First drive: Alfa Romeo Giulia Super

Alfa Romeo's new take on the compact saloon is here — AOL Cars gets behind the wheel with a question: can it challenge the Germans?

What is it?
Thanks to the high-performance Quadrifoglio model, Alfa Romeo's Giulia has gained something of an instant cult following — but this is the version it hopes will bring home the bacon, the Super.

For the Giulia to be considered a sales success, the Milan-based brand will need to lure customers from established mid-sized German cars such as the Audi A4, BMW 3-Series and Mercedes C-Class over to the brand.

Alfa's last attempted to capture this market with the 159, which failed to make an impact — it'll be hoping things are different this time around.

What's new?
The only thing not-quite-so-new about the Giulia is the name — last used in 1978.

The saloon is the first car sporting an Alfa badge to use a front-engine,
rear-wheel-drive setup since 1992, on the 75 compact saloon.

In the case of the Super, there are also three new four-cylinder engines for the
Italian brand. A 2.0-litre petrol version is on offer and starts the range, with
two 2.2-litre diesel units available. Other models include the Veloce — which
packs a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol and the range-topping Quadrifoglio,
propelled by a 2.9-litre V6 engine.

What's under the bonnet?
The most powerful of the two diesel engines on offer for the Giulia Super was fitted to our test car — a 2.2-litre unit producing 176bhp and 450Nm of torque paired to an eight-speed automatic gearbox. The combination is capable of taking the saloon from 0-60mph in 6.9 seconds and up to a top speed of 143mph. As for efficiency, fuel economy is claimed at 67.3mpg on the combined cycle with CO2 emissions of 109g/km.

This is an engine well suited for motorway cruising, with sufficient mid-range torque perfect for merging on slip roads and overtaking, while the lack of noise from the motor helps create a relaxing ride.

It proves useful too should you take on some more interesting roads, although
the automatic gearbox proves quite hesitant at times even in the Dynamic driving
mode, which can hamper the fun a bit.

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First drive: Alfa Romeo Giulia Super
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What's it like to drive?
Despite the saloon car size, the Giulia manages to feel nimble, which lends
itself well to spirited driving. Switch to Dynamic mode, and the steering becomes well-weighted and the suspension firms up to provide an engaging experience — although a little more feel through the wheel would be appreciated.

Should you want to cruise along, switch the rotary dial to Normal and you've now got light — but not overly so — steering to get around without hassle, and softer
suspension settings, which provide a supple ride. Visibility around the car is respectable too, which bodes well for town driving and parking.

All-Weather mode takes that and adds more sensitivity to the car's safety assistance, which can come over as intrusive at times.

How does it look?
Taking classic design style cues from the manufacturer's historically stunning cars, the Giulia brings them into a modern and sharp package.

Everything is well-proportioned and it's a dramatic thing to look at from any
angle. If street cred is something you want from your mid-sized saloon, look no
further.

Sadly, the fit-and-finish of the bodywork is far from that of the Giulia's
rivals, with thick panel gaps somewhat disrupting the otherwise clean styling.

There's also the badge appeal that comes with owning an Alfa Romeo and you'll no
doubt stand out from the crowd on most roads and in the office car park.

What's it like inside?
You get the impression that the pursuit to perfect the Quadrifoglio halo car has resulted in an ergonomically designed interior that's carried through the whole Giulia range, lending well to the saloon being a driver's car. The driving position itself is among the best in its class, slung low and with both pedals and wheel placed near-perfectly for the average-sized person.

As for the interior quality, partial-leather upholstery and full-leather
seats result in a premium-feeling cabin, with little in the way of cheap
materials in sight. There are some niggles, though, with sections of the centre
console feeling flimsy enough to break at a touch.

In the back, there's plenty of room for two adults and as for cargo, there's
480 litres of boot space — matching that of its rivals.

What's the spec like?
Standard equipment on Super models includes 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone
climate control, rear parking sensors, an eight-speaker audio system, cruise
control and an eight-inch infotainment display with Bluetooth and navigation.

Our test car came loaded £7,720 worth of options including 18-inch alloy wheels,
red brake calipers, bi-xenon headlights, active suspension and a 14-speaker
sound system — bringing the total price to £41,285.

While the list of equipment is good, you're not quite getting as much for your
money as the German competition, with most similarly-specified rivals coming under £40k.

The Giulia's infotainment display is poor. There's no touchscreen, with the entire system controlled by a singular rotary dial that makes navigating the menus, as well as controlling the sat-nav, frustrating. It feels out of place in 2018.

Verdict?
The Alfa Romeo Giulia manages to pack an engaging and fun driving experience
into a sharp-looking package, setting it apart as a genuine alternative in the comapact saloon market.

In its own right, it's a superb machine but it's still unlikely to dethrone the
Audi A4, BMW 3-Series and Mercedes C-Class as class leaders anytime soon.

It doesn't offer quite as much value as the Germans, and we suspect the superior
fit-and-finish of the rivals will be more appealing to the type of customer in
this segment despite the engaging driving experience.

FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model: Alfa Romeo Giulia Super
Price as tested: £41,285
Engine: 2.2-litre turbodiesel
Power (bhp): 178
Torque (Nm): 450
Max speed (mph): 143
0-60mph: 6.9 seconds
MPG (combined): 67.3
Emissions (g/km): 109

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