Alfa Romeo’s new compact executive sports saloon takes inspiration from its past, but also looks forward towards a more efficient future. Richard Gooding reports
What is it?
The first Alfa Romeo Giulia was built from 1962 to 1978, its stylish but boxy looks belying a lively handling compact executive saloon.
The third and current‑generation Giulia was first unveiled in 2015, entering production in 2016. The first model in the brand’s relaunch plan, a lot rests on the Giulia’s muscular haunches.
Worldwide sales targets of 400,000 are the aim for 2018, and both the Giulia and its Stelvio sister are part of a 5 billion euro investment for a new eight car line-up.
With predecessors including the 156 and 159, the latest Giulia offers a weight‑saving build philosophy as well as efficient engines and a thoroughly re-invigorated engineering approach, as well as a return to the traditional longitudinal front-engined, rear-drive transaxle layout favoured on that original Giulia.
The ‘Super’-trimmed car we have on test has a nod to Giulias of old, too, the ‘Super’ name first used on the sporty Giulia TI Super of 1963.
How does it drive?
The latest Giulia takes cues from Alfa saloons of the recent past as well as the traditional and distinctive V-shaped ‘Scudetto’ grille and the ‘Trilobo’ it creates with the lower front bumper air intakes.
Svelte and curvaceous, the Giulia is far removed from its upright and square-edged 1960s ancestors, and offers a more elegant, dynamic, and emotional-looking alternative to its German competition.
The cabin inspired that of the new Stelvio, and just like Alfa’s new SUV, with its low-slung driving position and high window line, its feels snug and cocooning.
The electrically-adjustable seats offer a driving position for every body, and the leather sports seats are cosseting and comfortable, although one passenger complained of backache over long distances.
The deeply-cowled dials emit a sporty touch, as does the carbonfibre-look dashboard trim. The steering wheel-mounted automatic gearbox aluminium paddles are wonderfully tactile to use, while materials are generally impressive overall.
Only the 8.8-inch ‘Alfa Connect’ colour infotainment satellite navigation system lets the side down: it’s not as clear as competitors’ offerings, but is easy to use thanks to a BMW iDrive-style rotary knob on the centre console and no really deep-set menus.
Parts of our test car’s impressive cabin features were down to the optional £1,200 ‘Sports Plack Plus’ and £1,950 ‘Performance Pack’.
A sports leather steering wheel, and aluminium centre console trim and pedals are included in the former, along with bi‑xenon headlights, while the latter optional equipment pack features the steering wheel paddle-shift levers, as well as a limited-slip differential, and an active suspension system.
The Giulia was the first new-age Alfa to return to the front-engine, rear-drive template of Alfas past, a layout now shared by the Stelvio.
The newly-developed ‘Giorgio’ platform transfers power from the engine to the rear-mounted gearbox transaxle via a carbonfibre propshaft. For additional efficiency, suspension and braking components, as well as the engines and door and wing panels are all made from aluminium, saving weight and ensuring a near-perfect 50:50 weight distribution.
Alfa’s attention to detail has paid off. The Giulia feels super sharp to drive, the steering quick and direct. Keen handling ensures the Giulia really digs into corners, the car staying flat and level with very little body roll at all.
Alfa’s first all-aluminium diesel engine feels gruff on starting, but noise levels ebb away when cruising.
On the move, the only discernible noise is wind from around the B-pillars, while the optional 18-inch wheels fitted to our test car were fitted with run-flat tyres which, given their ultra low profile masked road imperfections very well.
As in the Stelvio, the ZF-sourced automatic gearbox can be a touch slow-witted, eliciting an old-fashioned turbo lag-like feeling, with seemingly no power, followed by a surge of push. Most of the time it performs well, though, and changes gear whenever it thinks is appropriate.
All things considered, the Giulia is an incredibly dynamic package, and a welcome return to an area in which Alfa has been deficient in recent times.
The standard Alfa ‘D.N.A’ driving mode selector offers three choices of programme: ‘d’ – Dynamic sports driving mode, ‘n’ – Normal driving mode, and ‘a’: Advanced Efficiency mode which alters the car’s behaviour for eco driving.
The Start & Stop eco system meanwhile cuts off the engine when at standstill.
How economical is it?
The lightweight ethos of the Giulia helps with its efficiency. The svelte four-door returns an official 67.3mpg on the combined cycle in diesel-engined form.
All Giulias are fitted with stop-start systems to cut the engine when stationary in traffic to save fuel, and all engines, regardless of fuel type, meet the latest Euro 6 emissions standard.
Economy can be further optimised by selecting the ‘Advanced Efficiency’ mode on the Giulia’s Alfa Romeo ‘D.N.A’ drive selector programme which is standard on all models. Altering the car’s dynamic behaviour, the increased efficiency mode minimises emission levels and saves energy.
What does it cost?
Available in four trim levels, the Alfa Romeo Giulia is priced from £29,875 for the entry‑level ‘Giulia’ model powered by a turbocharged 200bhp, 2.0-litre petrol engine.
Equipment is high, with 16-inch alloy wheels, a 6.5-inch colour infotainment system and 3.5-inch TFT instrument display, auto lights and wipers, climate control, cruise control, a ‘D.N.A’ driving mode selector, and rear parking sensors all included in the price.
Move up to the £31,575 ‘Super’ specification and the wheels gain an inch in diameter, while satellite navigation – the infotainment screen increasing to 8.8 inches in size – leather and cloth seats, as well as front parking sensors are added.
‘Speciale’ models start at £35,515 and add 18-inch wheels with run‑flat tyres, an auto-dimming rear view mirror, bi‑xenon headlights, as well as black window surrounds, heated and powered leather seats and steering wheel, and red brake calipers.
Range-topping ‘Veloce’ Giulias feature black brake calipers, steering wheel‑mounted shift paddles, and an upgraded braking system in the £38,260 price. Veloce trim cars are also limited to just one engine choice: the 2.0-litre 280bhp petrol unit.
As will follow with the Stelvio, a business-focused Giulia Tecnica model is available now. The 2.2-litre, 150bhp turbodiesel kicks off the fleet-friendly Tecnica range at £31,035.
How much does it cost to tax?
Alfa Romeo’s latest sports saloon has emissions of just 109g/km in 2.2 turbodiesel form, whether with outputs of 180bhp as tested here or the less powerful 150bhp version.
This places it in the £140 first-year rate band of VED, with the cost remaining the same each year thereafter.
Go carefully with the options list, though: any car specified to the same level as our test Giulia with £8,290 worth of optional kit will be incur an annual £450 charge after the first year due to its list price exceeding £40,000.
Should you favour petrol, the 2.0-litre turbocharged 200bhp and 280bhp Giulias will cost £200 in the first year, softening to £140 thereafter.
Why does my fleet need one?
The Giulia’s arrival was a long-awaited one, following the discontinuation of its last D-segment challenger, the 159, in 2011. But, the wait was worth it.
With more curvaceous and less straight-laced lines than its German rivals, and the enthusiast’s choice of driven wheels, the latest Giulia is, like its newer Stelvio relative, a dynamic and involving car.
While the interior may be bested by most European competitors, there’s very little wrong with it indeed, and the Giulia has deservedly boosted Alfa Romeo’s fortunes since its introduction.
The diesel-engined versions of the Alfa’s new sports saloon offer low emissions, and coupled with those arresting looks, there’s little not to like.
A thoroughly re-invigorated four-door, the Giulia can be counted among the best in a very talented class. Keep an eye on those options, though, as too much additional kit will push the limits of taxation.
Overall, the standard Giulia should leave few fleet drivers wanting, in both terms of kit as well as driving experience.
LESS TAXING TECNICA
As with other models in the FCA Group, Alfa Romeo has launched a version of the Giulia directly aimed at fleets and businesses.
The Giulia Tecnica has been developed to offer a high specification coupled with low emissions and ‘exceptional’ fuel consumption.
Powered exclusively by either the 150bhp or 180bhp 2.2‑litre turbodiesel engines, the Giulia Tecnica includes such luxuries as auto lights and wipers, climate control, cruise control, electric seats, LED tail lights, 8.8-inch ‘Alfa Connect’ colour infotainment system with satellite navigation, 17-inch alloy wheels and a host of safety systems.
A standard stop-start system means emissions of 109g/km and a combined cycle fuel economy of 67.3mpg.
Equipped with an eight‑speed ZF automatic transmission, prices for the Alfa Romeo Giulia Technica start at £31,035 on-the-road for the 150bhp model, rising to £32,235 for the 180bhp car.
BIK tax is 23 per cent for both, while the P11D value is £30,840 and £32,040 for the 150bhp and 180bhp versions respectively.