On a recent sunny Sunday in the Powerscourt Hotel, the car park was full – as you might expect – of varying Mercedes, BMW, Audis and Range Rovers. In the midst of them all and stealing most of the admiring looks was the new Alfa Romeo Giulia.
Developed under the Giorgio platform, bringing the rear-wheel drive Giulia to life was something of a daunting task for Alfa – taking an entirely new platform from concept to tarmac within a timeline of three years as part of the brand’s expensive relaunch plans. But the result is quite stunning, visually speaking, a sporty five-door saloon that combines Alfa’s rich heritage with the driving experience you expect. There’s no denying that they’ve created a head-turning beast.
There’s a distinct feeling that you’re in a premium car once you sit inside, from the soft dashboard materials and the black and silver Alfa badge on the steering wheel to the comfy leather seats and the touches of carbon fibre scattered throughout. It’s very much a welcome change from previous Alfas, if not quite up to the standards set by German rivals. The dashboard is well laid out, with everything within easy reach of the driver. It also looks the part – sporty, sharp lines, the stop-start button located on the steering wheel like a Ferrari, and fabulous aluminium flappy paddles either side of the steering wheel.
It’s also quite comfortable for such a sporty car; the Giulia has decent space front and back, particularly in terms of head and leg room, though there isn’t a lot of storage space to be found. The boot space is the same as a BMW 3 Series at 480L, but the combination of a high lip and a low lid means that loading bulky items inside can be a little difficult. Nor is it as refined as some of its competitors – quite a lot of outside noise seeps into the cabin, and at one point I thought I’d left the driver’s window cracked.
But does it drive well? The short answer is yes.
When you drive an Alfa Romeo, you expect a sense of occasion. And the Giulia handles exactly like you feel it should – agile and very responsive. My test model was the 2.2L diesel Super Sport with 180hp (2.2L 150hp diesel, 2.0L 200hp petrol and 2.9L V6 versions are also on offer) that accelerates from 0-100km/h in 7.1s with a top speed of 230km/h. In normal mode it’s quite zippy and fun to drive, but when you shift into Dynamic mode it’s a hell of a lot of fun. You get the feeling of being a race car driver without having to do any of the work; the Giulia is nippy and hugs the corners without a problem, no matter the road. Fuel economy isn’t terrible either depending on how hard you drive – I averaged about 7L/100km (40mpg). It’s also worth noting that the Giulia earned a five-star score in the Euro NCAP safety test, with a particularly impressive 98% for adult occupant safety.
It’s not perfect, and I have a few quibbles. The media centre is controlled by a round knob similar to that used by Audi MMI, but it’s not quite as sensitive or user-friendly, and the sat nav looks and feels a bit dated. And, when you lock or unlock the car you get an auditory indicating warning that’s quite sharp, and you can’t seem to turn it off. Comfort wise it’s not the best in class by any means, particularly if you stiffen the suspension in Dynamic mode.
Though its entry-level price of €39,995 for the 2.2L 150hp version might seem a little steep, the Giulia measures up well against similarly specc’d competition – the 150bhp 2.0L Audi A4 retails from €41,460, while Jaguar’s 163hp 2.0L diesel XE starts from €40,935. You get the feeling that Alfa Romeo has upped their game with this new edition, particularly on the technical side, but will the public respond? Time will tell, but I’d have one in a heartbeat.
Alfa Romeo Giulia 2.2 JTD Super Sport
Max speed: 230km/h
Annual tax: €190
Price: €43,996 (€44,516 as tested)