Bari, Siena, Juventus, Chelsea
Regular readers will perhaps already know that I have a bit of a thing for Italy. The place, the food, the people, it’s football & of course it’s cars. My first ever car was a black Fiat Uno 55S & our current family car is an Alfa Romeo Giulietta Tecnica in Stromboli grey. Who better than me then, from the Company Car office, to go out & drive Alfa Romeo’s eagerly anticipated new saloon the Giulia.
It may have been more than 12 years in the making, the old Alfa 159 it’s predecessor was launched in 2004, but the delay in the arrival of Alfa’s newest model was caused not by Italian bureaucracy, but by the purchase of Chrysler-JEEP by Fiat in 2014, whereupon Fiat concentrated their efforts on the JEEP brand. No matter, as the old saying goes, better late than never & this is most certainly true of the Giulia, which I first spied at Munich Airport in the Summer 2016.
The Giulia may be new, but the name is not. The original 4-door Giulia saloon was manufactured from 1962 to 1977 & proved popular with amongst others the Carabinieri. Indeed if you’ve ever watched the film The Italian Job, you may notice that police cars chasing the Mini’s are Giulia’s.
Although the all-singing-all-dancing top of the range Giulia Quadrofoglio Verde is the model we would all like to own- Jeremy Clarkson threatened to buy one in the current series of The Grand Tour- the more sensible, logical model of choice for fleet customers is the Tecnica, which is specifically aimed at the business sector & is available with two diesel engines, both 2.2 JTDM-2 auto’s. Firstly there is the model I tested the 150, which offers attractive CO2’s of 109g/km, with a combined fuel economy of 67 mpg, but still manages a top speed of 137mph & a 0-60mph time of 8 seconds. Alternatively, there is the slightly more powerful 180 version, which offers identical emissions & fuel economy to the 150, but will take you up to 143mph & will reach 60mph in just 7 seconds.
Tecnica models have been designed to appeal to the business sector. Standard Tecnica spec includes, cruise control, a rear view camera, front & rear parking sensors, a Connect 8.8″ colour display infotainment system, DAB radio, SatNav, 3D maps with TMC, MP3, aux-in & Bluetooth connection. That’s not all though, Tecnica models also come with privacy glass, a chrome exhaust tailpipe, a 6-way electrically adjustable front seat, aluminium door sill trims, aluminium pedals & footrest plus dual zone automatic climate control. Best of all, Tecnica retails from £31,895.
We’ve established that the Giulia looks good from the outside, where alongside the German trio of the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 & the new Mercedes E Class, it’s no contest, with the Alfa’s Italian curves, taking the plaudits. But, what’s it like inside ? Alfa have tried very hard to make the quality & design of the Giulia’s interior match the best in class & to a certain extent they have succeeded. Beautiful dials & a great feeling steering wheel plus the dashboard colour-palette all work really well. But & there is a but, the overall finish is still not as good as the one’s you’ll find in the Audi or BMW & even the much improved Mercedes C Class. And like all Alfa’s before this, the Giulias cabin storage is pants, with small narrow door pockets & two drink holders that when used, obscure some of the controls.
Up front, there’s loads of space for both front seat passenger’s & in the rear, passengers 3 & 4 are also well catered for. Passenger 5 though, will struggle on longer journeys, exactly the same as they would in all cars in this sector. Boot storage is class average at 480 litres, exactly the same a strike 3 Series.
Sadly the UK won’t be getting a manual Giulia, but don’t worry, the automatic gearbox which is standard on all UK cars, provides enjoyable, smooth, fast shifts. If desired, you can utilise the large paddles behind the wheel which might for some, bring back the driver engagement that has been lost with the lack of a manual model. I stuck in the auto mode & I was never disappointed.
Perhaps with a sideways glance at the BMW, the Giulia is wheel rear driven, with a 50:50 weight distribution. The suspension is quite stiff, but nonetheless it offers exceptional cornering & even copes well on bumpy roads. As with my own Giulietta, Alfa’s D.N.A drive, allows the driver to select three driving modes; Dynamic, Natural & All Weather, which basically alter the steering weight & throttle response. Even in the Natural setting the Giulia is fun. Select Dynamic & it does feel sharper, but for day to day Natural works just fine.
I was driving the smaller engined 148bhp version of the Giulia & despite coming with less oomph than the 178bhp version, still emits a lovely diesel roar, a noise I haven’t heard since I drove an Alfasud in the 1980’s. It rev’s as well & just like the 3 Series, it’s more fun to drive quickly than the Audi or Mercedes. There is though a lack of torque in the mid-range, which is noticeable on the motorway when compared to the new C Class for example. Otherwise it’s a competent motorway performer.
I connected quickly to the Bluetooth on board. Choosing my favourite DAB station was easy too & the SatNav works well, although it’s not as good as some others I’ve tried.
I mentioned ‘Sir’ Jeremy Clarkson earlier, who complained that he struggled to get in & out of the Giulia & at six-feet-5″ & 17 stones, I’m not surprised. I’m sure that he has a similar problem in almost all cars that aren’t large. At a rather more petite 5-feet-8″ & 10 stones, I had no such problem, at least in the front, although I concede that getting into the back is a different story a step rear doors do not open wide enough to allow fuller-figured punters much room for manoeuvre.
FCA Group Fleet had a very successful 2016 & this seems sure to continue with the arrival of the Giulia, which is available from £295 a month on contract hire for the 148bhp Tecnica 2.2 diesel. I’m also starting to see Giulia’s more frequently on the road & can only imagine that their owner’s are smiling like the proverbial Cheshire Cat. Finally, after a long, long wait, Alfa Romeo have launched a very competent car in the Giulia, which is the first Alfa for a while that will make sense in your head as well as appealing to your heart.
An Antonio Conte 4.5/5
Alfa Romeo Giulia Tecnica from £31,895 & £295 per month + vat.