For quite some years now, it seemed as if the Germans had the compact executive saloon market wrapped up – with the exception of the Jaguar XE of course. After offering models such as the 156 and the 159 in previous years, Alfa Romeo is back with the brand new Giulia. Has this pretty face got what it takes to complete, or is it style over substance? Keep reading to find out.
Design and Styling
Well, they say a picture paints a thousand words, so on that basis, the Giulia is one of the best things ever to be written if you ask me. It’s bite-the-back-of-your-hand beautiful and it looks so much more special compared to its rivals. This is the Speciale model, meaning that you get 18” alloys, and a sporty body kit, although it’s worth mentioning that the rims fitted to this model are optional. I actually prefer the standard alloys for what it’s worth, but that still doesn’t change the fact this car is simple gorgeous. In fact, I could spend all day look at it.
The inside is also a lovely place to be, just look at those seats! Normally I’m not a big fan of red leather, but this interior fits the Giulia like a glove. The Speciale model also offer chunky sport seats, which are heavily bolstered and sat low in the cabin. These supported me very well, but I imagine someone with a broader stature may find the side bolsters a bit uncomfortable on longer journeys.
But what about the rest of the interior? Well there’s also plenty of leather on the dash, although you wouldn’t get this on the base model, and on the whole it’s a nice place to be. Ok, some may complain that the switchgear and overall finish isn’t as plush as its German rivals, but it’s far from looking like a bargain basement. Overall then, the Giulia does very well on the styling front.
Rating: (5 / 5)
The Giulia comes in a choice six trim levels; Giulia, Tecnica, Super, Speciale, Veloce and of course, the Quadrifoglio. As mentioned, this is the Speciale mode, which is towards the top of the range and is priced from £35,515. This models offer goodies such as 18” alloys, red brake calipers, double exhaust pipe, 8.8” infotainment system with navigation, 6-way adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, heated steering wheel and rear parking sensors to name a few.
Now, don’t think the base model will offer as about the same level equipment as a prison cell, as that is able to offer 16” alloys, 6.5” touchscreen, rear parking sensors, lane departure warning, leather steering wheel, cruise control, autonomous emergency braking. This model will cost from £29,875, which is on par with its rivals.
What about the rest of the line up? The Tecnica, priced from £31,035 offers the larger infotainment system with navigation, tinted rear windows, climate pack, driver assistance pack, 17″ alloys, and the Tecnica pack. Next there is the Super, which starts from £31,575, offers a similar level of kit as the Tecnica, but is available with the 197bhp petrol engine.
Sitting above the Speciale is the Veloce, which is priced from £38,260, and not only offers the 276bhp, but features such as 18″ alloys, 40/20/40 rear seats, double exhaust, upgraded braking system, aluminium details, and bi-xenon headlights among many. That leaves the Quadrifoglio, which starts from £61,595, and offers 19″ alloys, carbon fibre details, leather and alcantara seats, adaptive suspension, and of course, the 503bhp V6 petrol engine.
Rating: (4 / 5)
Space and Comfort
This an area where the Giulia does well, as not only is it comfortable, but it offers a good amount of room too. As mentioned earlier, the sports seats are set low in the car, meaning that you feel like you’re sat in the car rather than on it, helping to emphasise the Giulia’s sporty nature. Getting a good driving position is very easy as the steering wheel adjust for rake and reach, plus the seat has plenty of adjustment.
There’s a good amount of headroom, plus shoulder room is ample, but what about cubbyholes? There’s two cup holders in front the gear lever, is a storage department here, which is big enough for a few small items. The glovebox isn’t massive though and neither are the door pockets, but what is space like in the back?
Even with the driver’s seat set for my 6’2” frame, I had a decent amount of legroom, and I like how the sides of seats sculpt inwards to give a bit more room for your knees. Headroom is less than impressive though, especially as this model has the optional sunroof. The middle passenger is also likely to struggle somewhat, as the transmission tunnel means that they will need to straddle a leg either side. That’s the pitfall of having a rear wheel drive car of course.
Open the boot and you’ll find 485 litres of space, which believe it or not, is exactly the same as its German rivals but it’s more than the Jaguar XE. This model offers 40/20/40 seats, which is handy if you want to carry long items such as skies, but lower spec models have to make do with a 60/40 layout. They can have 40/20/40 seats specified, but you’ll need to pay £275 for the privilege.
Rating: (4.5 / 5)
What’s it like to drive?
The Speciale model is available with just one engine; it’s a 2.2 litre diesel which offers 178bhp with 450Nm of torque, or 331 if you prefer it in pound feet. This power is fed to the rear wheels via an 8-speed auto, and is able to hit 62mph in a respectable 7.1 seconds before hitting a top speed of 143mph. Other engines are available in other models, so you can have the same diesel but with a power output of 148bhp, or you can choose one of the 2.0 litre petrol models that offer 197bhp or 276bhp. Oh, and don’t forget there’s the 2.9 litre V6 in the Quadrifoglio which offers a healthy 503bhp.
However, no matter what engine you opt for, you have to have the automatic gearbox, as for some reason Alfa is not selling any manual models in the UK. This is surprising, but then again I can imagine most buyers opting for the auto anyway. But how does the car actually drive? Well, this may not be the most powerful Giulia out there, but it still offers a good amount of poke.
As with other Alfas, the Giulia has the DNA system, which offers three driving modes. You have Advanced Efficiency, Natural and Dynamic. This model also has the adaptive dampers as part of the performance pack which costs just shy off £2,000 and also include wonderful aluminium paddles as well as a limited slip diff.
Advanced Efficiency offers better grip in low-grip conditions, and better economy, Natural is essentially the car’s normal mode, whilst Dynamic offers better throttle response, sharper steering, sharper brakes, plus the gearbox will hang to the gears longer – unless you take manual control of course.
The 2.2 litre diesel pulls well and has some lovely mid-range grunt to it, meaning that it makes progress with minimal fuss. The gearbox is pretty decent as well – yes, it can take a few moments to wake up, but for the most part it’s smooth and will work in the background with little issue. You can of course take manual control by using the paddles, which does of course improve matters, plus the aluminium paddle shifters feel great in the hand. Sadly, they are not mounted to the steering wheel itself, meaning that it can be fiddly to change gear whilst turning.
Speaking of the steering, it offers a nice weight, although there’s not as much feedback as you may have been expecting or wanting. The steering rack is also a bit too fast for its own good, meaning that it can be a difficult to judge your turning angle until you get used to it. This does of course become a bit more difficult when set to Dynamic as the steering becomes even more responsive.
What about the ride? It’s very pleasant indeed, what I really like about it is that is compliant and offers fantastic damping, but you can still feel undertones of a firm, sporty setup. Now, don’t let the word ‘firm’ put you off, as the Giulia is a very comfortable place and even if it’s sportiest setting, you won’t need to book a session with your local osteopath.
Not only is it comfortable, but it’s refined too, although I suppose it has to be if it’s to do well in this part of the market. Even though I have 18” alloys wrapped in run flat tyres, there is little tyre noise, and the wind noise is at a minimal too. In fact, you feel cocooned in here, as if your only little world. I rather like that. The diesel can sound a bit coarse on start up, but at cruising speeds it will work away at a near silence. So it’s safe to say that the Giulia does well in the refinement department.
Rating: (4.5 / 5)
Now I’m afraid this is an area where things start to go wrong. On paper, this diesel engine should offer 67.3mpg on a combined run, which sounds jolly frugal, but I’m afraid you’ll struggle to get anywhere near that in real life. In my experience I’ve been getting mid 40s, and that was with the driving mode set to ‘Advanced Efficiency’ whilst using a delicate right foot. On the plus side, this engine emits just 109g/km, which is good news for those looking to use it as a company car.
Speaking of which, this engine offers 23% in BIK, which is a bit less than its rivals when selected with a similar trim/engine. However, it’s worth noting that its rivals are able to offer hybrid alternatives, which will be even more attractive to company car buyers. For those of you that have to have the petrol, then the less powerful 2.0 litre would be your best best as that offers 47.1mpg with 138g/km of CO2, although the more powerful engine is marginally less frugal.
Rating: (3 / 5)
There was once a time where you bought an Alfa Romeo saloon with your heart, knowing that it would be flawed in some way, but with the Giulia, I feel this purchase will be an easier one to make. Sure, the German alternatives offer a slightly nice interior, and perhaps a more complete car.
The lack of manual gearbox could and below average mpg may also put you off, but it has a certain something about it. The Giulia feels special when you drive, it has more character, it feels like more of an occasion when you drop in to its body hugging seats. It offers a cracking drive as well, and a good amount of space, so the Guilia is more than just a pretty face.
Car Obsession Rating: (4.5 / 5)
- Stunning looks
- Engaging chassis
- Good rear legroom
- Good level of kit
- Strong performance
- Reliability is unknown at this time
- Not as frugal as expected
- No estate offered, nor four wheel drive or manual
- Infotainment system is not the slickest
BMW 3 Series
The 3 Series has been the go-to car in this segment for both the new and used market. It offers a nice interior and a better infotainment system, which may be important for those looking for a bit more refinement. It also offers a manual gearbox as well as an estate option and hybrid powertrains. Add that to the fact it offers well balanced drive and it’s clear why this model has been so successful.
Mercedes C Class
The C Class is bit more understated in its style and also offers a better choice of variations than the Giulia. It’s comfortable too, and offers a plush interior but like most German cars, the options can get out of hand…
Let’s take a break from the Germans shall we and concentrate on something closer to home. Well, my home anyway – I.E. the UK. The Jaguar XE is a late entry in to this segment, having started production in 2015, and although it has a smaller boot, it injects a nice bit of dynamism in this segment. It also also offers a decent diesel with low emissions, which could be perfect for company car buyers.