by Gerhard Horn
The Alfa Romeo Giulia has been a revelation for the Italian brand. Back in 2014, Alfa Romeo sold a grand total of 67 new vehicles in the USA. There's one very good reason for this: it only had one model on offer, the 4C sports car, and it catered to a very specific market. But to turn the brand around, the late Sergio Marchionne had a plan...
First, grab some attention by introducing something interesting (the 4C). Then you introduce something for the masses - the new Alfa Romeo Giulia. It's a car you simply can't ignore if you're a gearhead and has been a hit from the start, offering something completely different than the clinical Germans. Sure, it has some flaws, but the compact luxury sports sedan is so good to drive that you can forgive it almost anything. Restrictive rear seats, an average trunk, technology a step behind the rest, and sub-par build quality? Yup, all present and accounted for. But once you drive it, you soon realize that it offers something different to what you'll find in a BMW 3 Series or Mercedes-Benz C-Class. That makes it extremely charming, and quite hard to resist. It's been key to the brand's renewed success that has seen figures climb into the thousands, and Alfa isn't stopping now.
Alfa Romeo has been improving the Giulia constantly since its launch and this year is no different. For the 2022 model year, last year's Ti Sport trim is renamed Veloce and the standard equipment is shored up across the range. Standard on all models for this year are navigation, a wireless phone charger, heated front and rear seats, an auto-dimming interior rear-view mirror, grocery-bag hooks and a cargo net in the trunk (Ti and Veloce trims only), and an air-quality system. Several new driver-assistance features have been added as standard equipment too, including adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, front and rear parking sensors, and curve-adaptive headlights with automatic high beams. Depending on the model, there are also some changes to the front fascia and grille, as well as to the interior finishes. There have been changes to the exterior paint colors too.
See trim levels and configurations:
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
Not much has changed exterior wise, mostly because it didn't have to. The Giulia is aging extremely well, not to mention the fact that the people who buy these things love the fact that it is so evocatively styled. It looks like nothing else on the market, and you can have it in a range of colors that suit its extrovert nature perfectly. HID headlights, LED taillamps, LED daytime running lights, and dual-tip exhaust outlets are some of the exterior features. The base Sprint model retains the 17-inch alloy wheels, while the Ti and Veloce are equipped with 18- and 19-inch wheels respectively.
The Alfa Romeo Giulia is a similar car in size to the BMW 3 Series, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. In terms of dimensions, the wheelbase is 111 inches long, while the entire body length comes in at 182.5 inches. It measures 73.7 inches in width, and the height varies between 56.5 inches and 57.1 inches depending on the model. In terms of weight, you're looking at between 3,521 pounds for the rear-wheel-drive model and 3,632 pounds for the all-wheel-drive derivative. That puts it on par with the 3 Series as far as weight is concerned. The 3 Series has a wheelbase of 112.2 inches and a total length of 185.7 inches, however. That explains why the Alfa feels so cramped in the back compared to its German rival.
What's the point of having a flamboyant Italian car if you can't have it in an equally flamboyant color? It's strange, therefore, that Alfa Romeo has slashed the available paint colors this year. The base Sprint Trim is available in only six exterior hues, one of which is standard. The standard color is Alfa White. Alfa Rosso (red) costs $330. The previous standard black is no longer offered. The metallic options for the Sprint-trimmed Alfa Romeo Giulia all cost $660 and include, Vulcano Black, Vesuvio Gray, and Anodized Blue. Newly added to this list for 2022 is Moonlight Gray, but gone this year are five of last year's hues: two grays, two blues, and a green. The Ti can be ordered in exactly the same colors and loses the two expensive ($2,200) tri-coat options named Rosso Competizione and Trofeo White it had access to last year. Of the metallic hues, the Veloce's palette retains only Vesuvio Gray and Vulcano Black, but adds Misano Blue, as well as Rosso Etna (a red hue for $1,200) and Ocra GT Tri-Coat (an ochre hue for $2,200).
The 2022 Alfa Romeo Giulia has a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-pot under the hood. But since this sedan is aimed at enthusiasts, it's not your normal run-of-the-mill four-pot. This unit develops 280 horsepower and 306 lb-ft of torque. The standard eight-speed automatic transmission is also tuned to get the most out of this engine, which is why it can sprint to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds in the rear-wheel-drive configuration. The Giulia is also available with an all-wheel-drive system. The additional grip afforded by the optional all-wheel-drive system brings that 0 to 60 mph sprint time down to 5.1 seconds. The top speed is electronically limited to 149 mph.
These figures are class-leading, but they only tell half the story. Performance is about more than just sprint times and top speed. It's also about the noise, and how the car feels. This four-pot has been tuned to sound as good as possible, while the suspension and steering ensure that the Giulia feels engaging at all times. Ultimately, that matters more to us than the impressive sprint times.
As mentioned earlier, the 2.0-liter four-pot under the Giulia's hood delivers 280 hp and 306 lb-ft. It's mated to an eight-speed gearbox, sourced from ZF. It's a magnificent automatic transmission, used by a number of manufacturers. When used in combination with the zestful engine and its magnificent soundtrack, it provides an eager, somewhat naughty package. Unlike many other four-pot cars of this ilk, the Alfa feels like it wants to play, even in its most docile driving mode. It'll happily light up the tires if you're a bit too enthusiastic with the throttle at a traffic light, but not too much so, as the ESC quickly intervenes.
Even at higher speeds, the engine never seems to run out of steam. The gearbox is only too happy to drop down a cog or three when the need arises, making highway journeys a joy.
On its own, the gearbox does a magnificent job. It's always a good sign when a gearbox simply blends into the background, allowing the driver to enjoy the ride. But the Giulia also wants to provide an engaging experience, which is why you get beautifully crafted paddle shifters mounted behind the steering wheel. One glance at those and you can't help but engage the manual override. The paddles are an optional extra on the Sprint entry-level model.
The first thing you notice about the Alfa Romeo Giulia sedan is the fast and direct steering. It's so responsive that it can be quite unnerving at first. We've grown so accustomed to lifeless electric steering that it's a shock to the system to drive a car that darts so effortlessly. This is not the kind of car that allows you to quickly glance down at your phone, because the smallest movement on the steering wheel could easily lead to a lane change.
In terms of traction, the rear-end can step out quite easily if the driver is too aggressive with the throttle. Even the all-wheel-drive model is rear-biased and will do the same. Luckily, there are safety nannies that will intervene and save the day. It's a good thing the braking system is so powerful, having no trouble reigning it back in if you get a tad overzealous.
Being more sporty in its setup, the Alfa may be too firm for some. We think it's a worthy trade for the amount of fun it ultimately provides. If you're the kind of person who wants every trip to be an adventure, this is the car for you. If, however, you want a sensory deprivation tank that places comfort above all else, you'd be a lot better off opting for an Audi A4, or BMW 3 Series.
There's another side to the Giulia's engine as well. It can be practical and frugal when it needs to be. The rear-wheel-drive model has EPA mileage figures of 24/33/27 mpg city/highway/combined. The all-wheel-drive model is slightly thirstier, returning 23/31/26. Comparatively, BMW's 2.0-liter four-pot turbocharged 330i is more efficient, however. The rear-wheel-drive variant of the German has an EPA-rating of 26/36/30 mpg.
The Giulia has a 15.3-gallon gas tank, which results in a 413-mile range for the most efficient RWD model.
The changes Alfa Romeo made to the Giulia for its 2020 update closed the quality gap between the Italian and the Germans, but it's still not 100% there. Being a sporty offering, the Giulia's major controls are all aimed at the driver. At the center of it all is one of the most beautiful steering wheels, not just in this segment, but in the automotive world in general. The starter button is placed on the steering wheel, and the dials are housed within two stunning circular housings. The paddle shifters deserve to be mentioned separately. Most manufacturers in this segment get paddle shifters completely wrong, so you eventually forget they even exist. The shifters in the Alfa are so prominent, for reasons we shall delve into later, that you regularly feel the urge to engage with them.
The seats up front are spectacular, offering support in all the right places. You never feel as if you might fall out, even when driving enthusiastically. There are 42.4 inches of front legroom, 38.6 inches of headroom, and large doors. The rear seats are less accomplished; those in the back only get 35.1 inches of legroom, but at least the headroom is still decent enough at 37.6 inches.
The main problem, in addition to the lack of rear legroom, is the location of the side pillars. They feel further back than they should be. It's part of what gives the Alfa its alluring side profile, but it means rear entry is compromised. With the rear doors stretching about a third of the way down the rear wheels, rear passengers don't get much space to work with.
As you'd expect from an Italian car, the interior is a thing of beauty, even though the quality is below par in certain places.
Having said that, the designers paid attention to all the right places. Leather seats are standard, as are the ten-way power-adjustable seats in the front and, from this year, a dark headliner. You get the standard black interior in the Sprint with sport leather seats a $1,000 option or red leather for $600. The Ti gives you access to optional $600 Saddle Brown leather seats but loses the red option. In the Veloce, the brown leather is not offered but the red option returns. Last year's black leather with contrasting white inserts and white leather with white inserts are no longer available. The most stunning combinations are the red/black, and brown/black interior options anyway, so maybe that's why only these have been retained for the 2022 model. Just keep in mind that they are model-specific. Sadly, last year's Performance and Lusso packages are no longer available. However, the Premium Interior and Sound Package does at least offer leather trim for the dash top and upper door trims, as well as an upgraded audio system.
In most cars, paddle shifters are just something a car needs to have these days, but in the Giulia, they are a work of art. They're mounted on the steering column, as opposed to the steering wheel, which means they stay in place even when you turn the steering wheel. It's more expensive than simply mounting them on the steering wheel itself, but it's the kind of thing that matters to a gearhead. Because they're made of aluminum, they're also cool to the touch. And they make the most satisfying clicking sound when you use them.
Here the Alfa is on par with its rivals. Offering 13 cubic feet of space, the trunk is similar to the trunks of its main rivals. The BMW 3 Series, for example, offers 13 cubic feet and the Audi A4 offers 12 cubes. The rear seats do fold flat in a 40/20/40 configuration, for the odd occasion you need to transport something large.
While Alfa can't do much to change the rear legroom, it listened to the original criticisms and made some changes to the interior storage spaces. In 2020, the Alfa received larger cupholders and more storage spaces for the front passengers.
The entry-level model is called Sprint, which is a name first used on the 1954 Giulietta Sprint, and then the 1965 Giulia Sprint GTA. When you look at the standard features, there's nothing entry-level about it. As standard, it has leather seats, steering wheel and shifter, ten-way power front seats, dual-zone climate control, heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel, an air-quality system, remote start, an auto-dimming interior mirror, and keyless entry. The Giulia Ti specification adds a dual-pane sunroof and trunk-mounted grocery-bag hooks.
All models come standard with an 8.8-inch color touchscreen that offers a selection of widgets on a scrolling horizontal layout. The display can also be customized to include shortcuts to the driver's favorite menus for quick access. As an added bonus, the driver also gets a seven-inch TFT screen in the instrument cluster for a quick glance down.
The infotainment features standard voice recognition, a wireless charging pad, and a media hub in the center armrest. An eight-speaker sound system is standard, but you can upgrade to a 10- or 14-speaker sound system. With Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard across the range, there's really no need for the navigation system which is, ironically, standard on all models from this year.
Historically, the downfall of many Alfa Romeo models has been reliability, but so far the Giulia hasn't had a bad run. The J.D. Power rating for 2019 was a good 76 out of 100 overall and 75 for quality and reliability. More recent years have not been rated. That's not far off the 2020 BMW 3 Series, which scored 79 and 77, respectively. As for recalls, there was one in 2020 for rear brake discs that may fracture, causing a loss in braking performance and one for the 2021 model for the possible loss of braking assistance and ABS functionality.
The Giulia remains unrated by the NHTSA, but in the IIHS's review of the 2022 Alfa Romeo Giulia, it scored Good ratings across the various categories. Only the standard headlights were rated as poor in certain trims.
Alfa adds a lot of the traditional safety kit across the entire range. From base Sprint trim upwards, the Giulia is equipped with eight airbags including front knee airbags, traction control, stability control, full-speed forward-collision warning, hill-start assist, rear park assist sensors, tire-pressure monitoring, and a rear camera with dynamic guidelines. This year, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control with stop, automatic high beams, and front parking sensors are added to this list.
In this segment, the game is particularly tough because you have competitors like the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, BMW 3 Series, and Audi A4. They all offer more or less the same thing: five seats, a plush interior, and decent, predictable handling. Exactly what you'd expect from cars hailing from Germany where cars are developed over a seven-year lifecycle, and every part is triple-checked before they leave the factory floor.
The Italian car was not developed this way. You can tell just from where the side pillar is located that it follows a form-over-function philosophy. Yes, the rear legroom is compromised, but have you seen how great it looks? The same is true of the interior. It's a bit shoddy in certain places, but beautiful to look at.
And then we get to the way it drives. It's not as comfortable or compliant as its main rivals thanks to its firm suspension setup, but then you drive it and it makes sense. If you want a comfortable, sensible, efficient, quiet, and brisk car, get any one of the German rivals. But if you're after a driving experience that will thrill you every time you get behind the wheel, you should definitely try one of these before you buy.
The cheapest model in the revised Giulia lineup is the Sprint, which has an MSRP starting at $42,950. The mid-spec Ti starts at $45,750, while the top-spec Veloce starts at $50,890. These represent increases of between seven and 11 percent over last year, but are compensated for to a large degree by the substantial improvement in standard equipment. The all-wheel-drive system is an optional extra, available across the entire range, retailing for $2,000. Over and above the base price of the Alfa Romeo Giulia, Alfa adds a further $1,495 as a destination and handling fee, which is a little expensive compared to the equivalent prices for the same fees from rival brands.
There are three trims in the revised 2022 Alfa Romeo Giulia lineup: Sprint, Ti, and Veloce. They all share the same mechanicals, comprising a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four engine with 280 hp and an eight-speed automatic transmission driving the rear wheels as standard, or all four at a $2,000 premium.
The Sprint is the base car and is fitted as standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic HID headlights, LED tail lights, auto-dimming and power-folding exterior mirrors, and rain-sensing wipers. Inside, it has leather upholstery, ten-way electrically adjustable front seats, heating for the steering wheel and the front and rear seats, dual-zone climate control, an air-quality system, keyless entry, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, aluminum sport pedals, and remote start. The infotainment system comes as standard with an 8.8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, navigation, voice control, and an eight-speaker audio system. Standard safety and driver-assistance features are eight airbags, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, full-speed forward-collision warning, hill-start assist, parking sensors front and rear, lane-departure warning, and automatic high beams.
Next up is the Ti trim that adds 18-inch alloy wheels, a bright grille finish, and a dual-pane sunroof. Inside, it's similar to the Sprint, but there are grocery-bag hooks and netting in the trunk. The Ti does offer access to additional packages and the unique Saddle Brown seat leather but it loses the other trims' aluminum shift paddles.
The Veloce gets all of this and is additionally differentiated from the outside by its 19-inch alloy wheels with red brake calipers, Sport rear diffuser, dark grille, gloss-black window surrounds, and Veloce badging. It is also the only model to get a limited-slip rear differential. Inside, it gains a 12-way power driver's seat, sport front seats, aluminum paddle shifters, and aluminum interior trim.
Now that a lot of the previously optional kit has been made standard, there isn't a lot you can add to the Giulia, and with all the driver-assistance features now available, the Active Assist 1 Package falls away completely. That said, the base car is also excluded from the other trims' Active Assist Plus Package that adds more driver-assistance features.
On the Sprint, all packages have fallen away and the only way to personalize the car is by adding standalone options such as AWD ($2,000), a dual-pane sunroof ($1,350), bigger 18-inch alloy wheels ($1,000), red brake calipers ($650), sport seats ($1,000), or red leather instead of the default black ($600).
On the Ti, very few standalone options are available but include two styles of 19-inch alloy wheels ($1,000 or $1,500), Saddle Brown leather ($600), or red brake calipers ($650). More personalization is allowed, with two packages offered. One is the $1,000 Active Assist Plus Package that adds active blind-spot assistance, highway assistance, driver-attention assistance, lane-keep assistance, intelligent speed assistance, traffic-jam assistance, and traffic-sign recognition. The other available package is the $1,800 Premium Interior and Sound Package that brings with it a premium 14-speaker Harman Kardon audio system and leather on the dash and upper doors. These two packages are also available on the Veloce.
The base Sprint is a very attractive model. Retailing at $42,950, it already comes with leather upholstery and a suite of driver-assistance features. It's a shame some of the goodies from last year's Performance Package are no longer available, but most drivers won't miss the limited-slip differential all that much. At least the aluminum paddles are standard on this trim. Having said that, there isn't a large gap between the Sprint and the Ti, and the latter opens up more optional extras, including the advanced safety kit.
The sweet spot in the range is, therefore, the $45,750 Ti. Its bigger wheels fill out the wheel arches better and it has a standard sunroof. It looks glorious inside with the optional Saddle Brown leather and you can upgrade it further with the Premium Interior and Sound or the Active Assist Plus packages, neither of which are available on the Sprint.
The Audi A4 is a fantastic all-round car. It offers a more comfortable, compliant ride, and the interior is a cut above the rest of its rivals in the US. This has always been Audi's forte. Its infotainment system is one generation ahead of its competitors. The virtual cockpit is magnificent because it allows you to control almost everything from the instrument binnacle, which means your eyes never leave the road for more than a split second.
Oddly, the Italian is a bit more practical. The Alfa's front legroom (42.4 inches) and headroom (38.6 Inches) is more than the Audi's 41.3 inches and 37.3 inches respectively. The Alfa's rear legroom is just 0.6 inches shorter than the Audi, so it is a practical sedan. It's just the small door opening, but once you're inside, it's all good. The Alfa even has a slightly bigger trunk.
It's an obvious choice in this segment, but for good reason. It does everything well, and it beats the Alfa in a number of ways, but for those who want to enjoy driving, the Alfa ekes ahead when it comes to the fun factor.
Speaking of fun factor, it's worth noting that Audi's 2.0-liter turbocharged four is available in two outputs. The lesser engine only develops 201 hp, but the high output 45 offers 261 horses. The Audi is outgunned on both fronts by the Alfa in this comparison.
According to historical reviews, the 3 Series used to be the most prolific competitor in this segment, but over the years it has grown in every direction. Where it used to be aimed at enthusiastic drivers, it now offers a more rounded driving experience, with a bias towards comfort. It can still hustle down the road at an alarming pace, but thanks to its lifeless electric steering, it's no longer as fun as it used to be. This does, however, translate into a more refined highway experience. It also makes better use of the space it has available with better ergonomics, beating the Alfa in the practicality stakes. Furthermore, the BMW's 2.0-liter four-cylinder only packs a 255-hp punch, yet it manages to accelerate nearly as hard as the Alfa while using less fuel. BMW also avails a six-cylinder that leaves the Giulia for dead, albeit at a higher price.
Objectively, the BMW is the better car. Add emotion into the mix, however, and the Alfa comes out tops as a car that actually excites you and makes you want to drive. But in every other way, the BMW is a few steps ahead.
The most popular competitors of 2022 Alfa Romeo Giulia: