Fine wine, good food and beautiful cars; Italians are renowned for a number of things, but it’s the latter we’ll be focusing on in this review. The Giulia name first adorned an Alfa back in the ’60s, but a long period of gestation followed and it wasn’t until 2015 that the name was officially relaunched. Pushing the manufacturer’s rear-wheel-drive platform forward, it marked something of a new beginning for the brand.
Whilst we’re covering a bit of history, it’s fair to say Alfa Romeo hasn’t always had the best reputation for manufacturing reliable, well-built cars. However, they have always been fabulous to gaze at, which is why we’re going to start by looking at the appearance…
In typical Alfa Romeo style, the Giulia has good looks in abundance, particularly so at the front where the angular chin and squinty lights work together beautifully – all complimented by the Montecarlo Blue metallic paint job. The rear end of the car is a little plain compared to the front, but still has a certain elegance to it which rivals in this class struggle to match.
The interior matches the good looks of the outside – with swathes of leather, in a mixture of tan and black, adorning the various surfaces and generally looking fantastic. A heated steering wheel, heated & electronically adjusted front seats and Silverwood/Walnut trim pieces round off the included Lusso pack, a £2750 option included on the car tested.
In terms of in-car technology, our test car came complete with all the kit you’d expect from a modern car, with it all integrating seamlessly and working flawlessly throughout. Our only gripe would be that the infotainment system feels a little simple and less developed compared to certain German rivals, but it was easy to use and never felt lacking in features. The audio was provided by the excellent Harmon & Kardon system, a £950 option which sounded fantastic and would give any car in this class a run for its money. Speaker placement around the cabin is clever, with some speakers covered in aluminium grills which complement and add to the overall interior aesthetic.
Driving controls are all logically laid out and it doesn’t take long to feel at home in the Giulia. Whilst the instrument cluster isn’t fully digitised like many of its rivals, Alfa’s implementation of analogue gauges works very well. A smaller digital display in the centre is efficiently laid out to give adequate information on the road – the flow of data never felt restrictive.
Worthy of special praise, the 8-speed automatic gearbox fitted to the test car is absolutely sublime. When the car is driven smoothly, the drivetrain is lovely and soft, with the gearbox ‘experience’ like that of any other modern auto. However, push hard (particularly with the car in dynamic mode), and it’s the most rewarding and characterful 8-speed auto we’ve driven to date.
Each gear change is rewarded by the car giving a noticeable surge as the ratios change, similar to running a dual clutch transmission. Most other manufacturers seem to dial this out, creating a smooth but very ‘slushy’ gear change in the process. Having the car push your head back into the headrest each time a paddle is pulled is what it’s all about when you’re driving hard. The column-mounted aluminium paddles themselves are excellent – with a reassuring weight and tactile click for every gear change; you’d struggle to find better.
Outside The Box
Moving away from the gearbox, the rest of the chassis and drivetrain had a lot to live up to. Chassis wise, we were very impressed with the Giulia, which corners nice and flat, has good steering feel (although perhaps a little light for our liking), and rides bumps well. Our test car came fitted with electronic dampers, with the extra stiffness they offer in dynamic mode much appreciated when pushing hard. A slightly strange omission is the option to disable traction control, with no cabin side button offered – no sideways action for this Giulia then (perhaps this is for the best though…)!
The engine picks up extremely well, particularly from low down, giving more than enough go to get you into, or out of trouble. It produces a quiet but audible growl as the rev’s build, although it was a little quiet for our taste (a valved exhaust would work wonders here). Unfortunately, fuel consumption was extremely high during our testing, with MPG averaging mid-20s. We managed to get mid-30s when driving carefully, but drive the car hard and high teens are possible – far below the 47.9 (combined cycle) book figures.
Other Notable Items
In our time with the Giulia, we found ourselves four or five up at various stages and whilst it wasn’t the most spacious, it certainly didn’t feel cramped and legroom for those in the rear was good. The boot is also spacious, whilst the various cubby holes and conveniently located auxiliary and USB connections were much appreciated.
General build quality and feel of the Giulia was very good, with only the boot causing any suspicion of anything less than top-notch build quality. Whether it’s the mechanism employed or the construction of the boot itself, the lightweight feel to the panel work was a little disconcerting.
Alfa’s have always carried a reputation for being curiously lovable cars. Having finally spent a decent amount of time in one, I can now relate to this and found myself falling for the Giulia more and more. It’s so satisfying walking into a car park and knowing the gorgeous Alfa is your ride home, especially when the interior is such a joyous place to be.
Personally, I’d avoid the 2.0-litre petrol; if you’re concerned about the economy, have a look at the Diesel options. However, with the chassis and gearbox as good as they are, the Giulia is clearly a car to be enjoyed – and Alfa has developed a model optimised for exactly that. The 510hp Quatrifoglio sits at the top of the Giulia range and is surely an absolute hoot. We hope to find out for ourselves soon…
Our test car came in at £43,390 OTR, whilst the base price for the Giulia is £32,990.
We’d like to thank Alfa Romeo UK for arranging our test car.