As a former owner of a lovely blue 156, I was excited to find that the Giulia I was being delivered to test was a similar shade of dark, Italian police car blue. ‘Monte Carlo Blue,’ in fact. If that wasn’t exciting for me enough, I was due to take the car on a 500 mile journey to the very same roads my old Alfa used to haunt. I told a friend of mine about the journey – he told me it was like ‘sleeping with the granddaughter.’ Well, quite.
First impressions of the car in general are good. It has a muscular and dominant presence, and retains Alfa cues like the side number plate and the lovely low grill. You can see the quality and the heritage shining through a lot easier than when I reviewed the Mito, for instance. It’s a new type of Alfa for a new type of driver who is interested in the brand, its pedigree and history. Promising stuff, then.
If you’re into cars you will have heard it many times before – the Giulia was always going to be geared up to be ‘the car that saved Alfa.’ There’s a lot of hyperbole in this, but there’s a point to it. Recent Alfa’s have been disappointing, and although they’ve improved considerably over the last couple of years, there was always a feeling that there was a certain shine missing…a certain sparkle that only Alfa enthusiasts really knew what they were looking for.
So you can imagine how pleased I was when I found out that the car I was testing was the 276bhp ‘best sports saloon’ at Evo. The Veloce seems to hit the right part of the range, certainly not as mad as the Quadrifoglio, but more ‘super saloon’ than the diesels and lower powered petrols in the more executive, motorway bashing area of the range.
Looks wise, the Giulia has a muscularity and a presence that you can’t find in other areas of the Alfa range – save for the new Stelvio. There’s a bold revised approach to design that can be seen here and I think the Giulia looks fantastic. There’s little to separate the Veloce from models further down the line looks wise, which is a good thing, but you do get the diffuser-effect insert at the rear which looks pretty, and larger air intakes. Alfa has make sure that this incarnation sits nicely between standing out and blending in when put in line with other models.
Inside, the first thing that becomes apparent is the rather lovely driving position. The Giulia’s seats hold you nicely and present an attractive flat-bottomed steering wheel to you, with crafted aluminium gear change paddles. It feels well thought out and well crafted, borrowing heavily from German rivals but managing to hold its own in terms of feel. There are some nice aluminium inserts in the Veloce, a huge range of adjustability and the hugging seats add to it all. So far, so good.
Driving wise, at first glance, you wonder whether the Veloce is going to be a bit more timid than advertised. There’s a DNA mode, but there’s no race option like in the Quadrifoglio and it’s relatively quiet and unobtrusive. In fact, there’s less bite at first than I first imagined, but Alfa’s intention with this car, and why it works so well at this point in the range, quickly became apparent as I opened it up a bit on some wider roads.
The steering is lightning quick and easy. Almost too light, but the impression of what’s going on with the front wheels is impressive and in ‘dynamic’ mode, I felt like there was endless grip that allowed power delivery to come on early out of corners. It was chuckable – and so it should be – the advertised weight is under 1,500kg, which is firmly in hot-hatch territory. There’s inevitably a turbocharger attached but it masks its presence fairly well, there’s no lag and mid-range power delivery especially is enticing, exciting and genuinely brisk. It doesn’t rev particularly highly, but with 8 gears to choose from, you’ll be shifting with the paddles potentially more than you’d expect. It doesn’t take away from the experience, however. The ride was more comfortable than I expected on the large tyres, and it moves through rough road surfaces and potholes without any difficulty. One of the things I appreciated about my 156 was the quality and precision of the chassis, and Alfa have hit the sweet spot with the Giulia.
The clear, popular rivals to the Giulia Veloce are there for all to see. Compared to the German counterparts however the Giulia seems calm, composed, smooth, well tuned and not as needy or eager to impress. It’s not without faults and it loses out on the interior front to Audi and BMW, as well as noise and throttle response, but one of the best things about the Veloce is how well it sits in the Giulia range itself. It more than delivers on the requirements of a daily commute mixed with a bit of weekend fun. It knows it doesn’t need to set the pulse racing with sheer performance, like the M3, M4 or Audi’s S4, but it does know how to keep its cards close to its chest and shows them at the right time. It’s a brisk performer with a character that is as close as I wanted it to be to my version of Alfa’s DNA. A great drive.