Beautifully formulated saloon gets a minor but well-considered update

The Alfa Romeo Giulia came out in 2016, meaning it will turn seven this year. For most cars, that would be a sad affair, of growing older, with dated looks and tech. But some things are better for being a bit old-fashioned, and the Italian saloon is a perfect example.

It has now received its third update, gaining 3+3 LED matrix headlights that mimic the new Tonale’s, as well as a fully digital gauge cluster and a new alloy wheel design. Meanwhile, the engine range has been rationalised to just the 276bhp 2.0-litre petrol, with the lower-powered petrol and diesels being dropped in the UK. Happily, the 2.7-litre V6 Quadrifoglio will also make a return later this year.

A fair model year update then, but it’s not going to make the world sit up and take notice of the new high-tech, cutting edge Alfa, is it? Well, that’s fine for now. An all-new electric Giulia is in the works, and in the meantime the more other marques move to heavy four-wheel-drive hybrids with touchscreen-only controls and intrusive active safety systems, the more the relatively simple Giulia is a uniquely enticing offering.

Because it’s just as good as it always has been. You sit low, in the perfect driving position yet with a good view out. Look around and, yes, you can criticise the materials, but everything feels solid enough and there’s not a touch-sensitive icon in sight. Instead, a button to turn off the lane keeping assistance, a rotary dial for the infotainment screen and knobs and switches for the climate. The new digital gauge cluster even has a mode where it looks like the dials from a ’60s Alfa. Who knew the Italians did zen?

Alfa romeo giulia veloce 2023 fd interior driving

Get going and there’s an effortlessness to everything. The engine actually feels its 276bhp, because it doesn’t have two tonnes to lug around. The steering is very quick but doesn’t feel hyperactive, because you’re not in a teetering SUV and the chassis is in perfect sync. Oh, the chassis: it’s such a joy.

Drive the Giulia at 60% and it feels good: planted, balanced and able to positively drive out of a corner. Go a bit harder and it’s magical, feeling on its tiptoes, gently starting to yaw into a turn and up for anything.

It’s at this point that you might want to add a bit of throttle and tweak the car’s balance, but the old frustration with the Giulia remains: the traction control stays firmly on whichever driving mode you pick. It’s a very good, smooth system, just overly cautious. That the Tonale, a front-led crossover, does let you turn it off feels like a bit of a taunt.

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Oh well. There’s more to like here anyway. The Giulia demonstrates that suspension on a sports saloon needn’t be especially stiff. The ride is supple and well damped, even if the Veloce’s 19in wheels introduce the tiniest bit of crashiness. Having tried both the passive and adaptive dampers, I wouldn’t bother with the latter, as they are very slightly less comfy in Natural mode and Sport doesn’t add all that much control.

Alfa romeo giulia veloce review 2023 05 tracking rear

The engine isn’t that musical, but I like its lack of digital augmentation and its honestly boosty delivery. And it still works perfectly with ZF’s eight-speed automatic, which responds well to the gorgeous metal paddles.

To sweeten the deal, prices start at £43,259 for the Sprint (which gets the same engine but not the limited-slip differential), little more than for the slower BMW 320i M Sport, and residuals are looking fairly solid.

I won’t pretend everyone needs to ditch the 3 Series for the Giulia. If you need a PHEV for lower BIK tax, MPG over the high-20s, more space, an estate or whizzier graphics, I get it. But if you want something a bit different that isn’t just alternative for the sake of it, this Alfa might well make more sense than ever.

Alfa romeo giulia veloce review 2023 06 tracking front

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Illya Verpraet

Illya Verpraet Road Tester Autocar
Title: Road Tester

As part of Autocar’s road test team, Illya drives everything from superminis to supercars, and writes reviews, comparison tests, as well as the odd feature and news story. 

Much of his time is spent wrangling the data logger and wielding the tape measure to gather the data for Autocar’s eight-page road tests, which are the most rigorous in the business thanks to independent performance, fuel consumption and noise figures.

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Speedraser 4 May 2023

We have a 2018 Ti Sport (basically the US version of the 280hp Veloce) and a 2020 Ti (280 hp without the Sport). They're superb. Both have been extremely reliable. I've had BMWs and Benzes among other things, and the Alfas are so much more engaging. They're also, in my opinion, simply much more fun to drive. I will disagree with the author about the suspensions. Our 2018 has the adaptive suspension and the 2020 has the passive. I'm geneally a fan of well-judged passive setups, and the Giulia's is excellent. But the adaptive suspension rides significantly better in Natural, and is extremely tightly controlled in Dynamic. It's superb. 

gagaga 3 May 2023

Have they fixed the security, or can they still be unlocked and started in 5 seconds with a coded tap to the front radar sensor?

nivison 3 May 2023

And for what it's worth my now 3+ years private purchase Jan 20 MY20 Stelvio has been absolutely flawless in terms of reliability whilst all around me those I know in premium German brands can't say same. Just before the usual AR reliability yawns start scribbling.

xxxx 3 May 2023

Should have filled in the WhatCar 2022 reliability survey then, might have prevented it coming second from bottom in 2022 executive car category.

Putterin 4 May 2023

Very trustfully list where 3mmer separated to diesels and petrols while all the Giulias remain as one.In a 2018 article Alfas finished at the very top. You can find many survey with very different results. Does it matter the continent, the culture, etc. These surveys makes no sense. 

xxxx 4 May 2023

The 3 was separated because there were enough replies to warrant 2 entries, Alfa was lumped together because so few diesels were sold. Realiability surveys cannot be ignored when others bring the subject up.

Marc 11 May 2023
The only person I know who owned a Lexus, got rid because of its poor reliability. I had Giulietta for 3.5 years without a single issue. Small example I know, but doesn't really match any survey.

Surveys are generally used by those who have something to shout about, not by those who have nothing to say.