What is it?
We've already been impressed with the Alfa Romeo Giulia abroad. Faced with the steepest of challenges - that of taking on the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes C-Class at their own game, Alfa has shown that its new Giulia is capable of running with the very best when it comes to the way it drives.
Of course, for D-segment saloons the big market is company car drivers, which means diesel power. And sure enough, that's where Alfa expects 80% of Giulia sales to go. Still, for the predicted 20% who choose petrol, and for those who shy away from the full-fat 503bhp Quadrifoglio version, this 197bhp option is the only remaining choice - for now at least, because a warm 276bhp petrol Veloce model is coming in April.
While this Giulia misses out on some of the visual frills of the Quadrifoglio - including that car's auto-extending front splitter and bonnet vents - it is nonetheless an aggressive-looking machine. Certainly, it's got the individuality which someone who's spent years drifting between the German premium brands might be looking for, that is, if they can't be persuaded by the Jaguar XE first.
On paper, too, this petrol version of the Giulia would seem to be a good bet, especially if you won't be doing the high mileage needed to justify a diesel. CO2 emissions are rated at a modest 138g/km (only slightly behind the 134g/km of BMW's 320i SE) - equating to 24% BIK in 2016/17 - while fuel economy of just under 48mpg shouldn't see you visiting the pumps too often.
Our car, like the vast majority of Giulias in the UK, is in Super specification. One up from entry-level Giulia trim, it gets you 17in alloys, part-leather seats, and paddle shifts for its automatic gearbox - because remember, the Giulia will only be available in automatic form in this country.
What's it like?
Oh Lordy, it's fun. You might imagine that with 'only' 197bhp available, this petrol motor might not be the best fit for the Giulia, but its high-revving nature makes it pleasant to drive. Plus, its exhaust note - fizzy is the best way to describe it - gives accelerating a real sense of occasion - enough so that you won't miss the extra low-down pull of the diesel. Getting up to motorway speeds feels fast; sure enough, this Giulia's 0-62mph sprint time of 6.6sec is faster than the aforementioned 320i's 7.2sec.
Helping this is the Giulia's 8-speed automatic gearbox, which provides quick changes up and down the range. Taking control yourself via the Giulia's paddle shifts means you can keep the revs in their peak power range for longer if required, and when making quick progress this helps the Giulia to feel involving. The steering is light at first, but weights up nicely with speed and there is some feedback to be felt too. The Giulia is quick to turn in, and maintains its calm poise through corners.
The ride is on the firmer side of comfortable, but never to the point of becoming annoying, and the passive dampers bring a real feeling of control.
When we drove this Giulia abroad, we called its mix of talents a 'revelation', and that's what it feels like back on home turf too - certainly, the Alfa Romeo is more fun to drive quickly than its BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz counterparts, even if the Jaguar XE has the ultimate dynamic edge. Like the XE, though, the Giulia inspires confidence when driving quickly - yet it can remain calm and composed at the touch of a button.
In fact, the changes brought to the car when selecting through Alfa's DNA driving system are marked. Dynamic brings better throttle response and a louder exhaust note, Natural is perfect for commuting in town, while Advanced Efficiency is ideally suited to the motorway, and significantly dulls the throttle.
There are quibbles, though. The interior is nicely appointed and well equipped, but there are cheap-feeling plastics and buttons to be found, particularly around the lower edges of the console. And the new infotainment system (hidden behind a satin black panel) can de decidedly dim-witted. Rear access, too, is hindered by the car's sloping roofline, but in fairness, once you're seated, there's enough room for adults in the front and back. Plus, when at motorway speeds, a reasonable amount of wind and road noise finds its way into the cabin.
Should I buy one?
It's easy to see why you would be swayed by the Giulia. It's a fresh face in the executive saloon market, and if you've grown bored of the 'me too' crowd from Germany then it's well worth looking into. The Giulia is great to drive quickly, comfortable and, in this form at least, has reasonably low running costs.
Jaguar's XE ultimately remains the better all-round driver's car, but the Giulia makes an excellent case for itself if you want something more niche. And with only 3900 coming to the UK per year, it's likely to remain niche for some time to come.
Alfa Romeo Giulia 2.0 Turbo Super
Price £31,180; Engine turbocharged four-cylinder in-line petrol; Power 197bhp at 5000rpm Torque 243lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic; Kerb weight 1492kg; 0-62mph 6.6sec; Top speed 146mph Economy 47.9mpg; CO2/tax band 138g/km/24%; Rivals Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-Class, Jaguar XE