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The big test

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Alfa Romeo is back in the compact executive saloon market with the new Giulia, a car the firm claims embodies the brand’s core elements of distinctive Italian design, innovative powertrains, perfect weight distribution, unique technical solutions and the best power-to-weight ratio. So, not exactly a low-key entrance then.

The Big Test - Alfa Romeo Giulia Gallery Image 3

On the road

On the road

The design is the obvious place to start, and it’s a very striking and pretty car in a segment where prestigious sobriety and safety from the German premium brands dominates.

The Alfa Romeo Giulia certainly makes a statement, and is an excellently proportioned muscular and attractive design from all angles. Its designers have nailed a head-turning look that also marks it out clearly as an Alfa. 

All cars come with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, and along with 200hp, 280hp and 510hp petrol engines are a pair of diesels that will make up the bulk of company car sales. The 150hp and 180hp diesels are both 2.2-litre units, and come with the same 109g/km and 67.3mpg efficiency figures that put the car in the mix with its core rivals. There’s a £1,200 price difference between the two, and the higher Speciale trim isn’t available with the less powerful engine. 

Interestingly from a specification point of view, it’s the area of safety that Alfa Romeo has chosen to focus on, with all cars getting forward collision alert and autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection systems. The Alfa Romeo Giulia recorded an excellent overall five-star EuroNCAP crash test score, and was rated especially strongly in the adult occupant-protection area. Lane-departure warning and Alfa’s Integrated Braking System that improves responsiveness and cuts stopping distances are also standard on every model, while other standard equipment includes dual-zone climate control and cruise control. 

The entry trim is only offered with the 200hp petrol engine, which means the diesel range starts with Super trim, which contains 17-inch alloys, part-leather seats, rear parking sensors and upgraded interior trim.

Stepping up by £2,200 to Speciale is only possible if you go for the 180hp diesel. This adds 18-inch alloys, red-painted brake calipers, bi-xenon headlights, powered and heated sports seats and exterior appearance upgrades including dual exhausts. Overall, the spec is reasonable without being overly generous, especially given that the Giulia is priced to go head-to-head with well-established and high-quality rivals. 

Dropping into the driver’s seat, the first thing you notice is that the compact steering wheel has the starter button mounted upon it. Combined with the huge optional gearchange paddles just behind it, Alfa’s desired effect of making the car feel more sporty and special than a regular diesel saloon is a spectacular success.  

Otherwise, the cabin seems to wrap itself around the driver more than rivals’, which makes it feel smaller and cosier. That feeling of snugness is enhanced by the central B-pillar being further forward than is found in most other cars. That’s not a criticism, because it’s a welcoming place overall, if a bit overloaded with black. 

The gear lever lights up on ignition with the positions of the various functions, which is a nice touch, although the edges of the lever could do with being better-finished. It also has more than a whiff of a BMW auto lever, something that isn’t unique when you poke round the Alfa’s cockpit. The cabin is also of varied quality in terms of materials, and isn’t at the all-round level of rivals, particularly Audi’s A4. 

The infotainment system is also one that trails rivals in terms of user-friendliness. The split-screen effect on what is a pretty large 8.8-inch screen makes the whole thing seem smaller, and has the effect of looking like too much information is crammed into a small space. It’s also not the most intuitive when you’re trying to do things such as find new radio stations or stop the navigation; they just take a bit too much thought to sort out.  

The Big Test - Alfa Romeo Giulia - Real World MPG
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The Giulia marks Alfa’s return to the compact executive market, somewhere it has not been for six years since the 159 model ended production. 

The ill-fated 159 was part of a joint development with General Motors that suffered delays and late changes, which meant the car ended up more expensive to build than was ideal, and it never had the required sales success over its six-year life. 

The 159 followed the 156 model that was sold in the UK between 1998 and 2007, in saloon and estate forms. Prior to that, the 155 ran between 1992 and ’98, and before that was the Alfa 75, the last car Alfa Romeo launched before being acquired by Fiat. 

The resurrected Giulia name dates back to 1962 with a car that Alfa Romeo describes as a sports saloon that became the “backbone” of its range. The Italian brand claims that the Giulia (right) was the first mass-produced car with a five-speed gearbox, and it was built until 1978.

The Big Test - Alfa Romeo Giulia - Context Image

What they said

What they said

“The Giulia offers something special to business drivers. 

There are compelling practical reasons such as its safety credentials; the Giulia has a five-star EuroNCAP rating and achieved a score of 98% for adult occupant protection, the highest-ever achieved by a car. 

We’ve ensured that it has solid residuals. However, it’s the passion and styling that will draw car-lovers.”

Francis Bleasdale
fleet and remarketing director, FCA
Fiat Chrysler

The Big Test - Alfa Romeo Giulia - Francis Bleasedale

Comparatively speaking

Alfa Romeo Giulia, comparatively speaking table

Need to know

Mini Countryman, need to know table


Three things we like...


Putting the start button on the steering wheel is a neat and sporty touch

The Big Test - Alfa Romeo Giulia - Three things we like - image 2

A £275 option, the huge gearshift paddles could be straight out of a racing car

The Big Test - Alfa Romeo Giulia - Three things we like - image 3

The styling is a great blend of muscular aggression and elegance

...And one we don't

The Big Test - Alfa Romeo Giulia - And one we don't image

More than once we managed to hit the boot-open button by accident with the key in a pocket



Drive  8/10

Tidy handling and good, punchy acceleration make for a diesel saloon that drives nicely. Steering is a touch too sensitive.

Efficiency  8/10

This engine is in the right area thanks to a 109g/km emissions figure, but it’s a shame that the 150hp version isn’t more efficient.

Practicality  7/10

Boot opening is a bit narrow, but space matches rivals. Rear space is average for the class.

Equipment  7/10

Good safety kit as standard and most of the basics are here, but nothing else above rival offerings.

Looks  10/10

A stunning stand-out car in a traditionally conservative sector.

Comfort and refinement 8/10

The engine is a bit gruff at low speed, but on the motorway, the ride and refinement make the Giulia an excellent cruiser, much more so that might have been expected.

Cabin  8/10

Full of character, and although there’s plenty of space, the cabin seems to cozy itself around the driver. In a good way. Some  interior plastics aren’t up with premium rivals’.

Infotainment  6/10

Despite the screen matching rivals’ for size, it feels crammed and small. It’s not massively user-friendly.

Whole life costs  7/10

Given Alfa’s  history in this area, it’s a decent effort to be within 3p per mile of all main rivals. Stick with its promises on preserving RVs and that should improve.

CCT opinion  8/10

A very, very likeable car that frustrates in a few areas, but is much more characterful than rivals. More expensive to run, it’s close enough to be worth considering.


Alfa Romeo can file its return to the compact exec saloon market as a success. Pricing at the same level as established rivals is bold, but it’s a great breath of fresh air.