The Giulia combines a smooth, fluent ride with wonderfully balanced handling – the latter really distinguishing it from its less involving rivals such as the Audi A4 and Mercedes C-Class.
Cheaper versions of the Giulia come with 17in alloy wheels, while the top-of-the-range Quadrifoglio version rides on 19in wheels, stiffer springs and adaptive dampers. Although there’s plenty of difference in the driving experiences of entry-level and top-of-the-line models, even the 2.2-litre diesel versions have sharp handling and are fun through corners, thanks largely to the Giulia's really quick and direct steering.
The diesel engines are a little coarse, but they do quieten down at a cruise and pull quite hard through the middle of the rev range, where the eight-speed automatic gearbox keeps the engine most of the time.
Alfa’s 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine is more potent, sounds better and revs more smoothly. Its more willing and athletic repertoire is a better match for the Giulia's fluid handling than the diesel engine is. In fact, it’s more fun to drive quickly than equivalent rivals from Mercedes and Audi, and roughly on a par with the Jaguar XE and BMW 3 Series. The 280 Veloce is noticeably faster than the standard 200 petrol option, although still doesn’t turn the Giulia into a snarling sports car.
As for refinement, the Giulia can't compete with the A4's whisper quiet cruising manners, and there's more wind noise than in many rivals. Road noise is subdued, though, making the Giulia a more peaceful companion than a Volvo S60.
Meanwhile, the range-topping Quadrifoglio competes with other performance saloons, such as the Mercedes C63 AMG, and it has the taut and adjustable handling of a true sporting great. Alfa’s 2.9 V6 engine has plenty of character, although it doesn’t feel quite as strong in the real world as its 503bhp suggests. On any country road, though, it’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face.