Driving the new turbo petrol Alfa Romeo in the UK for the first time
The Alfa Romeo Giulia is the famed Italian brand’s competitor to the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. It’s already impressed us overseas in potent range-topping guise: how does it perform back here in the UK in more mainstream 2.0-litre turbo petrol form?
A qualifier: no matter how good this car, four in five Giulia buyers will still choose diesel. But because Alfa currently only offers two petrol models – either this 197bhp car, or the fiery 503bhp V6 turbo range-topper – this is still an important car. Particularly as even this is reasonable in CO2 and economy, with 138g/km and 47.9mpg combined respectively. It could still add up if you don’t do the miles necessary to justify diesel.
It’s still a sharp looker, too. It doesn’t quite have the visual aggression of the range-topper, but it’s distinctive and individual, certainly more so than the Germanic norm in this sector. Our test car was one-up from base, the Super, which brings smart 17-inch alloys and, inside, part-leather seats. Like all UK Giulias, it has an eight-speed automatic: Super adds steering paddles.
Alfa Romeo Giulia 2.0 Turbo Super
Engine: 2.0-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder in-line petrol
Gearbox: Eight-speed automatic
Kerb weight: 1492kg
Top speed: 146mph
CO2/tax band: 138g/km/24%
What’s it like, then? Great fun, we’re delighted to reveal. The high-revving engine is vibrant, it sounds great and, with 0-62mph in 6.6 seconds, it’s considerably faster than its direct BMW rival, the 320i. The automatic gearbox is responsive and intuitive as well.
The ride is on the firm side, but it’s never uncomfortable, and this brings excellent body control with it. Steering may be light at first but it soon weighs up with speed, and there’s strong feedback through it. The traditional sharp Alfa turn-in is tempered by calm poise once in corners.
It’s a car that encourages you when driving quickly and, like the Jaguar XE, is more fun than an A4, C-Class and, shocker, a 3 Series. Alfas can feel good overseas but not quite deliver once back in the UK: not this Giulia, which is something of a revelation for the brand. Even the mode-altering Alfa DNA system is a positive, with well-defined differences between its settings.
Negatives? There are surprisingly few. Perhaps an inevitable one is an interior that’s slightly cheaply finished in places, with a few too many cheap plastics if you look hard, and a rather laggy infotainment system letting the side down. Rear access isn’t the best and there’s a little too much wind and road noise at speed.
But downsides are few. The Giulia is a bit of a triumph for Alfa Romeo. Those committed to picking cars different to the norm are in for a treat, particularly as this is so good to drive yet so relatively comfortable and affordable to run with it.
We’d perhaps still prefer driving the Jaguar XE, but there’s not much in it. Which, for an Alfa Romeo here in the UK, really is a revelation. They’re bringing fewer than 4000 into this country a year: the Giulia is a car that makes an excellent case for you to be one of those fortunate owners.