Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Alfa’s 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine is potent and revs smoothly, in both the 197bhp and 276bhp states of tune. Its more willing and athletic repertoire is certainly a better match for the Giulia's fluid handling than the diesel engines are. In fact, with either of the petrol engines, it’s roughly on a par with the Jaguar XE and BMW 3 Series when it comes to driver enjoyment.
It’s no surprise that the Veloce’s higher-powered 276bhp engine makes it noticeably faster than the standard 197bhp version, but it still doesn’t turn the Giulia into a snarling sports car. If you want that, you need the range-topping Quadrifoglio, which competes with other performance saloons such as the Mercedes-AMG C63 and has the taut, adjustable handling of a true sporting great.
Though the petrol engines are undoubtedly more fun, the diesels do plenty to recommend themselves, too – not least in terms of running costs. The lower-powered 187bhp unit gets the choice of front or four-wheel drive, while the higher powered 207bhp option is four-wheel-drive only.
They both pull well from low revs and their eagerness continues throughout the rev range, making motorway commutes a breeze. The eight-speed automatic gearbox suffers a slight delay 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. Thankfully, though, it’s nowhere near as bad as the lag you get in the Audi A4.
As for refinement, the petrol engines emit a satisfying rasp when pushed hard, while the diesel engines are a little coarse, but do quieten down at a cruise. The Giulia can't compete with the A4's whisper-quiet cruising manners, though, and there's more wind noise at speed than you’ll experience in many rivals. Road noise is subdued, though, making the Giulia a more peaceful companion than a Volvo S60.
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 16in alloy wheels while the top-of-the-range Quadrifoglio version rides on 19in wheels, stiffer springs and adaptive dampers. Although there's a noticeable difference in the driving experiences of entry-level and top-of-the-line models, all have sharp handling and are fun through corners, thanks largely to the Giulia's particularly quick and direct steering. Some might find the slightly heavier steering of the BMW 3 Series to be more reassuring at higher speeds, though.