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First drive: 2023 Alfa Romeo Giulia. Image by Alfa Romeo.

First drive: 2023 Alfa Romeo Giulia
Alfa Romeo’s much-loved saloon has had a little nip-and-tuck surgery, but is that enough to keep up with the BMW 3 Series?


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2023 Alfa Romeo Giulia

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The Alfa Romeo Giulia has been praised throughout its life – primarily for its looks and handling – but it has never really caught on. Sales remain meagre in comparison with the BMWs and Audis of this world, and despite improvements to its previously low-rent cabin, the Giulia is still a niche player. To try and combat that, Alfa has given it some new interior tech and some tweaked styling, but will such a minor update be enough to put this car in the big leagues.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Alfa Romeo Giulia 2.0 280 Veloce
Pricing: £48,109 as tested
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Body style: four-door, five-seat saloon
CO2 emissions: 167g/km
Combined economy: 38.2mpg
Top speed: 149mph
0-62mph: 5.7 seconds
Power: 280hp
Torque: 400Nm
Boot space: 480 litres


At a glance, the new Giulia doesn't look much different from its predecessor, and there's a very good reason for that. The outgoing car looked great, so Alfa has more or less left it alone. Admittedly, there are some fresh headlights with a three-part light signature intended to make you think of classic Alfa designs, and there's a reworked front grille, but otherwise it's largely the same as before. Which means this is still probably the best-looking executive saloon on the market.


Traditionally, the Giulia’s cabin has been its Achilles heel, with some less-than-impressive plastics and a clunky old touchscreen. These criticisms were largely dealt with – at least to an extent – the last time Alfa updated its four-door saloon, but a few years have passed and the Giulia’s cabin is starting to show its age again.

There’s nothing wrong with the way it looks, especially if you get a better colour scheme than that of our test car, with its all-black design. Nevertheless, some of the buttons and switches feel a little bit old-school alongside more polished rivals such as the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series.

The touchscreen is dated, too, despite having been refreshed just a few years ago. But the game has moved on since then, and the screen now feels a little low-resolution and a little crowded, perhaps because it’s a bit small by the standards of the class. It’s a shame Alfa didn’t fit the much better screen from the Tonale SUV, which would have made the Giulia more up to date.

Instead, Alfa chose to apply the Tonale’s digital instrument display to the Giulia, and the result is very positive. It has modernised the instrument binnacle and brought a bit more brightness to proceedings, even if the display itself is not as sophisticated as the equivalent BMW or Audi system. Still, it gives you a choice of three clear displays, and there’s a degree of configurability about it, allowing drivers to pick the display that suits them best.


The Alfa might be all about beauty and performance, but it does some of the grown-up stuff well too. There's a competitively sized boot, for example, which measures 480 litres in volume, and rear cabin space is good too. You can quite happily seat four adults in there with no problems at all, even if they're quite tall. And all their luggage can come too. If we have one complaint, it's the lack of an estate option, which would make that luggage space more versatile and more accessible, but that's nit-picking when estates make up such a small proportion of the market.


These days, the ‘standard’ Giulia (as opposed to the go-faster Quadrifoglio, which will doubtless get its own road test) is only available with one engine, and it’s a pretty powerful thing. The 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine produces 280hp and 400Nm of torque, which it feeds to the rear wheels via a brilliant eight-speed automatic gearbox.

What that means is a 0-62mph time of 5.7 seconds and a top speed of 149mph, giving the Giulia ample performance. You really don’t need to go much faster. And given that performance, the car is surprisingly economical, hitting 38.2mpg on the official economy test. Drive gently and you might get somewhere near that, too – particularly on a long run.

Moreover, the engine sounds pretty good, with a slightly more bassy note than most four-cylinder engines can provide, and it only really drones when you put your foot right the way down. With so much power in reserve, though, you’ll seldom need to do that.

Ride & Handling

This is the Giulia's forte, and enthusiasts will be pleased to hear Alfa has done absolutely nothing to the car's suspension or chassis. Everything is just as it was before, and that's very good news indeed.

On a good road, the Giulia feels alert and agile, with an almost Ferrari-esque feeling of lightness and responsiveness. That's teamed with a really well-balanced platform, with the classic rear-wheel-drive layout that makes the car very intuitive to control. Yes, the steering feel isn't necessarily where you might want it to be, and some might prefer it to roll less in corners, but at least it tells you which of the car's wheels is dealing with most of the load. Overall, it's a great car to drive, and it's easily on a par with the best of its rivals.

And although there is a trade-off in terms of ride comfort, the Giulia feels quite mature in the way it deals with potholes and the like. There's no sense that you're wafting over a bed of feathers, but the car lets you know what the wheels are doing without sending any overly savage feedback through the back pockets of your jeans. It's well judged for a saloon built with sportiness at its core.


Giulia prices start at £43,259, which makes it almost £4,000 more expensive than the cheapest BMW 3 Series, but the Alfa is considerably more powerful. Compare it with the more closely matched Mercedes C 200 and it's around £2,000 cheaper.

For that money, you get the entry level Sprint model, with its 18-inch alloy wheels, part-leather upholstery and wireless phone charging, as well as the satellite navigation system common to all Giulias. Spend a little more, though, and you can have the Veloce tested here, with its larger wheels, tweaked rear bumper and black window surrounds, as well as heated seats and a heated steering wheel. A limited-slip differential is also fitted for extra traction.


The changes to the Giulia are subtle, and those who've just taken delivery of the outgoing model need not panic, because there's little to choose between the two. But the new car does look and feel a bit more modern, and it gets slightly closer to its premium rivals as a result. It's still a left-field choice in this market, but it's also a viable alternative to the German establishment.

James Fossdyke - 3 May 2023    - Alfa Romeo road tests
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2023 Alfa Romeo Giulia. Image by Alfa Romeo.2023 Alfa Romeo Giulia. Image by Alfa Romeo.2023 Alfa Romeo Giulia. Image by Alfa Romeo.2023 Alfa Romeo Giulia. Image by Alfa Romeo.2023 Alfa Romeo Giulia. Image by Alfa Romeo.

2023 Alfa Romeo Giulia. Image by Alfa Romeo.2023 Alfa Romeo Giulia. Image by Alfa Romeo.2023 Alfa Romeo Giulia. Image by Alfa Romeo.2023 Alfa Romeo Giulia. Image by Alfa Romeo.


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