It’s weird how often clichés are true – which is a bit of a cliché I realise. Consider car design. Just looking at the latest Alfa would tell you that it wasn’t made by the Germans. Or the South Koreans. Or the British come to that. It could only be made by those with Italian bubbles fizzing in their veins.
But Italian beauties are renowned for being much more than beautiful, so if the Giulia is to really succeed it has to show more than just a set of racy lines. On which front it gets off to a flyer, with an entirely new rear-wheel drive platform, using a lot of lightweight metals.
In terms of what it’s got in the heart department, the star is always going to be the 503bhp Quadrifoglio with its twin-turbo V6, but the head is equally well catered for with a choice of a 148bhp or 178bhp 2.2-litre diesel or a 197bhp or 276bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine. Even if you wanted the closer communion of a manual gearbox, you can’t as the only option is the eight-speed auto.
But you won’t mind that, as the auto transmission works smoothly across all the engine options. With the diesels it keeps you mostly in the punchy midrange, but lets the petrol engines soar more. Naturally, there is quite a difference between the 148bhp diesel version and the 503bhp Quadrifoglio, but every single one handles with really marvellous Italian flair.
The car is so involving, whatever the engine, with a decent ride and a handling package that places it instantly above more uninvolving opposition like the Audi A4. Steering is informative and well weighted, and there’s masses of feedback to help you make the most of the supple chassis.
While the diesels work well they’re a bit raucous at lower speeds or heavy loading, and it’s hard to see how they really combine well with such an alive chassis. The petrol engines balance it all out much better, and you don’t need to get the top model to enjoy cracking performance and wicked handling.
While that’s classically Italian, the cabin is also very Italian, and that’s not an unalloyed compliment. The styling is terrific, but in the entry levels it’s not that inspiring in terms of materials and you can’t get away from the rather cheap-feeling switchgear. The 8.8in infotainment screen looks good but actually it’s not great to use.
However, if this is giving you the glums, you can move up, if you can afford it, to the Giulia Super trim which brings in the part leather, richer touches and so on that start to make the Giulia feel as good inside as it is all round. However, if you move up to the Luxury pack you’ll have gone all the way, with the sort of wood veneers, dashboard wraps and more that make this seem a welcome diversion from the more dour German counterparts.
The driver’s seat is set low and sporty, which feels great – once you’re in. The low roofline combines with this to make getting in and out not quite as simple as it might be, but once you’re in you’ll be very comfy. Those in the back have decent legroom but headroom is slightly compromised by that sloping roofline. Style never comes free.
The boot behind the split-folding seats (standard in higher specs) is as competitive as anything else in the class although again style has slightly trumped practicality in terms of getting big stuff in and out.
Along with good looks, Alfa has added what it didn’t always have – a full suite of safety equipment. Forward collision alert, lane departure warning and AEB are all standard fit, which will increase peace of mind. Speaking of which.
Back in the day you wouldn’t have wanted to discuss residual values of Alfas, but while the Giulia is expected to have higher depreciation than its German rivals, it should be much better than before. However, with one eye on reliability, again not always an Italian strength, you might feel a bit uneasy when you see that the warranty is only for two years, although it is for unlimited mileage. How very Italian.