I must admit I have never been so excited about a new car coming on to market since the Subaru Impreza WRX STi Coupe 22B of the late 90s. Until now.
It’s been a long wait, but it’s finally here. The Alfa Romeo Giulia heralds the return of a much-missed Italian player to the increasingly competitive, German dominated compact executive saloon segment.
Alfa’s last known presence in this space was the 159 back in 2011, before it went AWOL together with much of the company for over six years, a period which saw sales firmly in the doldrums and the lack of new models. With the 159 now renamed as Giulia, Alfa Romeo is banking on this new rear-wheel drive sports sedan for resurrection. It’s the brand’s all-important “come back” model.
It’s no easy task for sure, for the landscape has drastically changed in the last decade. Back in the days, the 159 had only the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4 to compete with. Now, the premium compact segment has expanded to the Jaguar XE, Volvo S60 and Lexus IS, all credible competitors in their own rights.
But the world needs a sporty Italian rear-wheel drive sedan. As for me, I have always liked the idea of an Alfa saloon and I’m feeling that this time, they might be up to something…
Kicking off at a highly competitive $59,895 plus on-road costs, the Giulia’s Australian line-up comprises of five models across four equipment grades – Giulia, Super, Veloce and the fire-breathing Quadrifoglio performance halo. Three petrol models and one diesel variant are offered, all with an eight-speed automatic transmission standard.
The entry level Giulia is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine producing 147kW and 330Nm, the latter on tap from 1,750-4,000rpm. This endows the Giulia enough performance to crack the 0-100km/h sprint in just 6.6 seconds, and a rated combined cycle fuel economy of 6.0L/100km.
Matching the Germans in standard equipment level, the most affordable Giulia comes fitted with leather upholstery, 18-inch alloy wheels, keyless go, stop/start technology, satellite navigation, dual-zone climate control, rain sensing wipers, cruise control, rear parking sensors and a reverse parking camera. Bi-Xenon headlamps are also standard fare though it really needs to make the switch to LED to keep up with the competition.
As with all Alfa Romeo’s, the Giulia’s driver focused interior features the brand’s DNA rotary driving mode selector, a 3.5-inch TFT colour cluster instrument panel, UConnect 6.5-inch display infotainment system with DAB and Bluetooth connectivity, and a fairly decent 8-speaker audio system.
Next in the range is the Giulia Super, available with a choice of a 2.0-litre turbo petrol variant for $64,195 or a 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel model for $65,895. The sole diesel model in the range produces 132kW, accompanied by 450Nm of torque from 1,750-3,750rpm. Rated at just 4.2L/100km on the combined cycle, the diesel-powered Giulia is capable of 0-100km/h in 7.1 seconds.
The Giulia Super sports a higher grade of leather which also adorns the dash and doors, an eight-way power driver’s seat, adaptive cruise control and heated steering wheel. Safety also steps up with the inclusion of blind spot monitoring.
Those looking for more sporting prowess in the Italian sports sedan will be drawn to the $71,895 Giulia Veloce, which is powered by a high output version of the turbo 2.0-litre petrol engine serving up a potent 206kW and 400Nm. The Giulia Veloce accelerates to 100km/h in 5.8 seconds, yet sips just 6.1L/100km on the combined cycle.
The Giulia Veloce also gains Alfa’s SDC variable damping suspension, limited-slip rear differential, 19-inch Veloce alloys and an uprated braking package, with calipers distinctively finished in red.
Inside, the Veloce’s cabin steps up the visual performance with aluminium dash inserts and pedals, a sports leather seats and steering wheel, and a premium 10-speaker sound system.
Calling the BMW M3 and Mercedes-AMG C 63 as rival, the flagship Giulia Quadrifoglio packs a Ferrari-inspired 375kW / 600Nm twin-turbo 2.9-litre V6 petrol, beefed up body work and lots of carbon fibre from $143,900 plus ORCs. The sprint to 100km/h takes just 3.9 seconds and coming to a halt from the same speed will take only 32 metres. Flat out, the Giulia Quadrifoglio nudges 300km/h and thanks to cylinder deactivation technology, fuel economy rating sits at just 8.2L/100km.
Like its predecessors from the 155 to the 159, the Giulia is a gorgeous looking car. From those curvy headlights and tail lamps to the smoothly sculpted panels and neat detailing, the Giulia is truly a head turner. With short overhangs and a long wheelbase, the Italian mid-size sedan sports near perfect proportions, its distinctive looks are further pumped up in our test car with the optional 19-inch ‘5-hole’ dark alloy wheels that sit perfectly flush with the arches, giving the car real attitude.
The Italian flair and elegance is carried through to the interior, too, with the sweeping dashboard design commanding first attention. The steering wheel, with the integrated engine start button and column mounted one-piece milled aluminium pedal shifters, is another design masterpiece that not only looks fantastic but is also great to hold. High score also goes to the neat blending in of the 7-inch infotainment screen to the dashboard, though the built-in navigation system falls well shy of the competition in both clarity, accuracy and user-friendliness.
The overall cabin feel is suitably business like, but some may find the palette too monotone with the sea of black and grey surfaces, lifted only subtly by polished silver aluminium trim inserts on the center console and door cards. Nevertheless, Alfa Romeo offers a myriad of non-black leather upholstery customisation options for those who prefer a little more vibrancy.
Alfa’s reputation for quality has not been the best in recent years but the Giulia came as a real surprise. Overall fit and finish is not only the most impressive we have seen from this company, but also rivals the best from Germany and Japan. Throughout my week long test, there was no noticeable squeaks and rattles in the cabin. How un-Alfa that is.
Passenger space up the front is generous and the front seats have thick side bolsters providing excellent support, though I find the headrest too hard. The rear bench can accommodate two adults just as spaciously but a third person will be a bit of a squeeze.
General ergonomics are good, too, and the 3 strategically located USB ports (one at the front, middle and rear) will keep the most connected of families happy. Parents will also appreciate the 3 ISOFIX child seat attachment points in the rear seats. However, the door pockets are so painfully tiny they will not even fit a small water bottle.
The Giulia’s 480 litres of boot space isn’t too shabby but the small boot aperture makes loading large suitcase a challenge.
From behind the wheel, forward visibility is good but the height and position of the side mirrors can obstruct front quarter view. I also find the B pillars too thick.
Alfa Romeo’s have always been fantastic driving machines and I am glad to report that this hallmark is still well and truly alive with the Giulia. Based on an all new rear-wheel drive architecture, all Giulia models benefit from perfect 50/50 weight distribution and best in class power-to-weight ratio. With a light nose, well balanced chassis and a playful rear, the Giulia is an absolute joy to drive, even in base trim.
The steering points precisely and its response is immediate, giving you the feeling of a much smaller, nimbler car. It’s just a shame that it’s lacking in desirable feedback.
In contrast, the chassis is wonderfully communicative, letting you feel its movement and weight shift without being wallowy. The brakes not only bite hard under heavy use but also have a nice progressive feel through the pedal.
With a willing engine and an eight-speed auto box that shifts almost as quick as a twin clutch, the Alfa is as entertaining and engaging as a sports sedan can get through twisty mountain roads. Such sure-footed and agile is the Giulia’s handling that it’s almost too easy to forget that you are driving a four-door sedan.
It retains good manners around town, too, with a buttery smooth powertrain, imperceptible gear changes and a comfortable ride. My test car has been fitted with the optional adaptive dampers with a soft setting. In this mode the suspension manages bump isolation remarkably well, maintaining ride fluidity through broken surfaces.
The Giulia’s fuel use of 9.8L/100km at the end of my week long road test with over 800km clocked is not the best in class and falls shy of the rated 6.0L/100km but is around the ballpark for machines of its calibre.
Design and Comfort: 8.5/10
Performance and Handling: 9.0/10
Features and Equipment: 8.0/10
The Alfa Romeo Giulia is not just one of the best cars in its class to drive but also one of the best packaged and equipped. If you’re bored with the increasingly mainstream German premium brands, the Giulia is well worth checking out. It represents a true return to form for this once fabulous Italian marque.
- Handsome styling
- Superb dynamics
- Refined drivetrain
- Laggy infotainment system
- Small boot aperture
2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia Price and Specification
|Price (excluding on-roads):||From $59,895|
|Warranty:||5 years/unlimited km|
|Country of Origin:||Italy|
|Service Intervals:||12 months/15,000km|
|Engine:||2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol: 147kW @ 5,000rpm, 330Nm @ 1,750rpm|
|Combined Fuel Consumption (L/100km):||Claimed: 6.0 / Tested: 9.8|
|Ron Rating:||95 Premium ULP|
|Fuel Capacity (L):||58|
|Body:||4 door sedan, 5 seats|
|Safety:||5-star ANCAP, 8 airbags, reverse camera, forward collision mitigation, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, front and rear parking sensors, DSC, TCS, ABS, EBD, EBA|
|Dimensions (L/W/H/W-B) mm:||4,643 / 1,860 / 1,436 / 2,820|
|Kerb Weight (kg):||1,394 – 1,490|
|Entertainment:||8.8-inch infotainment system, Bluetooth, USB, Digital Radio, navigation, 8-speakers|