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Alfa Romeo Giulia: can it compete with the Germans?

By Nick Hodgson

One of our most hotly anticipated vehicles in recent memory, the car with a rather difficult name to spell from that Italian manufacturer that always sends a buzz through the automotive world. That’s right, the Alfa Romeo Giulia has finally come amongst us mere mortals to save us from redemption and deliver us to the promised land. Well that’s at least what both Alfa Romeo and the rest of the “Alfa-holic” fan boys would have us believe. Most of those have been banging on about the Quadrifoglio version though. The BMW M killer, fire breathing, chilli-shoved-up-the-exhaust-pipes-for-extra-zing version. But that’s around R1.5million, so here for you today is the bead and butter of the range, the 2.0 litre turbo charged version.

Entry level, why bother?

Well you see the trick that BMW has been pulling off for years is that even its entry level 3 series sedan has been pretty good fun from behind the wheel, despite being leagues away from the full fat M3. Whether or not this is still strictly the case it’s clear that Alfa has been cribbing from the Bavarians playbook. And don’t let the stigma of entry level fool you either. The Giulia is on an all new platform, designed from the ground up to beat anything else the segment has to offer. Its 2.0 litre turbo charged engine produces an excellent 147kw with a staggered 330Nm of torque. Add to this an 8 speed automatic gearbox tuned to help make the most out of the available power and torque and you’ve got a vehicle that will be winning many a traffic light drag race. In fact to prove this I put it up against my own 252kW BMW Z4M Coupe in a completely unscientific test that pitted natural aspiration at altitude (some 1750m above sea level) against the latest in turbo technology. The outcome was in favour of the BMW, but only by a whisker.

Read also: Alfa Romeo Giulia: Is the Italian marque back with a bang?

It’ll break down

Wow am I tired of hearing this about Alfa Romeo. And any other manufacturer that isn’t German or Japanese. Well done you know someone’s aunties cousin’s uncle that owned an Alfa back in the bad old days before democracy and it was forever going wrong. Well guess what? All car companies are so far off what they once were it’s scary. No one thinks Mercedes over engineers cars anymore, Lamborghini is making an SUV and Tesla can make an electric car that will out sprint all modern supercars. Times have changed and Alfa Romeo have moved with them. Sure the interior quality doesn’t have the same feel that some of the Germans have out the box. I’ll admit that I was hoping for the touch quality on those regularly used controls to be more along the brushed aluminium lines and less painted plastic, but after spending time in the Alfa Romeo Giulia these things quickly fade into the background.

What if I want to be a hooligan?

How exceptionally yobbish of you. But the Giulia is rear wheel drive after all, the perfect recipe for having some fun and letting your hair down every now and then. But what’s this? Traction control? Ah yes, my old nemesis, be gone with you at the touch of a button. Hang on a tick, where’s the button? Only a madman would make a car that looks this good, put enough power under the hood to have some fun, make it rear wheel drive and then slam the nanny state down on you. Well this is exactly what they’ve done and it’s a flat out mistake. In fact Alfa Romeo have unofficially admitted the mistake and reliable sources say the next iteration will have a button to turn off the traction control.

Read also: Alfa Romeo 4C Spider: A visceral experience

So is it all hype or should I buy one?

Well there’s no better looking car in its segment that’s for sure. The fact it’s rear wheel drive, in a time when a lot of manufacturer’s are headed to AWD or FWD, is a formula I can really get behind. It’s comfortable, practical, fast and great to drive on a daily basis. Is it leagues ahead of the competition? No I don’t think so, but the Alfa Romeo Giulia is easily up there with the best of them, with only a few little niggles keeping it back from being the new standard in family saloons. Pricing is also very competitive, starting at R550,000 and offering more standard equipment for the money across the range than any of the competition.

For me the deal breaker was the nanny state traction control, but I have a sneaking suspicion that should you talk to the right aftermarket people, that problem could be overcome. The Alfa Romeo Giulia could never live up to the hype created around it, but it certainly doesn’t disappoint and I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending it.

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