Giulia

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2020 Alfa Romeo Giulia Test Drive Review

2020 Alfa Romeo Giulia

The Giulia builds on a fun-to-drive platform with updated infotainment and driver assistance features.

7.7 /10
Overall Score

With the runaway popularity of crossovers and SUVs, sliding behind the wheel of a proper performance luxury sedan actually feels a bit special in 2020. That niche appeal goes a step further with the 2020 Alfa Romeo Giulia. It’s a sports sedan from an offbeat brand, and the result is an athletic daily driver that looks and feels like something special.

Alfa Romeo has made some key updates to the Giulia for the 2020 model year. The list of what's new includes an updated infotainment system and additional safety features. The execution on both areas leaves room for improvement, but the ground gained is notable. More importantly, the cabin of the Giulia does not feel as upscale as its competition. So, do the Giulia’s dynamic driving characteristics make up for what you give up in cabin quality? Read on to find out.

Look and Feel

8/ 10

Alfa Romeo certainly has a flair for the dramatic. The long hood and rear deck conspire to inform any onlooker that this car is about speed. Some may not know where to land on the car’s front-end styling, with its thin headlamps and unusual grille. It all comes down to what you see in this automotive Rorschach test: a vintage Alfa… or an Edsel.

Inside, it’s a blend of modern tech, driver-focused controls, and, like the exterior, a flair for the dramatic. The steering wheel is performance-inspired, with a flat bottom, hand grips, and the push-button start in the actual steering wheel. And if that doesn’t drive home the Italian passion for driving, the Tricolor down by the shifter should sell it well enough.

It wouldn’t be an Italian car without a few quirks, and on the Giulia, these are harmless enough. For one, the upper HVAC fans blow at about half the intensity of the lower fans. Additionally, the “unlock” button in the door is the lower button and the “lock” button is the upper, which is reversed from normal. But what is concerning is the cabin quality—or lack thereof. Visually, the cabin looks sporty, modern, and upscale, but closer inspection reveals a sea of hard plastics. From the dash to the center console, the cabin lacks the refinement of the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, and especially the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The only argument here is that the focus is on performance over luxury, but it’s clear the competition can do both.

Trim levels for the Giulia are Base, Sport, Ti, Ti Lusso, Ti Sport, Ti Sport Carbon, and the high-performance Quadrifoglio model. Standard features on the Giulia include leather upholstery, 10-way power-adjustable front seats, push-button start, remote start, and a full suite of driver assistance features. It also comes standard with an 8.8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, SiriusXM satellite radio, and a built-in WiFi hotspot.

The Sport trim adds 18-inch Sport aluminum wheels with red calipers and Alfa Romeo script. It also features an upgraded sport front fascia an rear diffuser, and gloss black window surrounds. Ti models add heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, genuine dark gray oak interior, and bright metal door sills.

The Ti Lusso features an upgraded leather-wrapped dash, which may address many of my concerns about the cabin quality, as will the luxury leather Cannelloni design 12-way power front seats. The Ti Lusso also features a luxury steering wheel and upgraded interior trim. The Ti Sport features unique 19-inch wheels, aluminum trim, aluminum sport pedals, and steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

Performance

9/ 10

The Giulia comes standard with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. It makes 280 horsepower and 306 pound-feet of torque, sent through an eight-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive (RWD) is standard, but all-wheel drive (AWD) is also available.

Like many turbocharged four-cylinder engines, the power isn’t as direct or immediate compared to a V6 engine with the same output. But once you are in the ideal rev range, the powertrain comes to life. This is accomplished with the large metal paddle shifters that came on our Sport Ti test car. The manual mode is great for getting the most out of this engine, but the shifts can often be clunky. Like a real manual, you do need to watch your rev range as you perform shifts. Our test car also came with the DNA drive mode selector. It features Dynamic, Natural, and Advanced Efficiency drive modes.

Our test car also came equipped with an auto stop-start system. Given the throaty engine sound when it is idling, the stop-start function is noticeable. The fact the HVAC controls cur out also makes this function very noticeable.

Spend any time behind the wheel, and any concerns about the stop-start or the cabin quality will fall away. The cornering on this car is fantastic. The ride quality is just on the stiffer side of refined. It is not overly stuff, but just stiff enough to feel connected. This is the ideal ride quality for a performance sedan… not quite a luxury sedan, but not quite a sports car.

If you don’t want the middle ground and you want to commit fully to performance, Alfa Romeo has you covered as well. The Quadrifoglio (four-leaf clover) was Alfa’s racing symbol for decades. In modern Alfa Romeo’s it’s the height of performance, and in the Giulia, that means a 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6. But that’s not any V6…it’s a Ferrari-sourced V8 with two cylinders lopped off. This combination is good for 505 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque. It has a 0-60 mph time of 3.8 seconds and a top speed of 191 mph. This makes it one of the fastest V6 cars on the market, trailing only the Acura NSX, Ford GT, and Nissan GT-R.

Form and Function

7/ 10

As expected in a performance-focused sedan, the cabin of the Giulia is snug, though not overly cramped. The front seats are well-bolstered, though the space from the door to the center console is a bit narrow. On a long trip, you may find yourself resting your knee against the hard plastics, which could get tiring after a few hours.

The in-door pockets are quite small. They are helpful for small items, but in many new cars, you can expect a deep in-door pocket and even an in-door bottle holder. There is a decently sized tray ahead of the shifter, and the center console bin is pretty deep for a sedan. None of this is standout, but with the exception of the in-door pockets, none of these areas are underwhelming.

The front seats themselves are well-bolstered, which may make them tight for larger occupants. But for most, that bolstering is a welcomed feature in hard cornering. The rear seats are tight for the class. For a taller individual to fit comfortably in the back, the front seat occupant will have to slide forward a decent amount to ensure adequate rear legroom.

The Giulia has 13 cubic feet of trunk space. This is less than that of the competition. The Giulia makes up for this with a standard power trunk and a standard 40/20/40 split-fold rear bench.

Tech Level

7/ 10

The big update for the 2020 Giulia is the new standard infotainment system. The 8.8-inch touchscreen replaces the non-touchscreen from the 2019 model. It still has the rotary dial, but using that to scroll through the menus is not very intuitive.

The new infotainment system is based on the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Uconnect system, but it has a unique layout. The card layout is actually very similar to that of BMW iDrive, though iDrive is a bit easier to navigate. In our week with the car, we also observed this new infotainment system freeze momentarily while it is thinking. This is to be expected in early models, and future updates should smooth it out. More importantly, the touch functionality makes up for any early system bugs.

Our test model also came with multiple USB ports and a wireless charging pad. It also came equipped with the available Harman Kardon premium audio system.

Safety

9/ 10

The Giulia comes standard with a full assortment of front- and side-impact airbags, traction control, hill start assist, and a tire pressure monitoring system. Available safety features include blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, and front and rear parking sensors. Other driver assistance features include forward collision avoidance, lane-departure warning, driver attention alert, and traffic sign recognition.

The lane-departure system was extremely sensitive. On the highway, it seemed to trip the sensor even when in the middle of the lane. The warning itself is a vibration of the steering wheel. This got old fast, and we actually had to deactivate what should be a helpful system.

The backup camera also appeared to be low-quality. Even though the display is brand new, the feed appeared to come from a low-resolution camera. This was disappointing and made an otherwise modern system feel dated.

Cost-Effectiveness

6/ 10

With RWD, the turbocharged four-cylinder engine returns fuel economy of 24 mpg city, 33 mpg highway, 27 combined. When selecting AWD, fuel economy estimates are 24 mpg city, 33 highway, 26 combined. In our week of driving the AWD version in the city and highway, we observed a combined 25.6 mpg.

If you fancy Ferrari-sourced power, the Quadrifoglio returns fuel economy of 17 mpg city, 25 highway, 20 combined.

Base MSRP for the 2020 Alfa Romeo Giulia is $39,400. The Sport starts at $40,850, while the Ti starts at $41,400, and the Ti Lusso starts at $43,900. Selecting AWD adds $2,000 to any of these prices, so our Ti Sport AWD model had a starting price of $43,345, but that was hardly the end of it. The optional Ti Sport AWD package added $3,000, the Active Driver Assist package added $3,250, and the Rosso Competizione Tri-Coat paint was a $2,200 option. All told, the sticker price for our test model was $58,690.

Even with the options, that tends to be the going rate for compact luxury ownership. But even the status quo in the compact luxury sedan game has better interior quality. The hard plastics of the Giulia cannot be overlooked. Sure, performance is its calling card, but at this price-point, the bar is certainly higher for cabin quality.

Still, if you want a daily driver sedan that gives all the thrill of a sports car, but without sacrificing four-doors and five-seats, the Giulia is an exciting alternative to the typical options in this segment. But you better care more about the drive than you do cabin quality.

Updated

From open-wheel racecars to specialty off-road vehicles, George Kennedy has driven it all. A career automotive journalist, George has been a contributor, editor, and/or producer at some of the most respected publications and outlets, including Consumer Reports, the Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, Autoblog.com, Hemmings Classic Wheels, BoldRide.com, the Providence Journal, and WheelsTV.

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