Alfa Romeo Giulia review

Our Rating: 
4
4.0/5.0
2016 model
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

The Alfa Romeo Giulia is the Italian brand’s answer to the BMW 3 Series - and an impressive one at that

For: 
Sharp handling, stunning looks, great engine range
Against: 
Interior quality doesn’t match rivals, no manual in the UK, fiddly infotainment system

Sponsored Links

The Alfa Romeo Giulia could be a superb choice for executive car buyers, offering a brilliant mixture of gorgeous looks, fun handling and impressive running costs. Like the Jaguar XE, it’s a welcome alternative to the German manufacturers and has a unique character. The engine range is excellent, and while it’s a shame we don’t get a manual option here the automatic gearbox is very good. Fans of Mercedes and Audi interiors might find something to complain about in the Giulia, but there’s so much to like about Alfa’s compact executive offering that it could still win them over.

Our Choice: 
Alfa Romeo Giulia 2.2 JTDM-2 Super

The Alfa Romeo Giulia is a crucial car for the iconic brand, representing its return to the compact executive car segment (the last Alfa to compete here was the slightly disappointing 159). The Giulia takes on the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, Jaguar XE and Mercedes C-Class, which are all very strong in their own way. Some excel in terms of driving dynamics others are strong on running costs or interior design. 

• Best executive cars on sale

For now there’s only one Giulia bodystyle, and that’s the saloon - the core model. Alfa hasn’t ruled out other versions, but don’t expect them to come along soon, as the brand will be focusing its efforts on SUVs, another key market globally, with its new Stelvio. The Giulia has a decent standard kit list, but most buyers are likely to go for the Giulia Super trim, with optional Lusso and Sports option packs available in the UK. 

There are two main engines, a diesel and a petrol, but the BMW M3-rivalling Giulia Quadrifoglio gets a twin-turbo V6 with 503bhp. The 2.2-litre diesel is available with 148bhp or 178bhp, and the 2.0-litre petrol engine gets 197bhp. Either is a solid choice, although most will go for the diesel as it has the lowest emissions and highest fuel economy, while still providing plenty of performance. 

The only gearbox option in the UK is the 8-speed automatic, although left-hand drive markets do get a manual option. The manual is a decent ‘box but the automatic is good enough that UK buyers won’t miss making their own shifts unduly. The large metal paddles and smooth shifting mean the auto would be the one we’d recommend anyway. 

The Giulia is designed to be great to drive, with a lightweight construction and 50:50 weight distribution for better handling balance. That doesn’t mean it’s not practical, however, as it has one of the longer wheelbases in the class to boost legroom and luggage space.

While the alphanumeric names of its rivals have been around for decades, you might also remember the Giulia name from years gone by. It was used in the 1960s for one of Alfa’s best-selling cars, also a saloon. It’s a fondly-remembered car and Alfa will be hoping its spirit lives on in this new model - we reckon the new Giulia has all the right ingredients to be a hit.

Engines, performance and drive

4.5
Great range of engines offers both performance and economy

The Alfa Romeo Giulia looks the part, but it also has the handling to match. The first thing you’ll notice after setting off in the Alfa is the quick steering, which feels great through a series of turns. It’s accurate too, so you can have confidence placing the car where you want it. 

A 50:50 weight distribution and rear-wheel drive layout means the Giulia feels well balanced and fun when pushing harder into bends, while the suspension provides an impressive blend of stiffness in hard cornering and compliance on bumpier roads - though we’ll have to test it in the UK to be sure.

The automatic gearbox that will be fitted to all UK cars is an excellent unit, providing smooth and fast shifts. The large paddles behind the wheel feel satisfying to use, which helps bring back some of the driver engagement lost with the lack of a manual model. 

Alfa Romeo’s DNA selector means you can choose from three driving modes in the standard cars: Advanced Efficiency, Natural and Dynamic (with a Race mode for the Quadrifoglio). The car feels at its best in the Natural and Dynamic modes, with the eco setting taking a bit too much away from the responses.

The hot Giulia Quadrifoglio is superb to drive, with incredible performance, balanced handling and a great soundtrack. It’s a genuine rival for the BMW M3 and Mercedes-AMG C63.

All models have lane departure warning as standard, while adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning, a rear parking camera and autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian protection are all optional.

Engines

The Giulia’s engine range seems fairly limited compared to the huge choice on offer in the BMW 3 Series range, but this helps keep things easy to understand and you can’t go far wrong with any of the power units on offer.

The biggest seller will be the 2.2-litre diesel, which comes with two power outputs: 178bhp and 148bhp. It has a different feel to the diesels on offer in the car’s German rivals, with a much more linear power delivery. It also feels keener to rev, so it’s more fun to drive quickly. The downside is that there’s not the same muscular feeling that comes from the huge lump of torque at the bottom of the rev range so often found in other modern diesel execs. 

At least the engine is well suited to the sporty Italian persona of the Giulia, A 0-62mph time of 7.1 seconds for the 178bhp model proves it’s got the performance to beat a BMW 320d too. The lower-powered diesel manages the sprint in 8.2 seconds.

There’s also a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol model, and despite not matching the diesel for economy it could be a solid choice. It’s quick, going from 0-62mph in 6.6 seconds, and sounds good right through the rev range. It’s more economical than you might think too, though not as good as the diesel.

Finally there’s also the hugely powerful Quadrifoglio model, which gets a 2.9-litre V6 with 503bhp and 600Nm of torque. It’s turbocharged, but the Ferrari influence on the unit is clear once you try it. This engine loves to be revved and feels more like a naturally-aspirated unit than the rival BMW M3’s turbo six-cylinder.

With a 0-62mph time of 3.9 seconds and a top speed of 192mph, the Quadrifoglio has an incredible amount of performance on offer. The V6 sounds great, though the howl always seems cut short when you hit the limiter - it sounds like it could rev even higher than it does.

MPG, CO2 and running costs

4.2
Efficient diesel engines will be the biggest sellers in the UK

Every diesel Alfa Romeo Giulia manages the same economy figures, so the only thing holding you back from choosing the more powerful 178bhp option is the list price. Both versions of the engine return 67.3mpg and emit 109g/km of CO2, which beats the equivalent BMW 320d’s figures of 64.2mpg and 116g/km.

The petrol Giulia’s provisional figures of 47.9mpg and 138g/km of CO2 aren’t as impressive, but for a petrol that’s pretty good going, and identical to the 320i. We’d recommend the petrol for those doing shorter trips, too.

The Giulia Quadrifoglio isn’t exactly economical, returning 34.4mpg and emitting 189g/km, but those figures are actually impressive for a car with over 500bhp.

Insurance groups

No data on the Alfa Romeo Giulia’s insurance groups exists yet, but expect it to match the equivalent BMW 3 Series or Audi A4, which sit around group 30 depending on the exact model. The Quadrigoflio version is likely to be in group 50. 

Depreciation

With the Giulia being brand new, there’s no real precedent for used values. Alfas of the past have depreciated badly, losing a lot of their value due to reliability concerns and the lack of a top draw premium badge. The modern Alfa Romeo is unrecognisable from the days of rust spots and electrical failures, however, and the brand image is firmly on the up so we’re expecting a meaningful improvement. 

Interior, design and technology

4.5
The Giulia is among the best-looking cars in its class, but the infotainment system is lacking

As you’d expect of the legendary Italian brand, the Alfa Romeo Giulia is a fantastic-looking car. The design brings together the smart lines of a modern executive saloon and some wonderful styling details such as the deep shield grille, aggressive headlights and a swooping roofline.

Next to the plain BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 it’s a clear winner, and even the smart-looking new Mercedes C-Class has to give over the honours to the Alfa. Even low-spec cars look fantastic, and the colour palette of grey, white, blue and of the cars we tried all looked the part. 

The interior design is also excellent, with a stylish and sporty aesthetic, especially thanks to some beautiful dials and a great steering wheel. The rest of the cabin doesn’t feel quite as upmarket as the C-Class or A4, but there’s no doubting that there’s a clean elegance to it. The materials just aren’t as high in quality as those in the Giulia’s top rivals.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment 

Certain models come with a new 8.8-inch display screen called Connect Nav 3D, which displays the sat-nav and infotainment systems in the Giulia. It’s controlled via a rotary dial, which is better than an imprecise touchscreen - but unfortunately the user interface is still too fiddly. 

There’s voice recognition for controlling certain aspects too, as well as smartphone connectivity for Android and iPhone devices. There’s also a powerful Harman Kardon stereo available.

The sat-nav itself is easy to use, as it’s a TomTom-derived interface. That means it benefits from map updates via USB, plus easy-to-read directions on the display. 

Practicality, comfort and boot space

4.1
The Giulia has good interior space and a competitively sized boot

There’s only one bodystyle for now, the saloon, but Alfa hasn’t ruled out an estate in the future, which would clearly be the more practical choice.

The driving position is good, with a comfortable and sporty seat arrangement in the front. We’ll have to wait and see how the right-hand drive version feels, but the pedals and wheel felt well-positioned in the first batch of Italian test cars. 

Leg room, head room & passenger space

The Alfa Giulia actually has one of the longer wheelbases in its class, which means there’s a good amount of rear legroom. There’s plenty of space up front, but the passengers in the back won’t have too much to complain about - although the large transmission tunnel means the middle seat can feel cramped.

Headroom and legroom aren’t a problem in the Giulia though, even for taller passengers. Access is good, if not really noticeably better than an equivalent 3 Series or C-Class.

Boot

The 480-litre boot space is identical to that of the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class, so the Alfa keeps pace easily here. The opening is nice and wide and the space inside isn’t awkwardly shaped but there is a pronounced loading lip.

Reliability and Safety

3.5
All-new platform means we can’t be sure of the car’s reliability yet

All models have lane departure warning as standard, while adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning, a rear parking camera and autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian protection are all optional.

That means the Alfa is likely to score well for safety when Euro NCAP comes to crash test the car. Unfortunately there’s not a huge amount to go on just yet.

It’s the same story with the reliability: as the Giulia sits on an all-new platform for the brand, set to underpin a huge range of new models over the next few years, there’s nothing to base assumptions about reliability on yet, aside from perceived build quality, which seems solid on first impressions.

Alfa Romeo might have a reputation for breaking down all the time, but that’s largely unfounded, with Alfa’s modern cars being about as reliable as their main rivals. The ownership experience might be a different story, though, with Alfa Romeo as a brand falling behind its rivals in the 2016 Auto Express Driver Power customer satisfaction survey.

Last updated: 21 Jul, 2016