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Alfa Romeo Giulia 2.2 MultiJet 2016 Road Test

The Alfa Romeo Giulia has a lot resting on its shoulders. Billed by Alfa as its “make or break car”, the upmarket saloon is tasked with rivalling the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series. No small task, we're sure you'll agree. The question is, will it succeed?

The Giulia certainly looks the part: it's aggressive, sleek and distinctive. What's more, on paper at least, there is a Giulia for everyone, with the range encompassing everything from efficient diesels to supercar munching V6 petrols. Prices, Alfa Romeo tell us, will range from £30,000 - £60,000, although we won't know exact prices until next month at the earliest. 

As you might expect, the diesels will dominate the sales, with the majority of Giulias being aimed at fleets and family buyers. The model tested here - the 2.2 diesel with 180PS - will be the most popular and starts at an estimated £31,500. This puts it alongside some very accomplished company, with the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class all available for the same sort of money. There will also be a 150PS version of this diesel available.

Like all rear-wheel drive Alfas, the Giulia's is very much geared towards driving pleasure, with firm suspension, responsive steering and a torque packed engine. The four-cylinder unit is all-new and produces a considerable 450Nm from 1750rpm. This makes it well suited for punching through the gears. The all-aluminium engine isn't very refined though, with diesel clatter at start-up and lots of noise under hard acceleration. Things do quieten down at motorway speeds, but it's nowhere near the level of refinement you'd expect from a car costing over £30,000. 

Claimed economy is impressive - which is good news for company car drivers. Officially, the Giulia will return 67.3mpg and 109g/km of CO2, which is on par with its rivals. All 2.2 diesels get an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard, which delivers power to the rear-wheels with smooth precision, making it easy to take advantage of the Giulia's grippy and balanced chassis. 

Fun to drive, economical and capable of covering 0-62mph in 7.1 seconds, the Giulia diesel will easily rumble its way through twisty roads. However, while the dynamic set-up is rewarding, it does have its drawbacks, with the ultra-responsive steering feeling twitchy on the motorway. Indeed, even the slightest of hand movements will unsettle the ride, which can become annoying on a long drive. 

All models feature Alfa DNA, giving the driver the choice of three driving modes - Dynamic, Natural, Advanced Efficiency - modifying the steering and throttle responses to match your mood. However, all the modes are performance focused, which means the Giulia can be a difficult car to relax in, with the firm ride, twitchy steering and high levels of wind and engine noise grating the senses. 

The fit and finish of the cabin is a lot better than anything found in previous Alfa cars though, with lots of soft touch materials and high quality plastics. It's not quite up to Audi standards, but a huge improvement over previous Alfa Romeos. The cabin is large and comfortable, with space for four large adults. Getting a fifth passenger is tricky though, with the raised transmission tunnel and ventilation controls limiting legroom in the central rear seat. 

Alfa Romeo Giulia (6)

The infotainment isn't anywhere near as advanced as those found in BMW, Audi or Jaguar. A 6.5-inch screen is mounted in dash and, while it is clear enough to read on the go, the graphics look blocky and dated. The system operation also lacks the slick operation and quality of those found in the latest BMWs and Audi models. However, boot space is good - with 480 litres - although the shallow boot opening can make it tricky to fit bulky items in.

Officially, UK specs and prices for the Giulia are still to be confirmed. That said, we have been told that the 2.2 diesel with 180PS is going toe-to-toe with the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 in price. It is here it will find some issues, because - to be blunt - its nowhere near as refined or as comfortable to drive as its German rivals, We doubt it will be as well-equipped either. 

That's not to say you should dismiss the Alfa Romeo Giulia outright. It has some very likeable traits that make it a genuine alternative to the mainstay of otherwise bland looking upmarket saloons. We should also point out that the Giulia boasts superb handling. It drives as well as the 3 Series and in our opinion looks far more striking than anything Mercedes-Benz, Audi or Jaguar can muster.

Indeed, if this is a sign of things to come, then the future of Alfa Romeo is looking bright. Compromises aside, the Giulia is a welcome addition to the premium car ranks. If you can look past its shortcomings, and want an attractive, performance focused saloon that stands out, the Giulia could be the perfect choice. 

The Alfa Romeo Giulia goes on sale in June, with deliveries starting in September

 

 

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