Johannesburg - Poor Casey Affleck. Great actor, but forever resigned to play second celebrity-fiddle to his superstar older brother Ben. The overshadowed sibling. You can see where I’m going with this.
It was a strange move for Alfa to launch its all-new range of Giulia sedans together with the rip-snorting 375kW QV model. The Germans would never do such a thing. It’s always been 3 Series, then M3. A4, then RS4. C-Class, then C63 AMG. And so on. The staggered approach seems to make more sense. Introduce the bread and butter first, build some brand hype, and then drop the meat on later.
Be honest, did you even know the new Giulia was also available in everyday 2-litre turbo guises? It might’ve been hard to see through all the Quadrifoglio’s tyre smoke and peacocking. When the Giulia range was introduced last month, the QV literally stole headlines just like Ben did when he and his younger brother acted in the film Good Will Hunting. Yes, Casey was in the cast in case you didn’t know.
But now that the smoke has dispersed, and our reviews of the Ferrari-engined and carbonfibre-bedazzled 2.9-litre turbo Giulia QV are out of the way, we thought it’s time to focus some attention on the more civilised, and much more attainable 2-litre Giulia. On test here is the Super derivative, which sits just on top of the base version and just below the up-specced Stile pack in pricing.
All three get the same 147kW/330Nm turbopetrol engine, and while it’s more or less on par power-wise with every single 2-litre in competitor sedans (we count at least eight), it does feature Fiat’s Multi-Air tech as a claim to fame. This electro-hydraulic valvetrain design is far too complex to detail here, but is supposed to increase fuel efficiency by bypassing more conventional throttle and intake systems. Interesting it’s so thirsty then. Our car returned a disappointing 11 litres per 100km over a week-long test.
Consumption aside, it is a pleasant engine with a notably smooth rev range. It’s also remarkably responsive and throttle inputs are met with very un-turbo-like immediacy, especially with the DNA drive mode selector dial set to Dynamic (D). Natural and Advanced Efficiency (N and A) still give plenty of punch but with numbed-down throttle action.
For gearbox duty Alfa Romeo has jumped on the eight-speed ZF bandwagon, and this is a good thing. The Giulia’s automatic transmission is virtually the same as in numerous Audis, BMWs, Jaguars, Bentleys, Maseratis and even Rolls Royces. It’s especially smooth when driven normally, but can morph into a high performance sharp-shifter when the red mist rolls in. Alfa also boasts about the Giulia’s ultra-light carbonfibre propshaft, which comes in all models, but unless you jack the car up and crawl underneath you’d never notice it.
The Giulia’s sharp steering could teach a lesson to other sporting D-segment saloons. It’s weighted perfectly, gives exactly the right amount of feedback and has a spot-on wheel to wheels ratio. A word to rival companies’ chassis engineers: drive this car and copy it. It’s that good.
I also like that Alfa hasn’t tried to impart a false sense of sportiness with a fat-rimmed steering wheel. Here’s it’s nice and thin, and feels just right in your hands. The shift paddles are also excellently designed with high quality metal levers extending from 7 to 11 and 1 to 5 o’clock, so they’re almost always a finger stretch away.
Our Super model came with middle size 17” alloys (base gets 16s and Stile gets 18s), and in a Goldilocks way I’d say they, together with a lovely suspension setup, offer a perfect mix of handling, bump absorption and looks. At risk of sounding repetitious, I’d say other carmakers could learn a thing or two about balance from this car, which manages to feel light on its feet but well planted and comfortable all at the same time.
The cabin is presented in a premium enough way to challenge the segment’s major players, and our car’s red on black upholstery gave a distinctly Italian flavour. Most surfaces, such as the very soft dash topper and brushed metal-look inlays, are of nice quality but if you dig around you’ll find some hard plastics in out-of-the-way places.
Some of the Giulia’s switchgear is also recognisable from Chrysler products but it all blends in with Alfa’s style fairly inconspicuously.
There’s a 16.5cm multimedia display in the centre of the dashboard fascia, and while it’s not quite as large and in charge as those in competitors’ cars, it’s crisp and colourful enough to look up to date.
It’s controlled with a rotary dial similar to those in German rivals, and the system is reasonably intuitive to use, but navigation only comes in a R70 000 Stile package which also includes leather, 18” wheels, keyless entry and sportier styling bits among other things.
The Giulia range may be minuscule compared to what’s on offer in German camps, but if we drill down into only 2-litre turbopetrol options, the Giulia makes a strong case for itself. It’s pretty to look at, built well, and above all is very nice to drive. It is relatively expensive though, especially in Super and Stile pack trim. Our Super’s R625 000 price tag is higher than all similarly specced rival sedans.
The R555 000 base model is certainly easier on the wallet and comes fairly well stocked. Its dinky 16” alloys might not look the part, but 17s are optional for R4000.