Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: October 24, 2017
This is the Giulia, Alfa Romeo’s compact sedan built to wage war against the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Beginning to think the latter two are too bland and generic? Then Alfa might be onto something here.
The Italian automaker heads down a different path, one that aims to attract customers with sex appeal, unique styling, a broad lineup of trims and models, and a rich history to back it all up. But surely it takes more than good looks to win over customers, especially in the automotive segment where traits like reliability and value are taken to heart. Just look at Lexus and Subaru - they don’t offer the most attractive looking vehicles yet they sell like hot cakes.
And Alfa Romeo doesn’t exactly have the greatest report card when it comes to those fields. So does the Giulia even stand a chance against the established kings? We spent a week with the volume seller, the Giulia Ti ($50,995), to see if it can charm us, and while it’s not the track-oriented Giulia Quadrifoglio ($87,995) with its Ferrari-derived V6 engine and heavenly exhaust, the more affordable Ti trim is the one you’re going to see more of on the road.
Under the hood of every non-Quadrifoglio Giulia is a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder delivering an impressive 280 hp and 306 lb-ft, and those are quite big numbers for a paltry little powerplant. Against other four-cylinder competitors like the BMW 330i and Mercedes-Benz C 300, the Giulia has them beat. But when you begin to compare the Giulia’s engine to the V6 equivalents, it falls short, sitting sandwiched between the two engine sizes. That’s not always a bad thing.
Having a smaller engine deliver a bigger output is beneficial for fuel economy and luckily, Alfa knows a thing or two about designing an engine. This 2.0-litre is a fantastic example, with only a hint of turbo lag and helps the Giulia pounce off the line from 0-100 km/h in a hasty 5.2 seconds. Power always seems to be on tap, and the delivery of said power is very linear, something not always found with this powertrain setup.
The redline is fairly low at 6,000 rpm but the ZF-tuned 8-speed transmission is insanely quick - I even had to double check that it wasn’t a dual-clutch on my first drive. Downshifts are met with a sharp growl but the immediate tradeoff is the smoothness and continuity of said power. The gearbox exhibits noticeable jerkiness at low speeds, though it begins to flatten out as the speed builds, just like a dual-clutch. Alas, the Giulia’s gearbox just isn’t fine tuned as well as a BMW’s. Rev matching isn’t as creamy and the vehicle will shudder around if you’re downshifting too aggressively and not in the right RPM.
The steering is what really stands out to me. It might actually be the best part of this car actually. Electrically assisted unlike the 4C’s manual rack, it’s feathery light and remains faithful to the tarmac. It sends a message to other automakers that just because a steering rack is heavy and well-weighted doesn’t mean it communicates confidence back to the driver. The Giulia does it right, by the book, and makes the driver feel at one with the front wheels. Ditch the Q4 all-wheel drive option ($2,000) and I’m sure the Giulia will feel even sprightlier and more agile around corners.
The brakes are also a strong suit, with superb pedal feel and a linear push all the way through. The ride is impressive as well - firm yet absorbent enough not to disturb the passengers. Our Giulia wasn’t fitted with the Performance Package ($1,750) though, which adds on adaptive dampers and a limited slip differential.
It took a few days to get used to the engine start button being on the steering wheel - a design that they also use on supercars like Ferrari. But it’s offputting only to have a slight purr come out the exhaust after ignition. It doesn’t feel right, and that’s the main problem with the Giulia. It wears a flashy tailored suit but it just doesn’t have a matching tie. The Giulia Ti’s exhaust is exactly what you’d expect from a turbo-four engine. At low speeds you’ll hear nothing but the slight turbo whistles, and in full-swing the soundtrack is muffled - aggressive sounding but nothing spectacular. I wouldn’t say it sounds better than the BMW or Merc, but more or less equal in terms of conjuring up smiles or emotion. Hint: it isn’t much.
I get it, the four-cylinder Giulia is going to be the volume seller and will surely attract many folks to this charming brand, and for many it will be enough. But I just want that extra bit of auditory sparkle from the Giulia, and this engine just doesn’t deliver. Go Quadrifoglio or go home? But noise doesn’t always matter to a select few, and for them the looks will do just fine. And don’t worry, the Giulia has got the curves. Clean lines, iconic Trilobe grill, beautiful wheels - the Giulia is a neck breaker on the road, especially with the Sport Package ($2,500), which equips it with the Quadrifoglio body kit. There’s nothing else quite like it on the market, and will force those teutonic “lettered and numbered” cars to finally look in the rear view mirror.
The interior is also refreshing. It’s not button intensive or overly bunker-like - the cabin is airy and the panels are minimalistic, though the large infotainment rotary dial reminds me of an Audi’s. The Giulia’s fit and finish isn’t as impressive. This steering wheel on the other hand is quite possibly my new favourite. It’s thin-rimmed but is wrapped in two textures: half leather and half vinyl weave on the high volume areas from the 9-3 grip and below. There are also none of those cheap feeling audio buttons mounted on the back of the wheel that Jeeps and Maseratis use. Keeping the logo monochromatic adds a classy finish as well.
Like the Maserati Ghibli, the Giulia houses gigantic aluminum paddle shifters that are column mounted so you always know where they are no matter how much you rotate the wheel. Clicking them feels satisfying, emotional, and elicits driver involvement that not many cars in this segment can. The paddles also get icy cold if the vents are blowing in their direction - a nice touch in the summer months, no pun intended.
Gripes? Well it wouldn’t be an Alfa Romeo without a few of those. Though the shiny paddle shifters are a neat addition, they impede and get in the way of the signal and washer stalks behind them, and a downward facing button for the heated seats on the center stack isn’t exactly the most ergonomic thing to push. We’ve noticed the steering wheel squealing under rotation at low speeds as well.
The infotainment unit provides big fonts and a friendly rotary dial to control all of it, but the menus aren’t the most logical. The Giulia also won’t automatically reconnect back to your Bluetooth audio when re-entering the vehicle, meaning you have to manually select it back to your phone every time.
The rear seats are rather miniature, and so are the entry portals to get in them. I have a much easier time hopping into the back of the 3 Series or C Class. My six-foot figure doesn’t fit very well inside any three of them, but the Giulia’s is definitely lacking the most room. On the bright side, the second and separate sunroof for rear occupants really opens up the cabin, though it eats away at said headroom. The Sport leather seats as part of the Sport Package are also atrociously uncomfortable despite a manually adjustable thigh bolster and electrically adjustable side bolsters. It’s not cushioned very well and the headrest feels like it’s been stuffed with moon rocks.
Alfa Romeo doesn’t have a penchant for reliability but it is difficult for us to address the Giulia’s long term issues with our limited seven-day test drive. Alas, with every new model there are always going to be kinks and quirks to work out, no matter the brand or reputation. Be that as it may, the Giulia probably isn’t for someone not willing to take risks. It’s for that buyer who wants something unique even though it may not be perfect. Flaws give this Giulia character and it’s undoubtedly something special. From its distinct sheetmetal to its impressive steering feel, the Giulia exudes charm and personality like no other sedan in this segment, but ultimately the deceptive looks and lack of cohesive emotion from the four-cylinder engine isn’t enough to justify rolling the dice with this Italian goddess.
型号 Model: 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti Sport Q4
顏色 Paint Type: Montecarlo Blue ($700)
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $52,995
試車售價 Price as Tested: $61,810
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,820
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,639 / 1,873 / 1,450
引擎 Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder
最大馬力 Horsepower: 280 hp
最高扭力 Torque: 306 lb-ft @ 2,500 - 5,500 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 8-speed automatic
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
油耗 Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 10.5 / 7.7 / 9.2
油耗 Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 10.3
輪胎尺碼 Tires: Pirelli Cinturato P7