What Car? says...
The Alfa Romeo Giulia offers an alternative option for anyone who's searching for a new executive car but is bored of the familiar German saloons that dominate the class.
It might not be an obvious choice, but the Giulia shouldn’t be dismissed as an oddball or irrational one (unlike some previous Alfa models). As you can see from our photos, it carries on the tradition of good-looking Italian cars, and also has the substance to back up that style.
You see, unlike its front-wheel-drive predecessors, the Alfa Romeo Giulia has rear-wheel drive, allowing it to sit more comfortably next to its driver-focused rivals. The use of lightweight aluminium in the car’s structure and bodywork is good news for fuel efficiency and cornering poise.
Since the Giulia's launch, Alfa Romeo has made tweaks here and there to keep the model fresh, including overhauling the infotainment system, fitting a plusher interior and tweaking the exterior styling to give it a family resemblance to the Alfa Romeo Tonale.
The engine range has changed too, and you can no longer get a diesel, just a petrol. There's no hybrid option – which is a shame if you're looking for a company car and are attracted to the tax benefits of having some form of electrification under the bonnet.
So, does that omission prevent the Alfa Romeo Giulia from being a worthy competitor to the main exec car rivals – namely the Audi A4, the BMW 3 Series, the Jaguar XE, the Mercedes C-Class and the Volvo S60?
Well, we've driven the Giulia, and that's what we'll tell you over the next few pages of this review. We'll also rate it in all the important areas, including performance and driving dynamics, practicality and boot space, interior quality and more.
Once you've chosen your next new car, we can also help you get it for the lowest price if you search our free What Car? New Car Deals pages. You'll find it has lots of the best new executive car deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
The Giulia’s engine line-up is quite straightforward, with just one 276bhp 2.0-litre petrol available with an eight-speed automatic gearbox. (We're not including the performance car version – see our Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio review for that).
It's a fantastic engine, and the official 5.7sec 0-62mph time feels rather conservative from behind the wheel. There's a surprising lack of turbo lag for such a small engine, so it responds to the accelerator promptly. It’s an absolute joy to flick up and down the gears using the fixed metal paddle shifters behind the wheel.
In pre-facelift models, it was possible to get a 197bhp version of the same unit, but it was removed from the range in the name of simplification. This is no major loss as it never had the grunt to allow you to exploit the Giulia’s sporty handling.
Suspension and ride comfort
The entry-level Sprint comes on 18in alloy wheels, while the Veloce and Competizione sit on 19in wheels. Regardless of wheel size, all Giulias combine a smooth, fluent ride with wonderfully balanced handling, which really distinguishes it from the less-involving Audi A4 and Mercedes C-Class.
Competizione also adds adaptive suspension that can be softened or firmed up at the touch of a button.
Even the entry-level Sprint model has a beautiful handling balance and is fun through corners, thanks largely to its quick and direct steering. Some drivers might find it less reassuring than the slightly heavier steering of the BMW 3 Series but it doesn’t take long to key into the Giulia’s quick responses.
The Veloce has a limited-slip differential as standard, and that helps to increase grip as you accelerate out of corners.
Noise and vibration
The Giulia suffers from a bit of wind noise around its door mirrors at motorway speeds, but when we measured it against the 3 Series and the Volvo S60 at our private test track, the decibel meter showed it was a quieter cruiser overall.
The auto gearbox is a little slow to change gears when you put your foot down, which can hinder progress when you’re trying to accelerate sharply or go for a gap at a roundabout.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
The Alfa Romeo Giulia’s driver’s seat (electrically adjustable on our favoured Veloce trim) is set low and allows you to adopt a sporty, hunkered-down position. The one annoyance is that the unusually large gearshift paddles sit quite far back behind the wheel, so the indicator and wiper stalks are even further back, forcing you to stretch to use them.
Sitting behind the slim steering wheel you’ll find a rich 12.3-inch digital dash panel. It’s not as customisable as the brilliant Virtual Cockpit in the Audi A4 but it can be switched between three different layouts: Evolved, Relax and Heritage, each placing more or less emphasis on particular driving instruments.
Everything on the dashboard has been sensibly positioned, with all the relevant knobs and buttons housed exactly where you’d expect. You even get physical controls for the air-con, which are much easier to use on the move than the digital ones you’ll find in the Volvo S60.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
Seeing out of the front of the Giulia could be easier – it has thick windscreen pillars and high-set door mirrors that can restrict your view at junctions and roundabouts.
Thankfully, front and rear parking sensors, and a reversing camera are standard on all trims. You also get adaptive matrix LED headlights as standard that bend their light around approaching vehicles, which in turn allows you to leave your high beams on.
Sat nav and infotainment
Every Giulia has an 8.8in infotainment screen that you can control by touching the screen or using a rotary dial mounted between the front seats. That means it's easier and safer to use when you're driving than the touchscreen-only systems in the A4 and the S60.
The screen has quite a simple set-up, with a widget-style layout. However, the graphics are quite grainy and it’s not swish enough to pull you away from plugging in your smartphone to use Android Auto or Apple CarPlay (included as standard). The BMW 3 Series – which also uses a rotary dial controller, but has much sharper graphics – is the executive car class leader here.
If you’re into your music, you might want to go for Veloce trim as it gives you the option of upgrading the standard eight-speaker stereo to a 900W Harman Kardon system with 14 speakers and a subwoofer. It’s available as part of a pack that, along with better sound quality, also adds a plush leather dashboard. The pack is included as standard on range-topping Competizione models.
Interior finish has always been a bit of a sticking point with Alfa Romeo cars, but the Giulia’s level of build quality is perfectly respectable. There are plenty of soft-touch surfaces, as well as the option of specifying metal inserts for prominent locations, such as around the leather-clad gear selector.
The ergonomic and quality quibbles that blighted early Giulias have been addressed. For example, the rotary infotainment controller, which used to feel a little loose, now has a solid click to it, and the cupholders are now located further back from the dashboard, allowing for a larger bottle.
There’s an Italian flag motif at the base of the gear shifter to remind you of the country's reputation for luxury goods and craftsmanship, but even with its smart touches, the Giulia can’t match the quality of the 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
With a fairly low roofline and low-set seats, the Alfa Romeo Giulia isn’t the easiest of executive cars to get into, but once you are in, you'll find that it caters for larger adults fairly well. There's lots of head room all round unless you're way over six feet tall.
The front seats are quite wide, adjustable and comfortable, although they could use a little more under-thigh support. Veloce cars and up get more heavily bolstered seats for a snugger fit.
Shoulder room and elbow room are decent, and there are cubbyholes for stowing your odds and ends, including a sizeable space under the centre armrest and a wireless phone-charger.
As for storage, the rear door pockets are quite small, but you can still get a small bottle of water in there. You also get a pair of cupholders in the rear armrest and a couple of USB sockets between the front seats.
Seat folding and flexibility
Entry-level Sprint models get a manually adjustable front passenger seat. If you want a six-way electric adjustment you’ll need to step up to Veloce.
The back seats split and fold in a practical 40/20/40 ratio. That configuration gives you the option of putting people in the rear seats while carrying a longer item such as a pair of skis.
The Giulia's boot is rather short and narrow compared with the 3 Series and S60 boots, and as a result it can take only six carry-on suitcases, compared with seven for those rivals.
If you want an even bigger boot and are prepared to sacrifice the premium badge, have a look at the Skoda Superb which took 10 carry-on cases when we tested it.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
The Alfa Romeo Giulia's starting price is higher than for the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series, sitting more in line with the Mercedes C-Class and Volvo S60. The Giulia's entry-level Sprint trim does come with lots of standard equipment and a powerful petrol engine, though.
Like its conventional petrol rivals, the Giulia will sit in the higher benefit-in-kind tax brackets. Official fuel economy is also very similar to that of equivalent performance-focused rivals.
Equipment, options and extras
Keeping things simple, there are only three trims to choose from for the Giulia (unless you count the Alfa Romeo Giulia QV – which has a separate review).
Entry-level Sprint comes with 18in alloy wheels, active cruise control, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry, a leather steering wheel and gearstick, aluminium gearshift paddles and an 8.8in infotainment system.
Veloce is our favourite trim and comes with 19in wheels, heated, electrically adjustable leather seats, aluminium trim inserts, sportier exterior styling and a limited-slip differential. Competizione adds 19in wheels with adaptive suspension, a Harman Kardon sound system, a leather-wrapped dashboard, privacy glass and the option of ‘matt Moonlight Grey paint’.
Historically, Alfa Romeo hasn't been known for its stellar reliability and the Giulia hasn’t done much to counter that image. In our 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey the model finished 18th out of 19 executive cars rated. The brand itself performed no better finishing in a dismal 29th out of the 32 car makers featured.
You’ll get some peace of mind from Alfa’s three-year warranty with unlimited mileage, but that duration is fairly standard among executive cars.
Safety and security
The Giulia scored five stars out of five in its Euro NCAP tests, and a closer inspection of the scores shows that it outperformed the Volvo S60 in the adult occupant protection test, although its score in the child protection test was a slightly lower.
All versions come with a wealth of clever safety tech, including automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control.
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Yes. Our favourite Giulia, called the Veloce, gets a 276bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine that allows it to accelerate from 0-60mph in just 5.7 seconds.
No, the Giulia is only available with pure petrol engines. If you're looking for a company car with low benefit-in-kind tax payments, see our best company cars list.
Every Giulia comes with an 8.8in touchscreen infotainment system that's easy to use and quick to respond when you prod it.
|RRP price range||£39,995 - £78,195|
|Number of trims (see all)||6|
|Number of engines (see all)||2|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||32.5 - 39.2|
|Available doors options||4|
|Warranty||3 years / No mileage cap|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£2,829 / £5,618|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£5,658 / £11,236|