What is it?
You’ve already read about the V6-engined, twin-turbo Alfa Romeo Giulia with its storming 503bhp, but Alfa’s new range of rear-drive saloons (the first since 1985’s Alfa 75, conceived before Fiat’s ownership of Alfa) will more often be seen on the roads in humbler four-cylinder guise.
The 2.2-litre turbodiesel is likely to be the biggest seller, but this 2.0-litre, petrol-fuelled Giulia comes closest to a modern interpretation of an archetypal Alfa Romeo saloon. It has an entirely new engine, as all the other Giulias do, and like them, it uses aluminium for both block and head. The inlet valves and throttle use the Multiair system already seen in smaller Fiat Group engines, with variable valve timing and lift over an extraordinarily wide range, and there are both direct injection and a two-outlet, or twin-scroll, turbocharger.
Peak outputs are 197bhp at 5000rpm and 243lb ft of torque starting at just 1750rpm, with CO2 at 138g/km for the eight-speed automatic version that will be standard issue in the UK. This gentler Giulia lacks the auto-extending front splitter, the front-wing vents and the recessed triangular cloverleaf badges featured on the Quadrifoglio, but it is still a muscular-looking machine if a shade generic in its styling once past the nose with its three diamond-meshed, obviously-Alfa grilles.
What’s it like?
To drive, it’s very pleasing indeed. The engine revs very smoothly, but with the fizzy edge you always hope for in an Alfa, and its throttle response is mostly sharp enough to make you forget there’s a turbine wheel to spool up. There’s enough near-instant torque to make the Giulia feel smaller and lighter than it is, although aluminium subframes, suspension arms and some body panels have helped pare the weight back. Vital stats are a 146mph top speed and a 6.6sec 0-62mph time, quick enough for most needs.
The gearbox helps this sense of keenness. It’s a ZF torque-converter auto, but its shifts are as quick and definite as a decent double-clutcher’s, heightening the Alfa’s aura of alertness. In the D (Dynamic) mode of the DNA switch the foregoing is heightened, but not to the point of hyperactivity.
The 2.0 lacks the Quadrifoglio’s mode-adjustable active dampers, but the passive monotube ZF-Sachs units have beautifully-judged calibration. The Giulia’s very rigid body structure helps their task, the overall result is a remarkably smooth, quiet, well-controlled ride combined with low roll angles, taut responses to the driver’s directional commands and a deliciously grippy, progressive, light-footed pointability. Although ultra-quick in its response, an Alfa feature since the days of the 156, the steering feels keen and natural rather than nervous, if short on true feel of the front wheels’ state of grip.
This dynamic mix is, frankly, a revelation. It’s better than that of any mainstream Fiat Group product in recent memory, and it gives real substance to Alfa Romeo’s intended rebirth as a maker of proper drivers’ cars.
Inside, the style is one of complicated sweeps and swoops in the modern idiom, but there’s a nod to past Alfas in the double-cowled dials. Towards the middle of the dashboard is a large area of plain satin black, which turns out to be a borderless multimedia screen once the Alfa is activated. The sat-nav graphics are more TomTom than BMW, but the effect is neat, simple and pleasing. The central gear selector could have come straight from BMW’s parts bin; higher-spec models add aluminium paddle-shifters, which cover an unusually large arc.
As for the quality of the fixtures and fittings, it’s acceptable in itself, but not up to the standards of the best Germans, even though the Giulia range will almost shadow these rivals on price albeit, it is claimed, with a slightly richer equipment mix. There are attractive and Italianate trim combinations, though, such as dark tan leather for seats and door trim inserts matched to black elsewhere.
Should I buy one?
You can have the Giulia in standard or better-equipped Super guise, the latter reprising the name of one of the original 105-series Giulia versions of the 1960s. You can add a Luxury pack (open-grain wood trim, full leather, more exterior brightwork, xenon headlights) or – provided you start with a Super – a Sport pack (sportier steering wheel, aluminium interior trim inserts, xenons).
So, should you? One key Giulia advantage is that it’s a more interesting choice than an obvious German, and, unexpectedly, our experience on Italian roads suggests it rides better than a Jaguar XE. To drive, this 2.0-litre version is a delight, and it covers most other bases admirably. We all know about Alfa and its last-chance saloons, but the history-drenched marque seems to have cracked it this time.
Alfa Romeo Giulia 2.0 MultiAir
Location Balocco, Italy; On sale September; Price from £27,000 approx; Engine 4 cyls, 1995cc, turbo, petrol; Power 200bhp at 5000rpm; Torque 243lb ft from 1750rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic, rear-wheel drive; Kerb weight 1429kg; 0-62mph 6.6sec; Top speed 146mph; Economy 47.9mpg (combined, est); CO2 138g/km (est)
What is it?