Charlie Flindt hits the road for his son’s graduation in Alfa Romeo’s new executive class offering; he’s pleasantly surprised when it takes top honours
Beautiful, lively and with bags of character – Charlie Flindt is impressed by the new Alfa Romeo Giulia, despite its slight quirks.
For more on motoring, read Charlie Flindt’s review of the Skoda Kodiaq – an impressive new SUV.
ALFA ROMEO GIULIA
It has been some time since Alfa Romeo showrooms had a D-segment car for sale. “D-segment” is otherwise known as “compact executive” and accounts for nearly 10% of car sales but Alfa has had nothing to take on the hordes of BMW 3-series, Audi A4s and C Class Mercedes. The small Mito and small-ish Giulietta have lurked unconvincingly at the bottom of the range, and the barking 4C at the top, but not since the demise of the 159 have you been able to get a motorway fastlane hogger. So the new Giulia was the perfect test car for a 500-mile round trip to Yorkshire for a boy’s graduation.
My first impressions were mixed. Yes, the styling is stunning (a lot of Maserati Quattroporte in there) but plain white is not the best colour and the black/tan interior is a tad Abigail’s Party. And I did worry about those seats; to me they looked a bit low-slung and unergonomic, and I was only a couple of days off the physio’s couch after a popped facet joint. I mentally pencilled in a return visit for when we got back.
So it was a joy to reach Leeds feeling fit as a fiddle and fresh as a daisy. The Giulia had settled down on the motorway to an almost silent cruise, lapping up the miles. It had taken a bit of time to get used to the steering and brakes, which occasionally seemed to have minds of their own. The same applied to some of the electrics on the Giulia. The front left proximity sensor had had too many spliffs and was paranoically convinced there were things and people everywhere; the wipers were connected to a rain sensor but it sure as heck wasn’t the one in our car; and the sat nav was actually run by a little man in the dashboard consulting an old atlas – very slowly. Not much use in the dense grids of Leeds back-to-backs.
We blubbed pathetically through the graduation ceremony, as you do, enjoyed the best burger in the world (the Old Bar of the Student Union, if you’re interested) and then set off home. And just as we were in danger of not giving the Giulia a proper outing, fate intervened in the form of late-night closure of the A34 and the world’s longest diversion. It was an utter joy to hasten through the sleepy villages of south Oxfordshire, testing Alfa’s “DNA” driving settings (Dynamic/Natural/A – bit contrived) and paddle-shift change but ending up longing for a simple manual gear change with a clutch instead.
For the last bit we were back onto the A34, which was dry, empty and, at twilight on Midsummer Night, motoring heaven. It made a mess of the excellent fuel consumption figures but there we go.
What a refreshing change the Giulia is. It’s beautiful (go for the dark blue), lively and with bags of character. There’s a niggle or two to remind you who’s built it, and I’m still in shock at the fact that Alfa Romeo seems to have cracked ergonomics; I never did book that second physio’s appointment.
ALFA ROMEO GIULIA 2.2 DIESEL
♦ Engine: 2,143cc diesel
♦ Power: 180hp
♦ Max speed: 143mph
♦ Performance, 0 to 62: 7.1 sec
♦ Combined fuel economy: 67.3mpg
♦ Insurance group (0-50): 26
♦ Price: £33,235