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.
Alfa’s 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine is potent and revs smoothly in both its 197bhp and 276bhp states of tune. Its more willing and athletic repertoire is a better match for the Giulia's fluid handling than the diesel engines are. In fact, it’s more fun to drive quickly than rivals from Mercedes and Audi, and roughly on a par with the Jaguar XE and BMW 3 Series. It’s no surprise that the higher-powered unit in the Veloce is noticeably faster than the standard 197bhp version, although it still doesn’t turn the Giulia into a snarling sports car.
That comes from the range-topping Quadrifoglio, which competes with other performance saloons, such as the Mercedes-AMG C63, and it has the taut and adjustable handling of a true sporting great. Alfa’s 2.9-litre 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.
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. Speaking of the gearbox, it delays changing gears slightly when you put your foot down, hindering progress when you’re trying to build speed on the motorway or go for a gap at a junction. It’s not as bad as the pause you get in the A4, though.
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.
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. Some might find the slightly heavier steering of the BMW 3 Series to be more reassuring at higher speeds, though.