Nearly every luxury sport sedan similar in size to the 2021 Alfa Romeo Giulia is a great driving car, but none can topple Alfa from its throne as the best. Its quintessential sport sedan combination of agile handling, superior driver communication and powerful engines is the best in the business. Unfortunately, the highs are high, and the lows are low when it comes to the Giulia.
The interior is better now than it was at the beginning, but it’s still less than the Germans in both luxury and technology. A frustrating and laggy touchscreen infotainment system is hardly an improvement over the non-touch interface of before. A palatial back seat has never been a sport sedan trademark, but the Giulia's competitors nevertheless out do it in that regard too (should you care). And of course, there’s the question of long-term reliability. We hope that Alfa Romeo has worked out the Giulia’s reported issues over the years, but reliability is worth considering with the car’s troubled history. Many of these flaws might be worth looking past if you want the ultimate driver’s sport sedan, especially if you’re thinking about the dynamite Quadrifoglio and its brilliant Ferrari-derived engine.
What's new for 2021?
After the heavy 2020 updates, not much changed for 2021. The trim options are streamlined to just four now: Sprint (new base trim name), Ti, Ti Sport and Quadrifoglio. Alfa’s dual-pane sunroof is made standard on Ti, and the limited-slip differential is now standard on Ti Sport. A number of new colors are available: Ocra GT Junior, Rosso GTA, Rosso Villa d'Este and Verde Montreal. Nothing changes for the Quadrifoglio.
What's the Giulia’s interior and in-car technology like?
Alfa’s upgrades for 2020 focused on improving the Giulia’s cabin, and it’s much better for it. Materials on the steering wheel, dash and center console are more in touch with luxury expectations, and the control interfaces are sturdy, quality parts. The overall result still doesn't match most competitors, but it's no longer objectionable, and the materials generally feel nice to the touch.
The design itself is attractive and minimalist. It lacks the Swedish flair of a Volvo S60 or the drama of some of the offerings available from Lexus and Mercedes, but Alfa was sure to pack in just enough Italian flair (red leather helps) to keep things interesting. There's even a little Italian Tricolore emblem at the base of the shifter.
The Giulia has a standard 7-inch full-color gauge cluster display and 8.8-inch touchscreen infotainment system that has suffered from laggy response in all models we’ve tested. A navigation system and Wi-Fi hotspot can both be added, and the latter enables over-the-air updates and a companion app for both Android and iOS. All Giulia models come with USB charging ports for both the front and rear of the cabin.
Despite the new touchscreen, the Giulia’s interior still trails its competitors in terms of comfort and convenience features. The front sport bucket seats are comfortable and supportive but lack the finer adjustment of those offered by competitors. More indulgent niceties, such as the massaging seats offered by Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Volvo, are nowhere to be found in Alfa’s sport sedan.
How big is the Giulia?
The Giulia is a compact European sedan, like the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 or Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Its interior is a bit on the cramped side even for this segment, but it will seat four adults (five in a pinch). Front-seat space is more than adequate, and the Giulia’s driving position is excellent, but at the expense of back-seat room. Legroom is at a premium, especially behind taller drivers and front-seat passengers. The trunk, likewise, is on the smaller side for the class at 13 cubic-feet — check out our luggage test here.
What's the performance and fuel economy?
The standard Giulia is offered exclusively with a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine producing a class-leading 280 horsepower and 306 pound-feet of torque, paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive is standard on all Giulia and Giulia Ti models, but all-wheel drive is available across the lineup for $2,000 more.
Rear-wheel drive models will do 0-60 in 5.5 seconds; all-wheel drive drops that time to just 5.1 seconds — top speed is 149 mph. Fuel economy is rated at 24 mpg city, 33 mpg highway and 27 mpg combined with rear-wheel drive; all-wheel drive drops those figures to 23 mpg city, 31 highway and 26 combined.
The high-performance Quadrifoglio boasts 505 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque from a twin-turbocharged, 2.9-liter V6. The Quadrifoglio competes with the likes of the BMW M3, Audi RS 5 Sportback and Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Sedan and is offered only with rear-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic. Alfa says it will do 0-60 in 3.8 seconds on the way to a 191-mph top speed. The Quadrifoglio fuel economy is 17/25/20 mpg.
What's the Giulia like to drive?
While the Giulia’s interior may be a bit low-rent compared to some of the established competition, it more than makes up for those shortcomings with incredible driving dynamics and, in the case of the Quadrifoglio, an intoxicating and responsive powertrain.
Even the base Giulia is offered with an enthusiast-friendly sport suspension, and while its four-cylinder engine may not hold a candle to the 505-horsepower V6 in the Quadrifoglio, it makes plenty of power for daily driving and even a little weekend corner-carving. The Giulia feels light and playful, with a stiff chassis and adeptly tuned suspension.
The Giulia puts driver engagement first, pleasing the driving enthusiast at every turn. At the same time, the available adaptive dampers impressively sop up nasty bumps. Cars with such a sporting "edge" are often given a pass when it comes to ride quality, as a sore back and kidneys bruised by the seat bolsters are considered par for the course. The Giulia needs no such handicap.
The Quadrifoglio is raw, pure Alfa Romeo performance to the max. It snarls and barks at every shift, handles as well or better than any other sedan in its class and looks positively menacing doing it. The combination of a Ferrari-derived engine and Alfa Romeo’s brilliant chassis tuning results in one of the best cars to drive, period.
What more can I read about the Alfa Romeo Giulia?
Subtle but successful changes were made to the interior, infotainment and safety features. We go into them in more detail during our first drive in southern Italy.
Byron puts the updated 8.8-inch touchscreen infotainment system through its paces in this walkthrough.
We stuff all of our suitcases and bags in the Giulia to see what it can hold.
Exotic, enigmatic, luxurious and dressed in black.
Porsche 911 Carrera 4, Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio and a chat with Jean Jennings | Autoblog Podcast #626
Plus VW Tiguan R-Line and the latest Toyota Supra news
A limited-production, 540-horsepower track car from Alfa? Yes, please.
What features are available and what's the price?
The 2021 Alfa Romeo Giulia starts at $40,745 (including a $1,295 destination fee) and is nicely equipped even in Sprint form. Standard features include 17-inch wheels, dual-zone climate control, power-adjustable front seats with leather upholstery, remote start, the aforementioned 8.8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with 8 speakers and Android Auto/Apple CarPlay integration. You can tack on a new performance package to the base Giulia this year that adds a limited-slip differential and the large, aluminum paddle shifters.
The Ti adds 18-inch wheels, dark wood interior trim, aluminum door sill plates and navigation. A Ti Sport adds the limited-slip rear differential as standard, 19-inch wheels, sport front fascia, rear diffuser, black exterior trim, sport seats, sport steering wheel w/paddle shifters, aluminum interior trim, aluminum pedals and a black headliner. Trims from 2020 like Lusso or Sport Carbon are made into optional packages to tack onto the new trim levels for 2021. The Lusso package (available on Ti) adds an upgraded luxury steering wheel, walnut or oak trim, and leather on the dash and door panels. The Carbon package (available on Ti Sport) gets visual upgrades inspired by the Quadrifoglio, including darkened trim and a bunch of carbon fiber.
The Quadrifoglio model is effectively loaded, but certain elements, such as a carbon fiber steering wheel and carbon fiber exterior upgrades, are only available as add-ons.
Giulia Sprint: $40,745
Giulia Ti: $43,995
Giulia Ti Sport: $47,195
Giulia Quadrifoglio: $76,345
What are its safety equipment and crash ratings?
The Giulia comes standard with forward collision warning, rear parking sensors, LED daytime running lights and hill start assist. The Active Assist 1 Package, which is available on Sprint, adds adaptive cruise control with full-stop capability, automatic high beams, blind-spot warning, front parking sensors, auto-dimming side mirrors, lane-departure warning and an infrared windshield (better reflects light waves). An Active Assist 2 Package available on Ti, Ti Sprint and Quadrifoglio models adds even more driver assistance systems. Additional features include lane-keep assist, a Highway Assist system w/lane centering, traffic jam assist (for stop-and-go highway traffic), a driver alertness system and traffic sign recognition (w/Intelligent Assist that will suggest you slow to the speed limit upon the car reading a sign).
The Giulia’s adaptive cruise control system is well-executed and flexible, relieving stress on longer drives. We found the lane keeping to be a mix of great and annoying. It tracked along lanes with great precision on some highways, but would fight with us on others, sometimes even protesting a lane change when the indicator was on.
The Giulia has not yet been tested by the U.S. government, but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rated it “Good” in all of its crashworthiness tests. Its collision avoidance technology was rated “Superior” as well, but its base-model headlights were rated “Poor” even with the automatic high-beam option included in the Driver Assistance Dynamic Package. The headlights available in the High Performance Bi-Xenon package were rated “Good” and are available on Ti models and standard on the Quadrifoglio.