DRIVING THE NEW ALFA ROMEO GIULIA

After a 3-year wait, Jonny drives the new Alfa Romeo Giulia to discover if its beauty goes further than skin-deep

 

If this review was a movie, the opening shot would surely be of me soaked from autumn rain trudging into a giant expo centre in Frankfurt, Germany. It’s September of 2015 and I’m attending one of the biggest international motor shows in the automotive calendar – the IAA. That 2015 event saw some very exciting displays from glamorous companies such as Bentley, Ferrari, Porsche and Bugatti – as well all the other major motoring manufacturers – but many of us there were excited about another car, a long-awaited new saloon from Alfa Romeo.

 

For many of us this show was going to be the first chance for us to get hands-on with Alfa’s new Giulia, a car that had only been unveiled to the press 3 months earlier. In the pictures from that event the new Giulia looked beautiful, a masterpiece of design that easily, easily made it the very best-looking car in its segment. Beauty has a side-effect though, a side-effect we call expectations. Because of the way it looked, the new Alfa Romeo Giulia would now have to feel and drive just as well as it looked to avoid becoming gobbled up by one of the most competitive segments in the market. At the IAA back in 2015, we fought through the crowds to ask questions, sit inside and feel the new Giulia. All the signs were good, and it was shaping up to be something special, but now we fast-forward back to the present. Now, we finally get to drive it and the question I so desperately wanted answered 3 years ago will be responded to – does this new Alfa Romeo Giulia drive as good as it looks?

 

I can tell you right now that the answer is an emphatic ‘yes’, but before we delve into exactly why that is, let’s take a closer look at the car we’ve got here. Our test car is a ‘Speciale’ coated in a deep hue of red reminiscent of a nice glass of Barolo and sat on 18-inch alloys and a large rear diffuser that are specific to this trim level. Underneath the bonnet is the sole engine choice for a Speciale – a 2.2-litre turbo diesel engine that gives us 178bhp (this will be upgraded to 188bhp in 2019 cars) to play with while only putting out 109g/km of CO2 and that Alfa says is capable of well over 60mpg. Here in the UK, only the one gearbox is available to us, an 8-speed automatic. Paddle-shifters are optional but an option that come highly recommended for reasons that will become apparent in the next paragraph.

 

 

What immediately catches your attention about the new Giulia isn’t the engine or the gearbox, it’s the steering. You only need to move the steering wheel a millimetre or two to notice the car respond to your command. The front-end is absolutely lightning fast and doesn’t seem to struggle with rapid changes of direction either. This is what we might call ‘encouraging’, the Giulia demands to be driven and driven at pace and when you do so you’ll begin to really appreciate this car. The rear-end is predictable and compliant and feeds you information in every corner, the tyres bite and cling to the corners and evening the 2.2-litre diesel makes better noise the faster you go. The entire car feels like it was born to go fast. Having owned a BMW 3-series for 4 years – a car considered segment leader for driving dynamics – I was shocked at how much more fun the Giulia was than the BMW, the way it performs is a stunning achievement for Alfa Romeo. This is now the most fun you can have in a compact exec.

 

You might assume that there would be a trade-off for such dynamic capabilities but there isn’t. On a longer drive – my commute is usually 90 minutes – the Giulia is a comfortable rider, though you do get more feeling about the condition of the surface through your seat and it isn’t as cushioned as a Jaguar XE or Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Being an Alfa Romeo – a brand with racing in its heart – a cushioned, sheltered ride wouldn’t exactly fit anyway.

 

To drive then, this is the best Alfa Romeo of my lifetime, but all of that means nothing if the quality doesn’t match up to the cars it is competing against. The infotainment system in the cabin is certainly up to standard and utilises a BMW-like system for use with a swivel wheel near to the electric handbrake in the centre of the car. In our ‘Speciale’ model the leather sports seats were hugely comfortable and both looked and felt expensive, a feeling that was matched by the materials used in the cabin, though the central armrest’s storage compartment didn’t feel as tightly fitting as it should. Overall though, it easily matches up to the entry-level interiors of the BMW 3-series and Jaguar XE, though the Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class still lead the class.

 

 

This ‘movie’ began with me excitedly shuffling into a display hall hoping for the best, hoping that Alfa Romeo had produced something special. 3 years down the road, I’m the sidekick in a plot where the new Giulia saloon has undoubtedly emerged as the heroine of the piece. Believe the hype, this is now the best handling and most alluring car in its segment. If this is the state of things to come from Alfa Romeo, I can’t wait to see what the next 3 years looks like.

 

SYNERGY BUSINESS LEASE RATING – 4/5 – LOW CO2 OUTPUT FROM THIS DIESEL MODEL ONLY HAMPERED BY THE HEAVY RIGHT FOOT I DEVELOPED THAT LEAD TO LOWER MILES PER GALLON.

SYNERGY PERSONAL LEASE RATING – 4/5 – A LITTLE MORE EXPENSIVE THAN RIVALS ON A PERSONAL LEASE AGREEMENT BUT ABSOLUTELY WORTH IT FOR A CAR THAT TRULY EXCELS.

SYNERGY OVERALL RATING – 4/5 – THE BEST OF ITS CLASS. MIGHT WELL BE A 5/5 WHEN THE PETROL-POWERED MODELS ARRIVE FOR TESTING…