My logical mind is constantly in conflict with the devil on my shoulder, who is a bit of a rogue and a lot more entertaining, but sometimes tells me to do dumb things.
Engine: 2.0L turbo 4-cyl
Output: 280 hp, 306 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: 8-speed auto
US Fuel Economy (MPG): 24 city, 33 hwy, 27 combined (RWD)
CAN Fuel Economy (L/100 km): 10/7.2/8.7 (RWD)
US Price: Starts at $40,990
CAN Price: Starts at $50,790
(All pricing includes destination)
My logical side says I should be buying some property so I don’t have to rent anymore and that I should be saving money for my retirement, but that little devil is just shouting, “Screw it, you need that new Gucci bag and those new sneakers to match. And did you know that Dolce and Gabbana dress you’ve been eyeing is on sale?” And if I were in the market for a luxury compact sedan, that little devil would be telling me to buy the 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia while my logical side would be pleading with me to just buy the Audi A4 and get it over with. Why does my diavolo have such a taste for fancy Italian things? It costs me a lot of damn money…
As the Italian competitor to German compact luxury sedans like the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-Class, and Audi A4, the Alfa Romeo Giulia is a unique proposition. As the underdog in this segment, it doesn’t have the benefit of an established reputation for quality and European perfection like the BMW, Mercedes and Audi do. In fact, Alfa Romeos have the unfortunate reputation of being unreliable, so why should someone even consider it?
That Italian Swagger
One reason the Alfa Romeo Giulia makes a strong case to your little devil is that it has so much swagger. For drivers who enjoy doing things differently, the Giulia has that distinct devil-may-care attitude, an exotic badge, and an extremely pretty look to match. The Giulia gets countless jealous and interested looks, while anything from the German Big Three goes essentially unnoticed, too easily fading into the banality of daily commute. If ubiquity is your biggest enemy, you will find an ally with this Italian.
The Giulia is easily the prettiest and most exotic-looking car in this segment with an aggressive owl-like face, tidy proportions, and delicious details that really increase the car’s emotional appeal. It’s just so charming and seductive and I was silently very pleased with myself when driving it because it made me feel so damn cool. This is about as subjective an argument as any, but “coolness” is something that can’t be engineered – coolness must be authentic and it must be felt, and this Giulia is giving me all the feels.
The Drive is Alive
The second reason to consider the Giulia is that it has divine driving dynamics that are just as good, if not better than, the German Big Three. The balanced chassis is a thing of beauty with a taut yet forgiving suspension that loves corners. The steering is intuitive, tactile and responsive, providing a triumphant level of feedback that is nearly impossible to find these days. With a solid on-center feel and near perfect weighting, the sporty steering makes the drive feel alive. The car is happy to rotate and dive into corners with more speed than you’re used to, and it ends up instilling a lot of confidence in the lucky driver.
The Giulia (we drove the TI AWD model) is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that outputs 280 horsepower and 306 pound-feet of torque. In this model, that power is routed to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. The engine is punchy and makes the Giulia legitimately, though not violently, quick. The transmission experiences some weirdness at low speeds, kind of like a dual-clutch unit, where it takes a beat to figure out what’s happening, but once you get going, shifts are snappy and smooth.
The brakes also take a bit of getting used to, as there is not much braking power early in the pedal travel, with the driver having to really stomp on it to get the desired results. This makes it a little bit harder to drive smoothly, but this is something drivers will get used to in no time. Stop/start is also quite rough, so I turn it off. The car feels solid and stable at illegal speeds, but there is a lot of wind noise.
It’s Far from Perfect
Proper ergonomics and user-friendliness are things that the Alfa Romeo Giulia essentially fails at. It sort of gets away with it because it comes across as exotic and different, but the Giulia could really benefit from having a smarter design inside. For example, the doors are very short, meaning it’s difficult to get into the car because a driver would have to step in and then slide back, which is made even worse for taller drivers who have a farther back seating position. Another annoying feature is the enormous paddle shifters that don’t move with the steering wheel. The fact that they don’t move isn’t the biggest issue, but they block easy access to the turn signal and wiper stalk.
Besides weird button placement (the open trunk button, for example, is basically hidden in the footwell), the infotainment system is also confusing and complicated to use. This is frustrating because Alfa Romeo is part of Fiat Chrysler, which has UConnect, one of the best infotainment systems in the business. Why didn’t they just use UConnect? Instead, the Giulia doesn’t have a touchscreen and drivers end up having to scroll through confusing menus with the rotary knob. Besides that, the infotainment system and navigation are kind of dimwitted, the trunk opening is tiny, and the back seats are pretty useless if there are taller people up front.
The cabin looks good, however, with an alluring design and high-end materials used throughout with the exception of a few hard black plastics. It’s also a very cozy cabin, feeling intimate and special, but perhaps a bit too tight for bigger people.
Remember what they say about beauty over brains? This Giulia should be a case study.
The Verdict: 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Review
Is the Alfa Romeo Giulia the best car in its segment? That’s a definite no. It is, however, the most interesting among its peers and it’s by far the coolest. Like that Gucci bag my little devil keeps reminding me about, it may not be the smartest or most practical use of your money, but if you find joy in using it, then all the downsides seem to fade away. Joy and coolness are things that are difficult to find in cars today, and these are things the Giulia effortlessly brings to the table.
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