We've previously reported a mixed bag when inspecting the Giulia's interior, and that sentiment continues to ring true. Outwardly, it is rather splendid. Anyone half expecting an Italian sense of style to inform the Alfa's cabin ought to be delighted: the dashboard architecture has clearly been arranged with one eye fixed on what might look beautiful - a useful contrast to the purely functional prettiness its northern European rivals achieve.
Were its only requirement to be that you sit and admire it like a Botticelli fresco, then the Giulia would be a triumph. Sadly, it's when the process of driving demands that you engage with your surroundings that the niggles surface like rising damp. Some are merely questionable fit and finish; others, more seriously, are functional - like the seemingly low-rent infotainment screen or the unswitchable stability control or the weirdly unhelpful wiper settings.
Subjectively though, these issues tend to provoke mild dismay rather than outright offence. It’s distressingly easy to forgive the squeak of an ill-fitting cupholder cover when the solid metal paddle shifters look so good or ignore the ridiculous aspect ratio of the 8.8in Connect system because the dash swoops so deliciously low above it.
Such leniency is near impossible to uproot in the evaluation of the Giulia’s driving style either – because here too, in broad strokes, it manages to be compellingly good. The crisp, cultured chassis applauded in Europe arrives in the UK mostly intact, even when saddled here with optional 18in wheels and run flat tyres. Shod thusly, its sophisticated ride quality registers a mite too taut on occasion – but it mostly settles into a wonderfully supple groove, one that eschews the cloying, dull-edged comfort of its major rivals.
Instead, the Giulia feels magnificently passive and clean-limbed on double wishbones and rear multi-link suspension - and in collaboration with its super-rigid new architecture, proves brilliantly adept at telegraphing contact patch information into the driving experience. To suit the fleet-footed change of direction and apparent lack of mass, Alfa has kept the steering light too – rendering a level of ease that might flirt with over-assistance if its rate of response wasn’t tuned to astutely compliment the bite of its front end.
Combine all this with the usual advantages of 50/50 balance, the subtle poise of a pushed chassis rather than a pulled one and the exemplary keenness of a engine and gearbox that seemed to have been synchronised with enthusiasm in mind rather than abject parsimony, and there are great lumps of time in the Giulia’s company where it rewards a driver just as deftly as anything else in the segment. Perhaps more so.
Nevertheless, there are bubbles in the gloss here too. Typically, the more time you spend in the Giulia’s company, the more readily they crop up. This is a noisier prospect than most other premium options; in wind content mostly, but also from the running gear occasionally, too. Its rivals are probably better at isolating occupants in general – and certainly in the benign cosseting a driver in the business of long motorway journeys.