Italy has been almost as long-dormant as Mount Vesuvius in the auto industry’s medium car class. With the likes of the 2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia Super, however, its maker didn’t exactly need to rebuild from molten-soaked ashes – though it was close.
Alfa Romeo had been out of the $60K-plus sedan segment for five years, or virtually a half-century equivalent considering the pace of technology, but this Giulia suddenly erupts with both typically gorgeous styling and now also the promise of substance.
Perhaps especially with this near-$70K middle-grade Super diesel, as tested, the Italians appear to burn the German competition on paper. A starting price well below that of an equivalent Audi A4 – tick. A rear-wheel drive platform as light as a BMW 3 Series – tick. More equipment than a Mercedes-Benz C-Class – Nike-swipe again.
The only question is whether this Giulia Super diesel deserves to play in that premium-medium league off-paper and on the road…
The entry-level Giulia costs $59,895 plus on-road costs, with a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder delivering 147kW of power and 330Nm of torque for claimed 6.6-second 0-100km/h performance and fuel usage of 6.0 litres per 100 kilometres on average.
Alfa Romeo then steps buyers to a $64,195 (plus orc) Giulia Super with that same engine, or this $65,895 (plus orc) Giulia Super with a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine producing a lesser 132kW but higher 400Nm. The upshot is a slower claimed 7.1sec 0-100km/h but lower – and amazing – 4.2L/100km fuel consumption.
So, is the $1700 premium for going diesel over petrol worth it? And is the Super model grade worth it over the unnamed entry-level model grade at under $60K?
There’s also extra equipment delivered in this Super model grade for that extra ask, and that’s all set for dissection in the next section.
THE INTERIOR | RATING: 3.5/5
The entry-level Giulia already includes a healthy list of standard equipment, however the Super adds safety and luxury items that could make it worth upgrading.
For example, the bland entry-level leather is swapped out for far more sumptuous and high quality cow-hide dubbed Pieno Fiore – the properly premium sort that every other rival charges extra for at this equivalent level. Electrically adjustable front seats are standard on entry- and mid-level Alfa Romeo, but on this latter model grade includes a tilt function for the driver’s seat that enormously aids under-thigh support.
It also adds heated front seats, which are embarrassingly optional on all German rivals, as well as stitched-leather dashboard and door coverings. Every Giulia gets a choice of black, tan or red leather, but this Super uniquely adds beige and – to these eyes – it actually works very nicely with the walnut trim inserts.
The lighter hue also helps rear riders feel less hemmed-in. There’s not a huge amount of space behind the front seats, but the back bench is plushly padded and nicely tilted upwards to deliver greater comfort than what the tape measure might suggest. It’s a similar story in the boot – aperture access suffers for the styling merits of that sleekly pert bootlid, though the actual 480-litre space is decently capacious.
If it all sounds positive so far, then this might seem especially amazing for a brand that has struggled with ergonomic accuracy: everything in the Giulia is in its place.
Even the starter button on the steering wheel is easier to find than burying the tab behind it like most rivals do, while the simple rotary dial for the 8.8-inch screen is flanked by just two tabs (home and option).
All the adaptive cruise and climate controls work well, and the drive-mode select function is a simple D-N-A dial (for Dynamic, Normal and All-weather).
Speaking of standard adaptive cruise, adding that feature to a $65,800 (plus orc) BMW 320d, along with keyless auto-entry, an 8.8-inch screen, premium leather trim and front seat heating that are optional there but standard here, adds $7358 to that price – virtually the same figure of which is a saving for an Alfa Romeo buyer here.
There are catches, though, and it comes down to centre screen resolution plus interior fit-and-finish and tactility.
Here the Italian trails all its German competitors by a significant margin, with the low-resolution display, clicky buttons and variable trim gaps forming a trio of quality issues. In the latter case there was nothing outrageously missing or squeaky, but rather the glovebox lid didn’t quite align, the passenger air-vent shutline was protruding by a millimetre compared with the same item on the driver’s side, and the lower-console trim piece was out by the same margin on the right versus the left.
For a brand trying to rebuild its reputation, and resale values, it certainly is a concern.
ON THE ROAD | RATING: 4.0/5
Forget the $63,400 (plus orc) Mercedes-Benz C200d and its piddly 100kW/320Nm 1.6-litre turbo-diesel four cylinder and slow 10.2sec 0-100km/h claim. Dismiss also the $67,300 (plus orc) Audi A4 2.0TDI quattro because it demands all-wheel drive that taxes its price and kerb weight (of 1575kg). The aforementioned 320d, as with that Audi, has 400Nm of torque and a 7.2sec 0-100km/h claim, but it weighs 1391kg.
Meanwhile this Giulia Super beefs up with 450Nm at 1750rpm, and teams it with a still-slender 1410kg, all combining to deliver a winning combination of engine urgency and a fleet-footed feel on the road.
Even the 132kW at 3750rpm and brisk 7.1s 0-100km/h pale into insignificance, because this diesel and eight-speed auto duo are beyond numbers and figures. Rather, they are just so immediately responsive and eminently drivable everywhere.
The auto is without doubt the most superbly tuned unit in the class, with an ability to read its engine, a surrounding undulating road, and driver input with impeccably calm or immediate fashion. Then, thanks to that light body mass, you notice this medium-sized sedan is trending under 9.0L/100km around town, in gridlock, with a 25km/h average speed. A Hyundai i30 petrol driven in the same week was doing 12L/100km.
There may not be the creamy sound from the diesel delivered by a petrol, but it’s refined and vibration-free, and in manual mode the auto holds gears right to the 5000rpm cut-out without the 2.2-litre oiler ever feeling strained.
Add beautifully light yet creamy and sharp steering, plus an agility that helps the Giulia feel wide and buff on the road – each tyre tentacle firmly planted beyond the vehicle – and the result is immaculately neutral then subtly adjustable handling.
Despite being rear-driven, this Alfa Romeo isn’t as raggedly oversteer-biased as the BMW – which can quickly roll onto its outer-rear tyre after being turned into a corner in a fun but messy way – however the upshot is greater fluidity. The electronic stability control (ESC) tune is also superb, although a Sport mode would be nice.
Around town the single suspension setting of this Super creates firmly compliant, though occasionally jiggly ride quality that also can’t best the Jaguar XE suspension-benchmark in this class. That said, the Brits have stuffed that sedan full of beefy chassis bits to emerge with a 1500kg-plus medium car, and the Italians have not.
Other than with some coarse-chip road noise, what the Giulia Super otherwise manages to do is feel cohesive and complete on the road.
ANCAP rating: 5-stars – this model scored 37.4 out of 38 possible points when tested by ANCAP in 2017.
Safety Features: Dual front, front-side, rear-side and full-length curtain airbags, ABS, ESC, reverse-view camera, blind-spot monitor, lane-departure warning and forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking (AEB).
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/150,000 kilometres.
Servicing: Capped-price servicing program includes annual or 20,000km intervals at a higher than average $395/$695/$1095/$695/$1125 to five years or 100,000km.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
We discussed the Audi A4 2.0TDI quattro and Mercedes-Benz C200d, which are overpriced and slow respectively, within otherwise decent model ranges.
Indeed the 320d best challenges this Alfa Romeo for driver appeal, it bests it for connectivity and fit and finish, but then falls behind for standard equipment. Even then, though, the 3 Series is best as a 330i petrol for a lick over $70K.
The same is true of the ride/handling-blend benchmark, the Jaguar XE, which is a bit too heavy and slow in XE 20d diesel form but comes alive in $70K-plus XE 30t petrol guise. As with the BMW, it would run the Giulia Super very close here.
BMW 320d/330i Jaguar XE 30t
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL RATING: 4.0/5
If only this Alfa Romeo Giulia Super diesel had a higher level of button tactility, screen resolution and cabin fit-and-finish it could comfortably add another half-star to its still-excellent score here.
This is a premium medium sedan that balances contrasting attributes really rather well. It is well-equipped and plush inside, with great seats and ergonomics; and it is reasonably soothing and brilliantly efficient on the road.
Yet with its engine, auto, steering and chassis tuning it is also up for a riotous time, even in this seemingly vanilla-flavoured $65K diesel middle grade specification.
It rises above the mundane with distinction, towering over all like the volcano mentioned in the introduction – yet failing to entirely finish off better-finished rivals.
- Interested in buying Alfa Romeo Giulia? Visit our Alfa Romeo Giulia showroom for more information.