We like the Alfa Romeo Giulia here at Auto Express, and why wouldn’t you? It’s a great-looking saloon car that drives either very well or brilliantly, depending which engine is thumping away beneath the bonnet. And although it’s not cheap beside the obvious opposition from BMW, Audi, Jaguar and Mercedes, it is arguably the most exciting car in its class and almost certainly the best looking.
But there were issues with the Giulia, and mostly they concerned the quality of its interior, plus a lack of connectivity and autonomous safety features beside the best cars in this class. In short, although the Giulia was a corking car to drive, it lacked the cutting-edge technology you find inside most (if not all) of its rivals.
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Enter the 2020-model year Alfa Giulia you see here, which doesn’t look or even drive a whole lot differently from the original but whose interior is significantly improved. Not just visually and in its quality, but also from a technical point of view.
Crucially, says Alfa, the car also contains a lot more autonomous technology than before, to a point where the firm claims it is as advanced as the current regulations that define autonomous driving could possibly allow it to be. It is, in short, at Level 2, and at the moment you can’t go further than that.
Inside, not only is the centre console far more premium in both look and feel but there’s also a better-looking and more functional new set of digitised instruments, with a big infotainment screen to the side of these that can be operated either as a touchscreen or via an iDrive-like rotational switch just behind the new leather-covered gear lever.
Apple Carplay and Android Auto connectivity become standard, while bi-xenon headlights also become standard. And from mid-way through next year, the car will even have its own wi-fi hotspot.
Beneath the skin, the new Giulia now has speed and lane-sensing cruise control and a whole host of other advanced driver assistance systems that bring it at least up to a level with the main opponents from Germany, says Alfa. And all of this makes the car competitive on all levels with that competition.
At the same time, Alfa has also refined its range into a four-level line-up - or five if you include the Quadrifoglio. The entry version is badged Super, then comes the Sprint, then Lusso Ti, with Veloce at the top. No exact UK prices have been announced yet; the new Giulias don’t hit UK roads until spring next year. But expect a price rise of at least five per cent relative to the current line-up.
Given that there are no specific changes beneath the skin, or to the engines and gearboxes (although emissions are slightly keener, due to minor upgrades in software), it’s not surprising that the new car drives just as well as the old, even though it’s a fraction heavier because of the new autonomous elements. The version we tried was the Veloce 2.0-litre petrol QV, and a peachy thing to drive it was, too.
If anything, the refinement on the move seems better than before, but that’s purely a result of the new interior being that much higher in quality. The ride also seemed a touch smoother, but otherwise the MY20 Veloce drives just like the previous model. That means brilliant steering response and feel, strong but not thundering performance from the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine (276bhp/400Nn to give 0-62mph in 5.2sec) and a level of handling precision that makes most of the main opposition feel clumsy and heavy by comparison.
Bottom line? The Giulia always drove beautifully, but now it has the technology to match. And that makes it one of the strongest cars in its class, even if it’s also now one of the most expensive.