A former doubter takes a thimbleful of humble pie as the Giulia lands…
In the eleven months since Alfa Romeo revealed the Giulia to the world, I’ll admit to being more than a little dubious about the car and its prospects, and with some justification. Not only did it look faintly ridiculous in its early-reveal Quadrifoglio Verde warpaint, also the on again, off again nature of its gestation and introduction did little to lend confidence or succour to those who had waited so long for a competitive, mid-sized Alfa saloon following the demise of the pretty, if portly 159. But now that it’s finally here, perhaps it’s an opportune moment to view it with less cynical eyes.
The mid-size upmarket saloon sector has to be the most depressingly torpid bunch of vehicles on current sale. It’s primarily a German recipe that everyone adheres to these days but it should also be noted that Alfa Romeo once ploughed a very similar and similarly conservative furrow during the Sixties and early Seventies before they lost focus along with the bulk of their fortune.
But that’s a long time ago and there’s been a lot of water and Alfa berlina’s under various bridges since then. So now with the wait almost over and with the press reporting their impressions, the news sounds broadly favourable. But to some extent, that was to be expected, more surprising to me at least is the matter of aesthetics. Because the removal of the spoilers, skirts and diffusers has revealed a handsome and quite elegant motor car.
Yes, the design issues outlined by Driven to Write’s resident design expert haven’t altered, but in Super trim and especially in the fetching dark blue of the press shots, the Giulia looks rather alluring. In fact, I’ll stick my neck out and suggest it may now be the best looking in its class. The interior too looks tasteful and (Jaguar take note), inviting. Like its rivals, you can have your Giulia interior in maximum goth, (which most will opt for), but the option of more cheerful colours and veneers is nice to see.
But looks will only take you so far in life, and make no mistake the Giulia still has a Stilvio or perhaps even a Gavia to climb. Perceptions are everything in this sector and Alfa Romeo still have a lot of them to challenge. Not least Alfa Romeo’s dealers who must drastically improve customer service and more fundamentally still, protect residuals – the single area the Giulia will live or die by.
Get this right and FCA may have a chance. Without it, Sergio and Harald might as well do a KLF and burn suitcases of Euro’s. Superficially then, the Alfa appears to offer stern competition to Volvo’s dated S60 and Jaguar’s uninspired looking XE. Can the Giulia steal sales, not only from Jaguar and Volvo, but from disgruntled refugees from the German big three? Or will it be another Maserati, flying high in April, shot down in May?
Either way, a vicious battle is shaping up between an all-new Volvo S60, Jaguar’s XE and the Giulia for the residual crumbs let fall from the big name market leaders. On the face of it, the odds appear to be stacked firmly against the Alfa, but on an initial glimpse at least, they’re a good deal better than feared.