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First Drive: Alfa Romeo Giulia

By / 4 years ago / Road Tests / No Comments

Can Alfa Romeo emerge from the shadow of the German premium brands? Matt Robinson finds out.

Sector: Compact Executive Price: TBC (from £32,000) Fuel: 33.2–67.3mpg CO2: 109–198g/km

Harald J Wester, Alfa Romeo’s CEO, is a straight-talking man. The German-born boss of the Italian firm is trying to turn around the fortunes of a company that has fallen a long way from grace with a succession of mediocre products. In his own words, Alfa’s latest tactic is to ‘press the reset button’ and at the breaking of the firm’s new dawn is the Giulia saloon. When one journalist asks him at the press conference if the Giulia is make-or-break time for Alfa Romeo, Wester is blunt and to the point: “Yes. Absolutely.”

The Giulia has a tough task ahead, though, because it enters a marketplace dominated by the Teutonic triumvirate of the Audi A4, the BMW 3 Series and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Things became trickier for Alfa when Jaguar launched the excellent XE last year, while a revitalised Volvo S60 – with that resurgent company’s Scalable Product Architecture and Drive-E technology – cannot be too far away. There’s also the Lexus IS and high-specification Ford Mondeos and Volkswagen Passats to overcome, let alone years’ worth of customer dissatisfaction that Alfa has unwittingly built up.

However, relief. The brand’s time has come: the Giulia is excellent. Maybe not class-leading, certainly not on interior finishing nor engine refinement, but brilliant enough in many areas to make it worthy of serious consideration. For a start, it looks glorious. Launched alongside the Quadrifoglio – with its Ferrari-inspired 503bhp V6 engine – there was a danger that the 2.2-litre diesels might have appeared bland. Not a bit of it. Whatever the spec, it’s a stunning three-box saloon and it is unmistakably an Alfa and unmistakably Italian.

Still, good looks did not save either the 156 or 159 from modest sales, so it’s crucial that the interior is one of Alfa’s best for many a year. It’s not flawless: attractive though the design is, the 8.8-inch infotainment console screen looks small in stature and badly resolved in terms of graphics. Some of the plastics and switchgear used aren’t anywhere near Audi’s all-conquering fit and finish, while the dials ahead of the driver are rather plain, if at least clear. But a lot of the major touchpoints, like the steering wheel, the gear lever and wonderful metal transmission paddle shifts, are spot on, as is the driving position. There’s plenty of room in the rear seats and the boot is a useful 480 litres.

Aside from the Quadrifoglio, the launch range consists of a 2.0-litre petrol and a pair of 2.2 diesels, all mated to eight-speed ZF automatic transmissions. We drove the 178bhp/332lb ft diesel, good for 0-62mph in 7.1 seconds and a 143mph top speed. There’s also a 148bhp/280lb ft variant, but Alfa, not giving out all UK data yet ahead of the September on-sale date, only quoted one set of data: 67.3mpg and 109g/km. The 2.2 is an all-aluminium unit and it’s strong, providing the car with ample acceleration.

What the Alfa really excels on is the ride-handling balance. On the former, it’s delightfully supple and comfy, no matter what the roads throw at it. High levels of sound suppression ensure incredible refinement, while the rear-drive platform makes it thoroughly entertaining to drive. It’s blessed with sharp, accurate steering and impressive body control, so while it can do motorway work as effectively as any fleet car should, it will prove endearing to drivers who take the time to seek out the quieter, less direct roads of the UK.

There’s no doubt the new Alfa deserves to ‘make it’. This is a hugely likeable, supremely competent car and one that finally gives the competition something to fret about. It might lack polish in one or two areas, but the Giulia is a sparkling piece of kit and the best Alfa Romeo for decades.

Verdict:

Alfa has achieved what it has promised for years – a genuinely capable and engaging car that’s an alternative to the Germans. The Giulia is a superb executive saloon.

For more of the latest industry news, click here.

First Drive: Alfa Romeo Giulia

By / 4 years ago / Uncategorised / No Comments

Sector: Compact Executive Price: TBC (from £32,000) Fuel: 33.2–67.3mpg CO2: 109–198g/km

Harald J Wester, Alfa Romeo’s CEO, is a straight-talking man. The German-born boss of the Italian firm is trying to turn around the fortunes of a company that has fallen a long way from grace with a succession of mediocre products. In his own words, Alfa’s latest tactic is to ‘press the reset button’ and at the breaking of the firm’s new dawn is the Giulia saloon. When one journalist asks him at the press conference if the Giulia is make-or-break time for Alfa Romeo, Wester is blunt and to the point: “Yes. Absolutely.”

The Giulia has a tough task ahead, though, because it enters a marketplace dominated by the Teutonic triumvirate of the Audi A4, the BMW 3 Series and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Things became trickier for Alfa when Jaguar launched the excellent XE last year, while a revitalised Volvo S60 – with that resurgent company’s Scalable Product Architecture and Drive-E technology – cannot be too far away. There’s also the Lexus IS and high-specification Ford Mondeos and Volkswagen Passats to overcome, let alone years’ worth of customer dissatisfaction that Alfa has unwittingly built up.

However, relief. The brand’s time has come: the Giulia is excellent. Maybe not class-leading, certainly not on interior finishing nor engine refinement, but brilliant enough in many areas to make it worthy of serious consideration. For a start, it looks glorious. Launched alongside the Quadrifoglio – with its Ferrari-inspired 503bhp V6 engine – there was a danger that the 2.2-litre diesels might have appeared bland. Not a bit of it. Whatever the spec, it’s a stunning three-box saloon and it is unmistakably an Alfa and unmistakably Italian.

Still, good looks did not save either the 156 or 159 from modest sales, so it’s crucial that the interior is one of Alfa’s best for many a year. It’s not flawless: attractive though the design is, the 8.8-inch infotainment console screen looks small in stature and badly resolved in terms of graphics. Some of the plastics and switchgear used aren’t anywhere near Audi’s all-conquering fit and finish, while the dials ahead of the driver are rather plain, if at least clear. But a lot of the major touchpoints, like the steering wheel, the gear lever and wonderful metal transmission paddle shifts, are spot on, as is the driving position. There’s plenty of room in the rear seats and the boot is a useful 480 litres.

Aside from the Quadrifoglio, the launch range consists of a 2.0-litre petrol and a pair of 2.2 diesels, all mated to eight-speed ZF automatic transmissions. We drove the 178bhp/332lb ft diesel, good for 0-62mph in 7.1 seconds and a 143mph top speed. There’s also a 148bhp/280lb ft variant, but Alfa, not giving out all UK data yet ahead of the September on-sale date, only quoted one set of data: 67.3mpg and 109g/km. The 2.2 is an all-aluminium unit and it’s strong, providing the car with ample acceleration.

What the Alfa really excels on is the ride-handling balance. On the former, it’s delightfully supple and comfy, no matter what the roads throw at it. High levels of sound suppression ensure incredible refinement, while the rear-drive platform makes it thoroughly entertaining to drive. It’s blessed with sharp, accurate steering and impressive body control, so while it can do motorway work as effectively as any fleet car should, it will prove endearing to drivers who take the time to seek out the quieter, less direct roads of the UK.

There’s no doubt the new Alfa deserves to ‘make it’. This is a hugely likeable, supremely competent car and one that finally gives the competition something to fret about. It might lack polish in one or two areas, but the Giulia is a sparkling piece of kit and the best Alfa Romeo for decades.

Verdict:

Alfa has achieved what it has promised for years – a genuinely capable and engaging car that’s an alternative to the Germans. The Giulia is a superb executive saloon.

For more of the latest industry news, click here.

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