Alfa Romeo Giulia 2.2 Turbo Diesel review
There are few more evocative names in the car world than Alfa Romeo. The famous badge is often seen on models with classic Italian style and performance, catching the eye of motoring fans and casual on-lookers alike. Alfa Romeo's Giulia is one of the marque's most important models in years, taking the firm back into the highly competitive executive saloon market. With plenty of promise behind its sharp Milanese tailoring, how does the Giulia stack up?
Review by Chris Lilly
If performance is what you're after, you can do far worse than the headline-grabbing Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. Proudly wearing the cloverleaf badge on its flank, it is a performance saloon that acts as an ideal halo model for the line-up. However, it is the more conventional models that are far more important, and although it lacks the power or presence of the Quardrifoglio's 500+hp V6 petrol, the 2.2 litre turbo diesel on test puts the Giulia in core exec saloon territory. In this guise, the Giulia has 180hp to play with, and a substantial 450 Nm of torque. In the real-world, this translates into performance aplenty for most drivers, with a 0-62mph time completed in 7.1 seconds, and a top speed of 143mph. The Giulia has enough oomph to tackle anything required of it, but the engine also settles down nicely at motorway speeds for a quiet and refined drive. Matched to a eight-speed automatic gearbox, the powertrain is responsive, enthusiastic, and rarely caught out of breath or in the wrong ratio. The diesel might not have the flat torque curve that helps laid back driving, but a different way of looking at it is that it encourages enthusiastic driving. The powertrain combination is a strong one, and a match for what the Giulia's German and British rivals have to offer - though crucially different too, giving the Alfa its own character.
With an enthusiastic engine and gearbox comes a chassis set-up to entertain. The Alfa Romeo will be a bit stiff for some, but I loved it's driving dynamics. If you want to waft along, a Mercedes is going to be a better bet, but the Giulia is a good pick for a well-balanced saloon, which leans towards the sporty. It's a car that can be thrown down a twisting country road and respond with enthusiasm, offering lots of grip through its front wheels and willing the driver on to put a smile on their face. More importantly though is its ability to be driven in at more mundane speeds and on the motorway, with none of the eagerness that shines through when being driven hard coming to the fore to make things uncomfortable. It potters about town and settles down well on the open road, with a jack-of-all-trades ability which doesn't see it shine in any one area, but perform well in all. The manufacturer with the most similar ethos in the Giulia's class is Jaguar, and it would be a tough decision between the two rivals - but one I would relish having to make. It would be a nice problem to have.
The Giulia is one of the best looking cars on the road at the moment - or at least that's my personal opinion. I think it looks great, and is definitely a stand-out model in the executive saloon class. The main players from Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Lexus, and Mercedes all have a strong identity, in part because of their design, and the Giulia is no different. An athletic stance and some classic Alfa Romeo design elements help give the Giulia a striking design, but one that is practical. The proportions help, giving the Giulia enough space inside and in the boot to compete in its class. It's not the most practical car around, but it's far from the worst either, and there is more than enough space to accommodate four adults and luggage. Like it's rival - the Jaguar XE - it has no estate version to tempt in buyers wanting a more practical model. At least it has more space than the XE, and the Stelvio SUV will suffice for those wanting a big-booted Alfa for now.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
As with all cars there has to be a flaw, and the Giulia's is its interior quality. Don't get me wrong, the Alfa isn't a rattling old bucket to sit it, but it is a victim of going up against rivals that boast some of the best interiors around. The Giulia's cabin is comfortable to sit in, with supportive seats, but the quality of materials used flips between the fantastic and the average - with too much of the latter for this class. The infotainment system's screen is too small compared to rival offerings, and the graphics are neither sharp nor slick enough. The controls don't have a premium feel to them either, with the gear selector and infotainment controller both a bit plasticy for a car that costs more than £30,000. Everything works nicely and feels built well enough, but well enough isn't good enough in the Giulia's market. The big caveat for this criticism is that driving controls haven't been scrimped on. The pedals are nicely laid out, driving instruments focused on the driver, and the steering wheel is one of the best in its class. The model on test also had the Performance Pack fitted, which added aluminium gear select paddels behind the wheel, which look and feel as though they've been snaffled from Ferrari's factory parts bin. The focus is clear - the Giulia is a driver's car for driving fans. It will give you the ancilliary kit you want, but it may not be the best around.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
With all of this driver-orientated set-up, it comes as a pleasant surprise that the Giulia in this guise will return an official fuel economy figure of more than 67 MPG. Having covered plenty of miles in it, I can confirm that the Alfa Romeo is a frugal machine, easily offering fuel economy figures in the mid-to-high 50s MPG, and only dipping into the 40's with some enthusiastic driving on my part. Emitting 109 g/km of CO2 means it will cost £145 for the first year's tax - included in the car's OTR - and then £140 thereafter. If you don't take care on the options list though, it would be easy enough to top the £40,000 threshold for the Premium Rate car tax, which will see the Giulia cost £450 a year for year's two to six. It's also worth remembering that, as of April later this year, diesel cars that are not RDE2 compliant will be taxed as though they are a tax band above the emissions bracket they actually sit in. This only affects the first year rate, but will see the OTR include a year's tax at £165 for the model tested.
The Giulia has a number of green systems to help keep emissions down and fuel economy high. The eight-speed automatic gearbox essentially means the top couple of ratios are for cruising speeds, dropping the revs when sitting at motorway speeds. The Giulia also features engine stop/start for use in traffic, and there are a few screens available that give feedback as to how economically you are driving. A scoring system rates the driver in terms of overall Eco score, plus how harshly you accelerate and brake, and how economically you change gear - with each offering marks out of 100. There is also an Efficient Drive setting, which reduces the load on the engine from the air conditioning for example, makes the gearbox change up earlier, and lessens the throttle response. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 39.
The Alfa Romeo Giulia comes fairly well stocked, with some nice options packs available to bundle features together should you want them. Be warned though that these options can quickly bump the price up. Alfa has paid particular attention to safety systems, with the likes of autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian recognition, lane departure warning, and forward collision warning all standard across the range, and helping the Giulia score very highly in EuroNCAP tests. Standard equipment on the Speciale trim tested includes the Alfa D.N.A drive mode selector, 18-inch alloys, 7-inch TFT instrument display, aluminium pedals, automatic wipers and headlights, eight speaker stereo, powered and heated front seats, fog lamps, leather trim, sports styling pack, 8.8-inch infotainment system with DAB, USB, and Bluetooth. Options fitted include the Performance Pack at £1,950 which adds the likes of the aluminium gear paddles, a limited slip differential, and active suspension; plus a Climate Pack, Convenience Pack, Driver Assistance Pack, and electric sunroof. These all undeniably make the Giulia a nicer car to be in, but combined the packs and other options fitted added more than £5,500 to the cost of a £35,500 car.
The Alfa Romeo Giulia might only offer decent rather than excellent value for money, and the interior can't match up to its rivals, but that really shouldn't put potential buyers off. It's a frugal yet fun to drive car, with plenty of style and practicality, and a character that is often missing in somewhat staid executive saloon market. The Italian saloon isn't an outright class-leader, but to even compete with a return to the executive saloon market after a long hiatus is impressive enough, and the Giulia certainly does that. In short, the Alfa Romeo Giulia is a sensible choice but an enjoyable one; a choice made with the heart, but one that will keep the head happy too.
Model tested: Alfa Romeo Giulia 2.2 Turbo Diesel Speciale 180hp
Body-style: Executive saloon
Engine / CO2: 2.2 litre turbo diesel / 109 g/km
Trim grades: Giulia, Super, Speciale, Veloce
On-road price: From £29,825. Price as tested £35,515 - £41,185 inc. options.
Warranty: Three years / unlimited mileage
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4 Stars