WE’VE ALREADY RAVED about the 503bhp Quadrifoglio. The question here is, do similar levels of ability and character flow through the gene-pool to models at the opposite end of the Giulia range? This is a market dominated by diesel (for now, at least), and Alfa has a pair of diesel-engined Giulias primed for battle. But, for private buyers and those less concerned with CO2 numbers, there’s the 2-litre petrol Giulia, available in either standard ‘Giulia’ or higher-spec ‘Super’ trim. Both put a turbocharged 197bhp through the rear wheels only.
The new all-alloy engine features MultiAir technology – hydraulically actuated variable valve timing -along with direct fuel injection and a twin-scroll turbocharger. Peak torque of 243lb ft is available from just 1750rpm and is deployed through an eight-speed torque-converter transmission. Alfa UK having opted for an all-auto range. On paper, certainly, the Giulia has plenty going for it: 50:50 weight distribution; rear-wheel drive: an emphasis on structural rigidity and weight-saving, with aluminium for the doors, wings and much of the chassis.
The carbonfibre propshaft, a standout feature of the Quadrifoglio, is here too, and the result is a kerb weight of 1429kg: impressive, given a 2-litre Jaguar XE comes in at over 100kg more. There are double wishbones at the front and a multi link rear. In terms of raw ingredients, this is as good as it gets. On the road, too, the Giulia gets a great many things right. For starters, the driving position is excellent, the steering wheel rather lovely, and there are no awkward ergonomics. While the cabin detail lacks the wow-factor of the German opposition, it all works perfectly well and is especially pleasing with some of the optional wood and leather trims.
On the move, the car is nicely refined and instantly likeable. The £1950 Performance Pack brings variable dampers, paddles behind the steering wheel for manual shifting, and a limited-slip differential. The damper modes are selected via the now-familiar Alfa DNA switch, which also affects other attributes such as the throttle and steering. In its regular setting the suspension gives a ride that’s firm but very well controlled, and there’s a sense that the taut shell is allowing it to get on with the job at hand.
With the optional 18-inch alloy wheels there’s an unyielding quality to the Alfa’s low-speed ride around town that a more generous tyre sidewall may mitigate, but it’s not something that anyone interested in a sports saloon would baulk at, and it’s more comfortable than a Jag XE. What really gives the Giulia its own personality is its quick steering. It takes a period of acclimatisation, but it has a natural weight and feel and it’s not so extreme as to make the car feel nervous. You soon learn to make small, precise inputs, entirely in keeping with the inherent poise and fine balance of the chassis. It’s the sort of car that encourages a brisk, enthusiastic driving style almost everywhere.
The engine is a good partner for the chassis, pulling strongly from low down but maintaining a real zest at higher revs. The performance claims are 0-62mph in 6.6sec and a top speed of 146mph, and the Giulia feels every bit that quick, the auto ‘box responding well to manual control and firing smartly through the ratios. If anything, Alfa could – should – be a little more confident: allow the ESP to be slackened off and reconsider a manual gearbox. The Giulia is that sort of car. But I know what you’re thinking. Was there nothing weirdly old-Alfa-centric about it? Well, the brake pedal was curiously oversized and easy to unwittingly snag. There. That’s about it. Well done, Alfa.