Car group tests

Alfa Romeo Giulia vs Jaguar XE vs BMW 3 Series

We see if Alfa Romeo’s stunning new Giulia has the substance to succeed against compact executive stars from Jaguar and BMW

Alfa Romeo used to rule the roost in the world of desirable sports saloons, but it’s lost its way of late. A switch to front-wheel drive in the nineties alienated a lot of fans, while patchy reliability and inconsistent quality drove many more towards upmarket German rivals. 

The brand’s last attempt to crack the compact executive sector was the lacklustre 159, which was quietly axed in 2011. But now Alfa is back with a bang, and the all-new Giulia promises to put it at the top of the class. Sleek looks, a classy interior and a return to rear-wheel drive all appeal, while low emissions and attractive prices should tempt business users.

Before Alfa cracks open the champagne, though, the Giulia must see off a pair of seriously talented rivals. The Jaguar XE is our current class favourite, mixing engaging driving dynamics, handsome looks and a smart cabin with low running costs, while the BMW 3 Series still sets the standard in this sector for driving fun, solid build quality and everyday usability. Does the new Alfa do enough to crush its compact executive rivals?

Head to head

Alfa Romeo Giulia

ModelAlfa Romeo Giulia 2.2D 180 Speciale
Price£34,150
Engine2.2-litre 4cyl diesel, 178bhp
0-60mph7.1 seconds
Test economy35.1mpg/7.7mpl
CO2109g/km
Road Tax£20

The Alfa Romeo Giulia is the brand’s first compact executive model for five years, following the demise of the 159 in 2011.

From launch the newcomer is available as a four-door saloon only, with a choice of standard, Super and Speciale trim levels. Engines are limited to a 2.2-litre diesel with either 148bhp or 178bhp, plus a 2.0-litre 197bhp turbo petrol. At the top of the range is the firebreathing Quadrifoglio, with its 503bhp 2.9-litre V6. However, here we test the £34,150 2.2D Speciale, and our car is an early left-hand-drive Italian model.

Tester's Notes: "There are some lovely details on the Giulia. For example, the thin-rimmed three-spoke steering wheel is perfectly contoured for your hands and covered in soft-touch leather."

Jaguar XE

ModelJaguar XE 2.0d R-Sport auto
Price£34,775
Engine2.0-litre 4cyl diesel, 178bhp
0-60mph8.2 seconds
Test economy44.7mpg/9.8mpl
CO2111g/km
Road Tax£20

Jaguar was a relative latecomer to the compact executive party, but its XE scooped the honours in this class for the second consecutive year at our 2016 New Car Awards.

There’s a wide range of engine and trim variants, and here we test the 178bhp 2.0-litre diesel auto in £34,775 R-Sport guise – although the car in our pictures is a flagship Portfolio AWD.

Tester's Notes: "If you’re looking to cut your company car costs, it’s worth considering the 161bhp 2.0-litre diesel. With emissions of 99g/km it drops into the 19 per cent tax bracket.”

BMW 3 Series

ModelBMW 320d M Sport auto
Price£34,660
Engine2.0-litre 4cyl diesel, 187bhp
0-60mph7.1 seconds
Test economy53.4mpg/11.7mpl
CO2116g/km
Road Tax£30

The BMW 3 Series has been a hugely successful part of the firm’s line-up for more than 40 years, and a refresh last year kept it in contention for class honours. Here we test the ever-popular 320d in £34,460 M Sport auto guise.

Tester's Notes: "The EfficientDynamics Plus auto costs £32,220 and emits 99g/km of CO2, which results in an annual Benefit in Kind bill for higher-rate earners of £2,455."

Verdict

First place: Jaguar XE

It’s another win for the XE, which continues to show its class in the compact executive sector. Sleek looks, a cosseting cabin and engaging driving experience come as standard, while the R-Sport brings just enough racy aggression. It’s not quite as spacious as its rivals here, but the Jag offsets this small disadvantage with wallet-friendly running costs and plenty of standard equipment.

Second place: BMW 3 Series

The evergreen 3 Series has to play second fiddle to the overall appeal of the Jag, but for pure driving thrills it remains unrivalled. The BMW is also beautifully finished, features an excellent infotainment system and boasts just enough space to accommodate most families. It’s let down here by its higher CO2 emissions and slightly stingy kit list.

Third place: Alfa Romeo Giulia

It was a tough call, but the Giulia just misses out on the runner-up spot. Alfa shouldn’t be disappointed with this result, because this head-turning, roomy and quick car deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as its rivals here. It’s also cost effective to run and good to drive. It’s just not quite as engaging as its rivals and is let down by its firm ride and poor infotainment system.

Figures

 Jaguar XE 2.0d R-Sport autoBMW 320d M Sport autoAlfa Romeo Giulia 2.2D 180 Speciale
On-the-road price/total as tested£34,775/£34,775£34,460/£37,685£34,150/£35,995
Residual value (after 3yrs/30,000)£15,614/44.9%£14,990/43.5%£15,128/44.3%
Depreciation£19,161£19,470£19,022
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£1,528/£3,055£1,566/£3,132£1,432/£2,864
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,449/£2,414£1,213/£2,021£1,845/£3,075
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost27/£740/B/£2028/£775/C/£3026/£675/B/£20
Servicing costs£475 (5yrs/50k)£525 (5yrs/50k)TBC
    
Length/wheelbase4,672/2,835mm4,633/2,810mm4,643/2,820mm
Height/width1,416/1,967mm1,429/1,811mm1,436/2,046mm
Engine4cyl in-line/1,999cc4cyl in-line/1,995cc4cyl in-line/2,143cc
Peak power 178/4,000 bhp/rpm187/4,000 bhp/rpm178/3,750 bhp/rpm
Peak torque 430/1,750 Nm/rpm400/1,750 Nm/rpm450/1,750 Nm/rpm
Transmission 8-spd auto/rwd8-spd auto/rwd8-spd auto/rwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel56 litres/foam57 litres/run-flat52 litres/foam
Boot capacity 455 litres480 litres480 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,565/585/1,800kg1,505/575/1,800kg1,445kg/N/A/N/A
Turning circle/drag coefficient11.7 metres/N/A11.3 metres/0.26Cd10.8 metres/0.32 Cd
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (unltd)/3yrs 3yrs (unltd)/3yrs3yrs (unltd)/3yrs 
Service intervals/UK dealers21,000 miles (2yrs)/84 Variable)/19221,000 miles (1yr)/55 
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.6th/13th15th/24th23rd/5th
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/stars92/82/81/82/5 (2015)95/84/78/86/5 (2012)98/81/69/60/5 (2016)
    
0-60/30-70mph8.2/8.0 secs7.1/6.8 secs7.1/6.5 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th 2.9/3.3 secs2.7/3.2 secs2.4/2.8 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th/7th/8th 4.5/5.5/7.1/11.3s4.1/5.5/6.9/12.5s3.9/5.2/7.0 secs/N/A
Top speed/rpm at 70mph 143mph/1,700rpm147mph/1,700rpm143mph/1,500rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph 48.0/34.4/9.0m51.3/36.4/9.4m45.1/34.5/9.2m
Noise levels outside/idle/30/70mph76/47/59/68dB67/47/58/68dB71/45/63/71dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range44.7/9.8/551 miles53.4/11.7/670 miles35.1/7.7/401 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 55.4/76.4/67.3mpg53.3/72.4/64.2mpg53.3/80.1/67.3mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 12.2/16.8/14.8mpl11.7/15.9/14.1mpl11.7/17.6/14.8mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket169/111g/km/22%142/116g/km/23%216/109g/km/21%
    
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/cameraSix/yes/yes/£545Six/yes/yes/£330Six/yes/yes/£550
Auto box/stability/cruise ctrl/AEB*Yes/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes/£620**Yes/yes/yes/yes
Climate control/leather/heated seatsYes/yes/yesYes/yes/£325Yes/yes/yes
Metallic paint/xenon lights/keyless go£635/yes/£515£645/yes^/£495£695/yes/£450
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/BluetoothYes/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes/yes

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