Giulia does indeed deliver some very engaging experiences on the road.
The kind of balance and refinement one expects at this price point is present and is the dominant persona exhibited by this car’s mannerisms, but hints of a playful chassis are peppered in to encourage a little bit of risk taking. And when one does try to explore the Giulia’s upper limits, it seems always ready for a good chucking around corners.
The quick but rather lifeless and overly aggressive steering rack helps does help in in this regard to a point, giving it an ever-present sense of agility that’s backed-up by a pointy nose and plenty of front axle grip, allowing the driver to pile on more throttle to the rear wheels without fearing understeer. Unsettle the car’s inherent balance too much, though, and it can show its less poised side, being less forgiving than, say, a BMW 3 Series, once pushed past a certain point.
Wind things down, and the Giulia plays the part of a soothing high speed express quite well too, with impressive NVH levels and a cabin that’s well insulated from ambient and wind noise. However, because the its suspension is given a firmer set up by default, it does hamper its ride on bumpier, uneven surfaces, and is nowhere near as composed as a C-Class or A4 in similar conditions.
Safety and Technology
The ‘tech factor’ of any car is increasingly becoming a large consideration factor, and one that’s doubly important in the premium segment. This, again, is previously an arena where Alfa Romeo was trailing behind competitors, but the Giulia enters the fray with an rather generous suite of features as standard.
Each variant receives a large 8.8-inch infotainment display, curved ever so slightly toward the driver. The panel itself isn’t touch-sensitive but is instead manipulated via a rotary dial behind the gear lever. Very BMW iDrive-like and intuitive enough to operate, but is a step behind competing in-car interfaces in terms of polish and feature-parity.
There are requisite connectivity options such as Bluetooth audio streaming and support for DAB digital radio, along with USB input and a 3.5mm audio jack, but Apple CarPlay or Android Auto aren’t on the cards, even as an option. That said, at least all models receive in-built satellite navigation.
All Giulia variants are 5-star safety certified by ANCAP, equipped as standard with 6 airbags, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Lane Departure Warning, a rear backup camera, front and rear parking sensors, automatic headlamps, and tyre pressure monitoring. Step up to the Giulia Super and Blind Spot Monitoring and Active Cruise Control are added into the mix.
To simply say that the Giulia is a return to form for Alfa Romeo can be seen as being somewhat reductionist. After a painfully silent hiatus of new cars, the company has not only managed to catch up with class leaders in one of the most competitive spaces in the industry, but introduce some very convincing reasons to abandon the established tick tock monotony.
It isn’t a car that meets all its rivals and emerges a victorious, and by in many instances walks away ahead only by a hair. Instead, it presents the buyer with a argument for emotional actualisation atop status and prestige - even if that ideal is only an aberration, it’s founded on a collective truth about the executive saloon, an itch that the Giulia plays counter to.
Regardless if you’re a little tired with the German approach, there’s still much to love about the Giulia and admire about Alfa’s first chapter comeback story. While the Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class owners aren’t quite in the crosshairs, the BMW 3 Series and Jaguar XE are both cars that now have to compete with a car that speaks to their kind of customer in both image and ability.
On balance, the Italian proposition does come with a variety of shortcomings, but with some perspective can start to seem minor in the grander scheme. Alfa has done a cracking job with the Giulia, and while not yet the clear winner in any particular category, is enough an accomplished all-rounder that it bodes very well for the storied automaker’s future products.
Autocar UK - 4/5 - “I can see this Giulia and its variants going some distance to undoing the decades of damage suffered to date by this once fabulous marque. For Alfa Romeo, it will come not one moment too soon.”
Top Gear - 8/10 - “Alfa’s answer to the BMW 3-Series, Mercedes C-Class and Audi A4 – a mid-size saloon with an all-new rear-wheel drive platform (that underpins the new Stelvio SUV) in which Alfa (or parent company FCA) has invested billions in a quest to take Alfa from sales of 75,000 per year to 400,000 within three years.”
AutoExpress - 4.5/5 - “The Alfa Romeo Giulia offers rear-drive thrills and plenty of Italian brio in a characterful package that has broad appeal.”
Carwow - 7/10 - “You buy the Alfa Romeo Giulia because you want to stand out from the crowd. It looks great and drives very well, but it doesn’t feel quite as well made as an Audi, BMW or Mercedes…”
Digital Trends - 8/10 - “As a conversation piece as an unfamiliar car that a market hasn’t seen in over two decades and just feeling different, the Giulia is in a class of its own. To which I must say, bravo Alfa Romeo! Bentornato!”
CarAdvice - 8/10 - “With its curvaceous styling and excellent handling and dynamics, the Alfa Romeo Giulia Super is certainly a worthy rival to those aforementioned premium offerings from Germany. It offers a point of difference too, certainly in the styling.”
Drive.com.au - 7/10 - “Despite being a great car, Alfa Romeo is still struggling to capture the attention of luxury buyers, which may be cautious of its chequered reputation for long-term reliability.”