Alfa Romeo Giulia saloon review
"The Alfa Romeo Giulia is a stylish, luxurious and great-to-drive alternative to established executive saloons like the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class"
- Beautiful looks
- Great to drive
- Improved infotainment
- Limited engine range
- No manual gearbox available
- Not the most practical saloon
The Alfa Romeo Giulia is an important car. Alfa Romeo was absent from the executive saloon class since the beautiful-but-flawed 159 ceased production in 2011. In its absence, the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-Class, and Audi A4 continued to dominate the field, while the Jaguar XE is another stylish choice.
It’s pleasing, therefore, that the Giulia is a thoroughly competent executive saloon that has what it takes to compete with the BMW 3 Series. The Giulia’s driving experience is impressive, its interior is comfortable, well built and elegant, while the engines offer performance, economy, or a mixture of the two. Updates in late 2018 made the Giulia even more competitive, tweaking its engines and improving equipment levels, while a more thorough refresh at the end of 2019 tackled the interior, improving quality and connectivity.
In seeking to appeal to keen drivers, the Alfa Romeo Giulia is an agile, sporty rear-wheel-drive saloon offered with powerful engines. The 197bhp 2.0-litre petrol is a sporty choice, while the now-withdrawn 2.2-litre diesel (offered with either 158 or 187bhp) will be a tempting second-hand choice for many, thanks to its impressive fuel economy. For those after serious performance, there’s the 503bhp Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, or the more affordable Giulia Veloce, which comes with a 276bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine and most of the Quadrifoglio’s sporty touches.
The 187bhp diesel engine returns a respectable 52.3mpg and is powerful enough to get the Giulia from 0-62mph in just 7.1 seconds. Fuel economy and CO2 emissions for the 158bhp engine are near identical, while its 0-62mph time of 8.2 seconds means you don’t have to make too much of a sacrifice in terms of performance if you go for the cheaper of the two diesel engines. As part of the Giulia's updates, later diesel engines employ emissions-reducing AdBlue to reduce harmful NOx gases, but this will require occasional top-ups of the fluid.
While the diesel engines make more sense from the point of view of efficiency, don’t rule the 197bhp 2.0-litre petrol. We found it smoother than the diesel, while it also gives the Giulia a sportier nature that suits the car. The only drawback is the higher running costs, which are exacerbated by this engine’s preference for being revved.
The 2.0-litre Veloce petrol bridges the gap between the regular Giulia range and the outrageous 503bhp Giulia Quadrifoglio, with 276bhp from its tuned engine. This gives it a 0-62mph figure of 5.7 seconds and a top speed approaching 150mph – numbers that make it faster than the BMW 330i. It’s an impressive engine that sounds pretty good and suits the eight-speed automatic gearbox.
On the road, the Giulia benefits from plenty of grip and impressive agility, and it’s almost as capable as either the Jaguar XE or BMW 3 Series in terms of its overall ride and handling balance. The steering is light and very quick, while the suspension setup feels too firm on bumpy roads. Nevertheless, it’s still fun on the right road. The powerful Veloce model can exploit the Giulia’s talented chassis and its limited-slip differential gives it an even more planted feel through corners.
Trim levels have changed a few times, with recent versions including Super, Sprint, Lusso Ti and Veloce. The standard equipment was improved across the Giulia range in 2020 to include sat nav, bi-xenon headlights and all-round parking sensors. For 2022, though, Alfa Romeo has slimmed down the range, so you can now choose between Sprint, Veloce, a new Estrema trim level (replacing the departed Veloce Ti) and the flagship Quadrifoglio.
With its interior updates, the Giulia now strikes a good balance between performance, driving fun and comfort, like its Jaguar XE rival, and it certainly beats the Audi A4 in this regard. The Giulia will appeal to the keenest drivers in the small executive market and is generally a great choice, but does have some downsides. While quality has improved markedly with the latest updates, it's still not quite as good as that in some rivals, nor is Alfa’s infotainment system.