Giulia Shock!

A former doubter takes a thimbleful of humble pie as the Giulia lands…

Image via carscoops
Image: carscoops

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.

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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.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founding Editor. [Dis]content Provider.

44 thoughts on “Giulia Shock!”

  1. Naturally the one that most the testers want to get their hands on and talk about is the Quadrifoglio, but some of them seem more eager to get the tail out than the facts right. Car tells us that the V6 is a Ferrari V8 with a couple of cylinders ‘lopped off’, which reinforces my idea that part of the course at the hypothetical University Of Automotive Journalism should be a spell in a garage and a few lectures on engineering. Autocar tells us that the V6 shares no structure with any Ferrari engine, just ‘inspiration’ (Alfa’s word). In view of FCA’s ridiculous drip-feeding of information, I guess we should forgive any confusion.

    The consensus seems to be that the QF is a very convincing M3 alternative which, if you’re into a life of either tantalising frustration or wet-dream fantasy, sounds like good news. For those of us who’d like to have their fun at speeds that can be achieved on today’s European roads, the lesser versions are a bit more relevant. I suppose it’s predictable that it’s auto only in the UK, though in a world that still tolerates clockwork watches, I’m not convinced the old fashioned manual should be dismissed so readily. Naturally, but depressingly, the two UK potential big sellers are both diesel but, if you like that sort of thing, they look convincing enough packages. And, apparently, it’s significantly more roomy that the XE. So, as a tall person, that would probably seal it for me. Manufacturers like Jaguar, who have a blind spot about space really exasperate. Space is actually very cheap to provide.

    So, yes, Eoin. It seems quite convincing. Though after all the gestation, it should be.

  2. Yes the Giulia looks okay in non-aggressive trim – note merely okay, not beautiful. There is a bit too much jelly in the mould to make it truly handsome. I have my doubts about its hurried gestation too. Like we always say, those all important residuals will make all the difference, and I have my doubts there too.

  3. A summary of the past few weeks:

    Maserati Levante: positive reviews
    Fiat Tipo: very positive reviews
    Chrysler Pacifica:very positive reviews
    Alfa Giulia: very positive reviews (at meast in English, German, French and Italian press)

    Based on ‘intuition’ and ‘experience’ of the ‘professional’ journalists, each of these cars had to be horrible. The Levante drives well, repairing the mistakes of the Ghibli/Quattroporte. The Tipo is attractive and supercompetitive – the Bravo wasn’t. The Pacifica is innovative and attractive – leaving the competition behind- certainly with the hybrid version.

    The Giulia can compete with the German three . Unlike the 159, may journalists seem to prefer the Giulia the 3 series (and M3). The fact that the Giulia is well engineered is not just good luck, but based on good intentions from the start. Take a look at this presentation from may 2014: http://www.fcagroup.com/investorday/PresentationList/Alfa_Brand.pdf

    Time to wake up: Marchionne and FCA have done a very good job. The the company is profitable and the products are competitive (compare that to the situation at Fiat before Marchionne and Chrysler before Marchionne).

    To end with: the Google deal. A PR coup that resulted in worldwide ‘free advertising’. Many ‘ordinary’ people know only one self-driving car: the Google car. And they did read in the newspaper that Fiat-Chrysler will build it… For those people FCA is now unconciously associated with high tech. I repeat: ‘Fiat-Chrysler’ and ‘hightech’ in the same sentence (the same sentence!). And this for the price of a small investment. It’s genious!

  4. It is true, FCA have launched some good cars in this past year. But this comes off the back of years and years of product varying between mediocre and dire. It is also worth noting that Chrysler is in large part keeping FCA afloat. Actually, make that the Jeep and Ram part of Chrysler. Quote Reuters, analysing FCA’s last quarter:

    “North America accounted for nearly 90 percent of FCA’s quarterly profit, reflecting robust demand for its Jeep sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) and pickup trucks… FCA is retooling two of its plants in the United States to boost production of the more profitable SUVs and trucks, improve its model line-up and strengthen its finances before the U.S. car market comes off its peak.”

    Outside of trucks, FCA is struggling. Chrysler botched the 200, the 300 and most Dodge models are ancient and off the pace, with replacements some time off. The Pacifica is a great car by all reputes, but it is a niche model. As for Fiat, anything without a 500 badge nailed to it is dead in the water.

    Marchionne is clearly fighting a lot of fires. The Google car is a coup, but that is a long term play in a company that needs to be generating cash from more than its roster of US-market trucks.

    1. A lot of ‘intuition’, ‘experience’ and ‘professional’ journalism.

      You say Jeep/Ram is keeping FCA afloat. Is that a problem? The truck business in general is booming. The F150 is keeping Ford afloat, the trucks are keeping GM afloat. What does this mean? It means that FCA is following the market and has the right strategy.

      There was a lot of drama around the killing of the 200 and Dart. But -surprise- Ford is now also moving its compact cars to Mexico. And -surprise- GM cancelled the Buick Verano. Seems like FCA was ahead of the competition in its decision making about the compact cars!

      ‘USA accounts for 90%’ of profits. This is true for today, but will change in the coming months. Firstly: the USA market is stabilising and the EU market is growing – especially the Italian market. Secondly: the new Fiat and Alfa products are arriving at the dealerships now (after years of no new products). Fiat/Alfa sales will significantly increase because of the new products. To end with: let’s not forget the South American market (currently in crisis, but with big Fiat potential) and China. Succes in these markets will reduce FCA’s reliance on trucks only.

      About Chrysler and Dodge: there will be a focus on the profitable products. Chrysler gets the minivan and a large sedan. Dodge gets RWD muscle cars (based on Alfa architecture). The unprofitable USA compact cars will be outsourced.

  5. I just looked at the C&D review of the Pacifica, a car that I’ve managed to ignore. It seems very convincing but I also liked the way it has been written by someone who understands what an MPV/Minivan is supposed to do, or not do. He makes the point that his teenage kids find these vehicles hugely embarrassing “Ugh – mom-mobile” and that really is the attitude of the average journalist.

    1. Yes I liked that review. Nobody buys a car like the Pacifica out of anything other than need, but the reviewer tests it to that brief. Seems like a good car too.

  6. Just to be clear, I would like the Giulia to be a good car, and early reviews suggest it could be. I am unsure however whether there is a sufficient slice of the market available for Alfa to make it pay. On that matter we shall see. Anyway, any car that shows how cynical and complacent a product the current BMW 3 Series is has to be worth championing.

  7. As a long suffering adherent of Italian cars, I’ve got to say I’m disappointed with my first impressions of the Giulia. To my eyes it looks like a 3 Series that’s been given a makeover by Hyundai; I don’t suppose they’ll ever be able to match the beautiful and timeless 156. I think that all is lost when a car maker tries to emulate BMW instead of ploughing its own furrow. I distinctly remember Honda era Rover stating a similar ambition. The fact is, regardless of how you view BMW’s, they have the qualities desired in the market they succeed in; they work, they drive well, they look ok. An Alfa should look stunning; this doesn’t and to win new customers it needs to work. I have read the Autocar review and they picked up on the climate control being rubbish and the infotainment screen being dated. BMW and Audi drivers are unlikely to put up with that. It seems that FCA just can’t make climate control. I’m on my fourth Fiat with climate control (A Chrysler Delta), and just like the Bravo, 156 and Dedra that preceded it, it doesn’t work and of course the waste of space dealers say “no fault found”. I can’t help suspecting that despite all the hype about improved quality, the development process at FCA is just plain slapdash; I can imagine them driving around with the windows open then ticking the box to say the CC works because, hey! I also suspect they are not tough enough with suppliers. No doubt when it has lost enough value I’ll end up buying one just because I’m a glutton for punishment. Sorry to be pessimistic and grumpy but I really think FCA is finished.

  8. There’s a sudden explosion of Giulia material in the comics and their websites. Autoca*’s worth checking: different testers in the Quadrofoglio, 2.2 diesel and 2.0 MultiAir. The last emerges as the Best Giulia in the Real World.

    If I understand correctly, all UK-supplied Giulias will be automatics. No reason given as yet, could it be a development problem with the manual option, or possibly a CO2 or official mpg figures thing? I wonder how the market will view this. From observation, most of the German rivals sold here are manual. I have no problem with the all-auto policy – the more powerful the car, the more a clutch and gears spoil it.

    CAR June arrived at the weekend, full of Giulia, and for the first time in years justifies the £4.60, not just on the strength of Große Georg’s wide-ranging interview with Sergio. Fact for free: FCA’s profit margin is currently 6.0%, twice as much as VAG’s in pre-dieselgate times.

    1. The article on Marchionne in Car was a welcome blast of of the past, including an excellent illustration cum caricature – the best thing I’ve read in there for many years. The article test driving the Giulia QV was rather gushing, and the test of the far more critical diesel Super more than a little scant and glib – I can’t help thinking that in the Car of yore the focus would have been on the prosaic model with an added page covering the hot version (which is how they covered the memorable coverage of the Maestro back in 1983, the first edition I ever bought).

  9. Interesting isn’t it how we all now accept the notion that Alfa Romeo saloons should be pretty. Until the 164, few actually were – in fact, some were really quite challenging to the eye. Like most others, I’d prefer the Giulia we’ve been presented with to possess more of the visual flair that made the 159 such a superb looking car, but given the utter torpidity of the sector as a whole, I think it’s not a bad looking thing at all.

    Oddly enough, some of the comments made here could equally apply to Jaguar’s XE – a car that really has no right to look as dated and downright invisible as it already does, given the fact it was a clean sheet design. It too has reported issues with infotainment and interior fittings, to say nothing about its droning Ingenium power unit.

    But I understand people’s ambivalence – from what Sergio was promising, even the second coming wouldn’t have assuaged the legions of frustrated and disillusioned Alfisti. Nevertheless, I do think it deserves a chance to make its mark and given that the XE hasn’t exactly leapt off the blocks, its chances might be better than previously imagined. Well, maybe…

    1. Have we not forgotten a rake of 50s and 60s sports cars? The GTV? The Spiders? Even cars like the recent GT and the last GTVs were all attractive? I´d argue Bertone´s 2000 saloon was considered a good-looking car as well.
      And yes, the XE is remarkable invisible. I saw one recently and it seemed liked I had always known this design.

    2. Richard, at the risk of sounding pedantic (I know..!) I was talking about Alfa saloons. You’re quite correct in your assertion that the coupe’s and sports models were very attractive, although I’d suggest the 2000 Berlina was very well tailored rather than pretty – possibly in a similar manner to that of a contemporary Flavia Berlina. But that I suppose is a matter of opinion.

      But if we’re talking beauty here, I’d genuinely struggle to think of an Alfa saloon that fitted the term until perhaps the 164. But of course that too is a matter of opinion. Mine in this instance…

  10. Eoin: put like that, you´re on firmer ground. And yes, the Bertone 2000 is well-tailored and not pretty. I´d have to look in Wikipedia to find a pretty saloon from Alfa, which means I won´t win this one. The Giulia, Alfetta, 6, 155, 75 and Giulietta aren´t going to win prettiness prizes.

  11. Nobody’s mentioned the Alfasud – like no four door Alfa before or since, but the styling worked brilliantly.

    Who remembers the 1965 2600 de luxe by OSI? That rare thing, a non-factory Alfa saloon. I’d post up a picture if I knew how to. Michelotti is credited with the styling, but it doesn’t really look like one of his, or an Alfa – more like a Glas or NSU.

    As for the Giulia, I’m not convinced that anything aft of the front ‘facia’ (as the Americans use the term) says Alfa Romeo. Giugiaro’s office managed a good effort at design in the style of Walter de Silva for the 159, maintaining a ‘vocabulary’ which now seems to have been lost. The Giulia could be a Seat, Kia, Mazda – even a Lifan, Brilliance, or Roewe – it’s just a rag-bag of contemporary styling tropes.

    1. The OSI hasn’t much Alfa Romeo about it. The third side glass is an unusual touch for Alfa. It could, as you say, be German. The photos I have seen suggest a fine interior. That one is new to me: I imagine Buckley has a book about it and Heseltine has a few articles on why it’s peerless.

    2. The Giugiaro Design-era was a styling high point and Fiat/FCA were foolish to abandon it to the utterly misguided reverence of the retro 8C. I wonder if the Giulia’s design was chosen to appeal to China, before that market developed a bit of a limp. The same could perhaps be said of the XE – maybe? It certainly would explain an otherwise inexplicable lack of ‘flair’.

      The ‘Sud was a great looking car Robertas – I have happy (and not so happy) memories of owning one. However, I felt it didn’t fit this particular narrative, hence the omission. The OSI 2600 has to my eyes something of Frua about it as well, particularly in the treatment of the canopy.

  12. I’ve never really accepted ‘Alfa saloons must look great’ as an historical truth, though in terms of re-orienting the company into the 21st Century, it might be a good move. But it’s a (relatively) recent dogma. I’m inordinately fond of the original Giulia, but it looks functional, not elegant. And the 1750/2000 looks like it more-or-less was, a Giulia centre with a disproportionally larger front and rear attached to bring it up to date. Neither were most Lancia saloons (Flaminia excepted) great lookers. Although also boxy, contemporary Fiats usually looked better. It’s almost as if, since many consider the original Giulia Berlina a better drive that the Bertone coupe, the saloons were deliberately kept a bit dowdy.

    1. Perplexingly, an awful lot of Alfa saloons that, we’re told, are actually rubbish (so everything after and including the 164), received rampant applause for their looks upon launch. Can we conclude that pretty Alfa saloons are bad cars and challenging ones great ones?

    2. How about establishing an ‘Ugly’ category for the Sei, Arna et al? Very Clarksonesque, admittedly, but it would help keeping my argument intact.

    3. (I’m quite aware that my referring to the car as Alfa Sei is quite snobbish, but that’s how its name is pronounced in my head, rather than Alfa Six or Sechs. And to complete the picture of outright pomposity, I’m pronouncing all Jaguar models the British way, so it’s aks-djay rather than eeks-eeott.)

    4. That’s a difficult one, as there is no phonetic English counterpart to the German E (as in Porsche, which the more pedantic British native speakers pronounce ‘Porsch-uh’). I can’t come up with anything better than ‘Bay-Em-Vay’. As you know, is Tshermans are having trouble viz ze dubbelyou.

    5. Don’t say that, I don’t even want to know how expensive my Brylcreem supply will become once I’ve got to add import taxes! Not that hair product appears to be very high on His Borisness’ agenda, mind.

  13. Wait ’til we Brits have to try to pronounce ‘Borgward’ again, Kris! I say ‘Borgh Varghd’ but no-one else will.

    Back to Julia (sic) – I think it’s one that one needs to see in the metal, in order to appreciate. Few cars seem to photograph well these days. Hopefully it’s slightly understyled, which is one reason I like the Exee. I find the Exef (I fancy a Turkish beer after that pun, but that’s Efes!) much more disappointing, compared to its beautiful, yet impractical antecedent. One car see where they simply took the smaller car & let in more length/width and it suddenly looks too ‘flat’.

    By the time I see one, hopefully the journos will have calmed down and the reviews will be more honest. I’m really hoping it’s still good – especially if they give us a lower-power V6 version as I don’t like turbo fours very much.

  14. Nick – the concensus among British Borgwarders is ‘Borg-vart’, which may be true to Plattdeutsch intonation.

    When did the British show any respect for foren pronunciation? Anyone who says Renault, Peugeot, Volkswagen, or Lancia correctly is regarded as an appalling snob, although we cope well with Seat and Audi.

    I still find the ‘Julia’ awkward. It may be a lack of ‘poise’, or a design team worn down by being challenged to achieve the unachievable. I don’t think even Mediterranean sun will change my mind. The 156 seemed to gain another dimension under that intense light, but it was already a very good looking car.

    1. ‘Borg-vart’ is pretty close to standard Germanic phonetics. I’d have to ask my German grandfather about the Platt pronunciation, but he isn’t with us anymore. Mind you, as a proud child of the city of Bremen, he’d have loved just to be asked the question.

      In some cases, false foreign pronunciation can make a brand name sound more appealing, I’d claim. The British Mercedes is certainly more mellow than the German M-err-tsay-dess. On the other hand, Lan-tsia is just plain wrong.

    2. With Mercedes it’s a special case anyway. Would the German be the correct pronunciation because it’s a German car? Because the name is actually Spanish and should therefore be pronounced Merr-thay-dess with a short middle syllable.

      Lan-tsia or Lan-chia (with stressed ‘i’) is as horrible as Lam-bor-jee-ni, but German speaking people don’t tend to believe what’s the correct Italian pronunciation.

    3. Not to mention my personal favourite, Zittröhn. It’s just a pity they never built a model called Countatch.

  15. A (german of course) friend of mine – he loves France and spent some holidays at Schtay Mahksimeh (=Saint Maxime) – was always proud of his Reinno Tschenitsch.
    Now he is driving a Toyota Corolla Verso – a good choice in his case….

  16. Speaking as a stereotypical monoglottal Brit who cringes with embarrassment at hearing himself trying to pronounce foreign words to people who are fluent in that language, I guess that the fact that, having no accents at all ourselves, we Brits spend an inordinate amount of time laughing at other people’s. So, when we actually need to put our own linguistic inexpertise on the line, we suddenly see ourselves at the butt of our own jokes, and fold up. I will repeat my greatest car name pronunciation gaffe (I’ve written of this before in this site so, if you’ve read it, turn away now).

    A few years I saw an interesting looking Alfa Giulia for sale and rang the dealer. Only when I started talking to him did I realise that, due to the fact that until I started writing in company with people like your goodselves my car enthusiasm had been purely solitary, I had never in all my years uttered the name of the car I so admired. Not only that, but I hadn’t even considered its derivation. So as I started talking I said “I’m interested in the Alfa … uuh …. Geelier you’re selling” “You, what mate?” “Ummm, the Gooolier?” “You mean the Julia mate?” . Suddenly years of unthinking admiration were exposed cruelly to me, and to the sneering dealer (“Wanker rings from London to buy a car, doesn’t even knows what it’s called!” – OK he didn’t say that, but I knew he thought it).

    Odder still is the way we decide that there is only one way to mispronounce Renno, Perjo, Sitrone, etc and laugh at anyone who say Renolt, Pewjo or Sitrenn,

    1. My dad and a colleague of his became victims of a similar misunderstanding when they were referring to that funny three-wheeler, the Rellyant.
      Do to our own linguistic insecurities, we don’t find usually take offence when someone talks about a Pohrsch, Bie-Emm-Dabbelju, Wolkswuägenn or Möhrsäidies-Benns. Like the Italians, we’re a people that’s quite easily pleased if someone makes some effort to pronounce our words correctly (unlike the French, in my own experience – no offence, Laurent).

    2. None taken. It’s all stereotypes anyway so best taken with a pinch of salt.

    3. Possibly it’s because French is the nearest thing (by a country mile) I have to a second language accounts for my problems. As a teen I stayed with a French family and when I told them that our family had a Fiat 124 (one-two-four in the UK) I called it a un-deux-quatre. “Pauvre petit Sean. Ah non, tu doit dire cent vingt-quatre”

      Possibly we could repronounce some UK products. I actually prefer the US Jagwarrr – it’s a bit more onomatopoeic. And I think you should roll the R in RRollls RRoyce. And I like Meeni. And Astin Marton. And maybe Low-Toose.

  17. From: http://www.autocar.co.uk/car-review/alfa-romeo/giulia

    So a typical Italian then. The niggles:

    “You can’t turn off the stability systems, there’s no such thing as the correct wiper speed in light rain, the hazard lights trigger much too soon under moderate to heavy braking, the temperature in the car at times sometimes seemed to be at significant variance to that displayed on the screen and the sat-nav screen is decidedly low rent compared to what is now found in its BMW and Mercedes rivals. Out there in the real world where cars are lived with as well as driven, this stuff matters.”

    But those niggles are no different to what (I suspect) you will find in a Lexus or Infinite viz a viz a German car. So rather moot.

    On all premium cars the climatronic is set and forget. On the Alfa it isn’t and the tester had to fiddle with it – which would annoy me. Especially on a “premium” car. I hardly ever touch the Yeti’s since it has been calibrated over years and years with German experience. And it thus works correct. In my work Toyota Corolla I have to touch it a little bit more from time to time or at least press the Fast/Slow button. But for 95% of the time it is also set and forget.

    So as ever God is in the details and there this Alfa has a LONG way to go.

  18. Let me skip the language pronounciation, and refer to the looks of the Alfa Giulia, I must
    admit that when I saw it in the motoring magazines it did not quite impress me, nor could
    I say that it was bland far from it. Recently I was in Italy for the open fairs of the Giulia which
    was attended by the hundreds and I was overwhelmed by the purity of its design, this is a
    real stunner especially in that Italian blue. So I suggest to all my friends wait and pause
    before judging the Giulia until you see the real thing’ Carmel Cauchi

    1. Hi Carmel:
      Thanks for stopping by. Funnily, I’ve seen the car in the same colour and it’s very flattering indeed, especially with brightwork around the sideglass.
      May I ask if you’re especially interested in Alfas or do you have a wider interest in cars?
      Do you drive one by any chance?

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