For car buyers who have been put off diesels, the petrol-powered Alfa Romeo Giulia combines 48mpg economy with a sporty driving experience.
It feels like it’s been years that we’ve all been saying that Alfa has great potential but the brand just hasn’t delivered the quality of product needed to beat the competition. Well, Alfa is hoping all that is about to change with the arrival of the Giulia, which on paper promises lots of good news – but does it deliver in practice?
Our Alfa Romeo Giulia test car had a 200hp 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission, and rear-wheel drive. The exterior styling of the 4-door saloon is simple, classy, sporty and upmarket, and overall the interior is a stylish environment as well as being (mostly) functional.
You’re aware of the Giulia’s sporting intent straight away thanks to the stop/start button being located on the steering wheel. The driving position is good, although the seat could go slightly lower. Once underway it doesn’t take long to realise that the Giulia feels light, agile, and sporty. The steering is sharp and direct, yet also on the light side, but in a good way – due to a petrol rather than a heavier diesel engine sitting above the front wheels. The rear-wheel drive chassis feels responsive, and rewarding to drive – particularly on twisting B-roads, but also at all other times too. The ride is generally good in the N and A settings of the DNA dial, and if you select Dynamic then you have the option to override the firmer damper settings with a softer option, in other words you can choose to have sharper responses with a more comfortable ride. Life on motorways is also mostly good; the Giulia is generally refined, quiet and comfortable, with only occasionally intrusive road noise.
The petrol engine delivers sufficient performance, but you feel that the chassis would love more power and torque – which you can get with the 276bhp Veloce or the Giulia Quadrifoglio, with its 2.9-litre V6 bi-turbo engine with 510 hp and 600 Nm of torque.
The automatic transmission generally works well, and you can opt to change manually. This is done via the steering wheel-mounted paddles, and here’s the first Alfa quirk – they’re huge (and they don’t rotate with the wheel). The paddles are just too big, as they get in the way of trying to reach the stalks. And while we‘re on the subject of the stalks, the stalk controlling the wipers doesn’t give you the conventional range of control of the wipers that you find in most cars.
And here’s the next quirk: the electronic handbrake – it desperately needs an ‘auto release’ function, as we lost count of the amount of times that we tried to drive off and the handbrake stopped us going anywhere. For a car that’s meant for quick getaways, this can be annoying.
But not as annoying as the satnav. The whole infomedia system appears to be modelled on BMW’s iDrive system, which is a good thing, however a few critical details seem to have been lost in translation. For example, entering address locations and postcodes, and then trying to scroll down to select the choice, seemed to end up with the system instead selecting a radio station. Some tweaks to the usability are desperately needed, as is the introduction of a back button to the system.
And finally, the traction control: this system sometimes intervenes in a rather jerky way, and there’s no ability to disengage it.
But for us the biggest issue is that the Giulia only comes with a boot, which puts it at a huge disadvantage in terms of practicality compared to rivals that come with hatchbacks and/or estate body styles.
The official NEDC combined fuel economy figure for the Alfa Romeo Giulia 2.0 Turbo petrol 200hp Super is 47.9mpg. On paper this is good for a sporty petrol saloon, but how did it perform in real life? At motorway speeds the Giulia averaged 42.2mpg, although at a constant 50mph we extracted 53.8mpg. Overall, after a week of mixed driving, we averaged 36.8mpg. For the sporty driving experience, we’d say this is a decent result. The Giulia was also displaying a useful range of around 480 miles on a full tank.
The Alfa Romeo Giulia 2.0 Turbo petrol 200hp Super costs £31,250. Our car had the options of 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats, run flat tyres, 18″ 10-spoke turbine alloy wheels, yellow brake calipers, metallic paint (Montecarlo Blue), Lusso Pack (Silverwood)/Climate Pack/Performance Pack, Lighting Pack/Driver Assistance Pack, and Harmon Kardon Audio Pack. These options totalled £10,400, bringing the price of our test car to £41,650.
In terms of trim levels, you can choose between the Giulia, Giulia Super, Speciale and Veloce. There’s also a 277hp petrol engine option, and two 2.2-litre diesel engine options, with either 150hp or 180hp. All come with the 8-speed automatic transmission. And of course there’s the 510hp Giulia Quadrifoglio.
So why is Green Car Guide testing a sporty Alfa Romeo? Because lots of car buyers are considering petrol cars rather than diesels because of all the anti-diesel demonisation in the media. The Alfa Romeo Giulia delivers 138g/km CO2 emissions and company car tax Benefit in Kind of 24%, both of which are reasonable. And the Alfa Romeo Giulia ticks lots of our boxes: it’s real-wheel drive and offers a light, agile, sporty and rewarding driving experience, yet it’s also capable of over 40mpg at motorway speeds, or over 50mpg if driven very carefully. It also looks great on the outside, and the interior is generally easy to live with. However there are a few quirks, such as the lack of an automatic handbrake release, the frustration with entering addresses into the satnav, and the over-size gear paddles. But in our opinion what it needs more than anything is a body style option other than just a saloon with a boot, as it means that other rivals offer more practicality. However what the Alfa Romeo Giulia will be remembered for overall is coming close to providing a enjoyable driving experience along the lines of a Mazda MX-5, but in a 5-seater saloon. This is praise indeed, and the Alfa Romeo Giulia is awarded a Green Car Guide rating of 9 out of 10.