Alfa Romeo Gi­u­lia

FIRST UK DRIVE We hit Bri­tish roads to see if en­try-level petrol com­pact exec makes more sense than diesel

Auto Express - - Contents - James Batch­e­lor James_­batch­e­lor@den­nis.co.uk @Jr­rbatch­e­lor

Be­hind the wheel of en­try-level petrol sa­loon on Bri­tish roads

WE’VE al­ready con­cluded that the new Alfa Romeo Gi­u­lia may not have the all-round pol­ish of a BMW 320d or the poise and bal­ance of a Jaguar XE, but that there’s enough go­ing for the car to make po­ten­tial buy­ers se­ri­ously con­sider it.

Up un­til now, though, we’ve sam­pled only the diesel model. The Gi­u­lia range kicks off not with the 2.2d but with this 2.0-litre tur­bocharged petrol. On pa­per, the stats look good enough; 197bhp and 330Nm of torque mean it’s more pow­er­ful than a 320i and a Mercedes C 200, and on par with an XE 2.0.

The Gi­u­lia has more torque than any of these mod­els, too, and with a 0-62mph time of 6.6 sec­onds, it’s seven-tenths quicker over the sprint than the two Ger­man cars.

That’s only half the story, mind you, be­cause the Alfa’s 2.0-litre en­gine isn’t par­tic­u­larly clean. It emits 138g/km of CO2, and while that’s less than the XE, it’s a lit­tle dirtier than the BMW and means the car sits one VED band higher than the Mercedes.

What’s more, those fig­ures have been cal­cu­lated in the of­fi­cial lab test; dur­ing our time with the Gi­u­lia we never got close to its claimed 47.9mpg, record­ing econ­omy of around 40mpg in­stead. And that’s due to the Alfa’s en­gine re­quir­ing a firm right foot to per­form; de­spite those im­pres­sive on-pa­per stats, the unit never feels ur­gent like the BMW’S. At least it doesn’t get too harsh or noisy when it’s be­ing worked hard.

So it’s a mixed pic­ture for the Gi­u­lia then, but Alfa freely ad­mits the petrol model will be cho­sen mostly by pri­vate buy­ers, and not mo­tor­way-bash­ing com­pany car driv­ers. And for these cus­tomers, the sa­loon will im­press enough. It uses the new ‘Gior­gio’ plat­form that also un­der­pins the Stelvio SUV and is very light; in­deed, only the BMW can trump the new­comer’s 1,429kg kerb­weight.

Alfa has even fit­ted a car­bon-fi­bre prop­shaft to ev­ery Gi­u­lia – from this en­try-level petrol right up to the 503bhp Quadri­foglio – to keep off the ki­los.

These ef­forts pay off a treat when you’re be­hind the wheel, be­cause the Gi­u­lia does feel very light be­neath you. Turn into a cor­ner and the front end dives in, but the steer­ing is crisp and weights up nicely.

The sense of the rear wheels pow­er­ing the car out of the bend is hugely en­joy­able. If we’re be­ing picky, we’d say the steer­ing can be a lit­tle too quick; the Gi­u­lia’s pin­sharp re­sponses some­times make the car feel a tad ner­vous and jit­tery. Still, while it lacks the over­all com­po­sure of

“On pa­per, petrol car looks good; it’s more pow­er­ful than a 320i and C 200, and on par with an XE 2.0”

the XE, it does feel on a level with the BMW – and that’s high praise in­deed.

The ride is less im­pres­sive, how­ever. The Gi­u­lia has very lit­tle body roll, but this is due to Alfa mak­ing the sus­pen­sion stiff – and that trans­lates to poor re­fine­ment on the UK’S no­to­ri­ously bad roads.

One way of cur­ing this is to spend £1,950 on the Per­for­mance Pack, which adds not only a pair of beau­ti­ful alu­minium steer­ing wheel pad­dles for the auto gear­box, and a lim­ited-slip dif­fer­en­tial, but also Alfa’s Ac­tive Sus­pen­sion. It doesn’t cure the poor ride com­pletely, but it rounds off some of the harder crashes into pot­holes.

Else­where, the eight-speed ZF auto box (the only trans­mis­sion of­fered in the UK) is ex­cel­lent, and cabin space is great. Rear pas­sen­gers have far more room in which to stretch out than in an XE, and the boot of­fers a square load space that’s a match for the BMW and Mercedes.

In­te­rior fit and fin­ish are de­cent, too. There are swathes of soft-touch plas­tic across the dash­board and doors, the leather feels great and the Gi­u­lia is brim­ming with smart de­sign touches; the steer­ing wheel, with its starter but­ton on the left-hand spoke, is a work of art.

It’s just a shame, then, that the in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem is quite a way be­hind BMW’S idrive and even Jag’s Incon­trol for clar­ity, res­o­lu­tion and ease of use, and that most of the de­sir­able kit is re­served for the op­tions list. In all, it made our test car’s £41,330 ask­ing price look pretty steep.

“There are swathes of soft-touch plas­tic, leather feels great and dash brims with smart touches”

ON THE ROAD Alfa’s han­dling feels light and re­spon­sive, but ride can be harsh, even with Ac­tive Sus­pen­sion

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