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The Alfa Giulia 2.1TD: New Italian saloon takes on some tough competition

Alfa reviewALFA ROMEO

The new Alfa Giulia 2.1TD

For all the romance of the name and badge, all the false starts and failed promises, the Italian firm has long needed a proper vision and truly class-leading product to take the marque forward. If nothing else, Alfa has always enjoyed a strong goodwill factor among car enthusiasts even if that’s never translated into volume sales in the showroom. 

And now this latest Giulia saloon has the unenviable task of going up against the likes of the Audi A4, BMW 3-Series and Mercedes C-Class in the notoriously fickle and snobbish company car market. 

You’d be hard pressed at any level of the car market to find three tougher rivals than those. 

While the Giulia’s flagship Cloverleaf model will undoubtedly catch plenty of headlines and attention with its 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 and incredible 501bhp, the reality is that it’s this turbo-diesel that’s likely to be the biggest seller in the range. 

Whichever model you choose, you still get that distinctive style with the dominant front shield grille. Whether you approve of the Alfa’s looks or not, there’s no question that it stands out in a crowd compared to its Teutonic rivals. 

We like the machismo of the front end but we’re not quite so convinced about the stubby boot. The proportions almost make it look like it belongs in the class below, despite being marginally longer than a BMW 3-Series. 

Alfa Giulia 2.1TDALFA ROMEO

Under the bonnet is Alfa’s 2.1-litre turbo diesel engine in its most powerful 180bhp form

There’s no question that the optional five-hole dark finish alloy wheels are worth every penny of their £750, though. 

The Italian firm has long needed a proper vision

Nat Barnes

Under the bonnet is Alfa’s 2.1-litre turbo diesel engine in its most powerful 180bhp form. Also available in the range is a 150bhp version of the same engine, although this model boasts the same 67.2mpg average fuel economy and 109g/km emissions. 

Against the stopwatch, this Giulia can also cover the 0 to 60mph sprint in just 7.1 seconds and go on to a 143mph top speed, both of which are pretty respectable numbers. What those figures can’t tell you, though, is that this isn’t the quietest of engines, especially from the roadside or when being pushed hard. 

Rather oddly too, for a company that has always prided itself on being a brand for driving enthusiasts, there’s no manual option; just a standard eight-speed automatic across the Giulia range. It’s smooth enough but does dull the response from the driver’s right foot to the engine somewhat. 

Even in the dynamic driving mode, though improved it’s still not as sharp as you might hope. The same goes for the steering, which is certainly precise enough at the initial point of turning into a corner but could definitely do with more feel. 

It’s a shame because this is probably one of the best cars in this sector that Alfa has had for some time. In so many elements, it’s close to being competitive but can’t quite match what others in the class achieve. 

Too often that comes down to its lack of attention to detail, such as the optional run-flat tyres on our particular test car that were far too sensitive to road-surface changes in terms of the noise they produced. Or the huge gear change paddles that actually hinder your use of the indicators or wipers and annoyingly are in a fixed position rather than attached to the back of the steering wheel. 

Inside, the Giulia is a tale of two halves. On the plus side there are some very comfortable and supportive seats together with a lovely steering wheel and a superb driving position. 

We love the sporty feel but the old-school dials, as much as we like the look of them, already seem dated compared to Audi’s digital TFT screen. 

The same goes for the sat nav screen, which is too small, not touch-sensitive and is an ergonomic nightmare as it’s controlled via a rotary dial behind the gear lever that is next to two other rotary dials for the stereo volume and driving mode controller. As a result you have to take your eyes off the road to use them on the move, which is obviously far from ideal. 


Though improved it’s still not as sharp as you might hope

Still on the subject of practicality, that stubby boot lid equates to a letterbox-like tiny aperture for putting things inside, which might seriously hinder any potential buyer with a small family. 

That perfectly sums up the new Giulia. There’s no question that it’s a refreshing alternative to the more popular choices in the sector and there are some real hints of promise about the car. 

Unfortunately though, there are just too many flaws in too many areas for us to recommend it over its rivals. The irony is that Alfa could address some of these issues really easily – especially given the recent £1billion investment into the firm – but it’s almost as if they’ve decided to aim for good rather than great and in some areas can’t even match the class standard. 

Unfortunately, when you’ve got competition like the A4 and 3-Series, being good just isn’t good enough.


  • Price: from £32,195 
  • Engine: Turbo-diesel – 2.1-litre 
  • Power: 0 to 60mph in 7.1 seconds, 143mph top speed 
  • Fuel economy: 67.3mpg 
  • CO2 emissions: 109g/km 
  • Rivals: Audi A4, BMW 3-Series, Jaguar XE, Mercedes C-Class, VW Passat 
  • Rating: 7/10

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