Road test: Saloon that will appeal to more than just Alfa males

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Alfa Romeo's striking Giulia


“HAVE you driven a Ferrari?” is one of the most frequent questions answered by motoring writers.

The interrogator hangs on your answer. They want to hear about this fantastic experience in a car they imagine will have been red, loud, and fast.

So to receive a negative answer disappoints before astounding them when it’s explained that you’ve had your chance but turned it down. “How could you?” “Quite easily!”

It’s not that we don’t like fast Italian cars, just that we prefer the ones with pre-war history. Lancia, Maserati, Alfa Romeo… Maybe having the letters “AR” in the middle of our surname (phonetic alphabet Alpha Romeo) helps, but Alfa Romeo does it more than the others in this household.

So it was with keen interest that the arrival of the latest Alfa Romeo Giulia was anticipated, having seen one in a deep maroon colour flash past only the week before, prompting a “What was that?” moment.

We found out in the inevitable dual carriageway queue ahead. It looked better in maroon than our test car in a deep shade of blue. However, both had unmistakably mini-Maserati Quattroport style, the sort of look that draws bystanders and envious glances from other drivers.

Displaying its pedigree (that’s what gives it the edge over Ferrari) is done none too subtly, with a huge Alfa shield grille gracing the front with the number plate offset prominently to the left, where it intentionally jars the eye. In its home state, the plate would be smaller and almost an afterthought but here those speed cameras that also take a good image of the driver (an old friend once found he looked quite handsome from a quarter mile away, while his beard stopped him pulling the Chris Huhne stunt with his wife taking the points) want a bigger format.

Bearing in mind that we were driving the 180bhp 2.2 litre turbo diesel Super model, the on the road price of £32,990 seemed quite reasonable. It may have had extras fitted, too, but thankfully not the paddle shift for the eight-speed auto that the spec sheet sent by email suggested (it was for a totally different car). The oily bits were the same, though – smooth, vigorous, and interesting to drive behind despite being an oilburner in a petrolhead world.

That diesel is no clunker, or even a clatterer in most circumstances. More importantly for those focused on the “What’ll she do, mister?” type questions, the answer is 0-62mph in 7.1 seconds and a top speed of 143mph.

Inside the Alfa Romeo Giulia

If your motoring life also includes budgeting for fines that go with speeding points, the 50.6mpg average of the test car will trim running costs at the pumps without taking the edge off your enthusiasm. It remains a very drivable car, perhaps the polar opposite of what you might expect if you hold the usual diesel/automatic transmission prejudices.

For us, the auto box is the best thing since sliced bread, the more so now that modern computer technology governs them so precisely. They make decisions in nanoseconds and you just can’t beat them so we were really pleased the paddle shift options box had not been ticked for our car.

We were also glad that the Giulia was running on the standard 17-inch wheels shod with Michelin Primacy 3 tyres, exactly the same as on our Ford Galaxy. They are grippy yet comfortable even though those on the Alfa were lower profile than the items on our Ford.

Finding the controls for the trip computer didn’t seem to be an easy-find topic and it was only on the last day of test, by peering over the top of the windscreen wiper stalk, that the menu button for the computer was revealed.

That said, there’s much to like about this car. It’s stylish enough to turn heads at the golf/tennis/sailing club, comfortable to drive (maybe not so comfortable as a passenger), has seating for four or five, and a decent boot. Better still, very few others will have one, more’s the pity.

Maurice and Annette Hardy

Car: Alfa Romeo Giulia 2.2 Turbo Diesel 180hp Super

Does it fit your ego…

0-62 mph: 7.1 secs

Top speed: 143 mph

Bhp: 180 @ 3750 rpm

Torque: 450 Nm @ 1750 rpm

…and your wallet…

Price: £32,990

Combined: 67.3mpg

CO2 emissions: 109 g/km

Best bits: superbly stylish and rarer than it deserves to be

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