Alfa 159 vs Giulia

Alfa 159 vs Giulia

From the outset I will admit that I have a soft spot for the Alfa Romeo 159, having owned a Ti version for the last 10 years. In my opinion the gorgeous 159 saloon was and remains one of the prettiest compact executive cars of them all.

We know that few car-making nations provide a finer-looking four-wheeled breath of fresh air than the Italians. So does the Alfa Romeo Giulia have what it takes to win a beauty contest? Is the Giulia a better looking car than its arguably very different predecessor, a car which was widely acknowledged (by many and not just me) to be a real head turner?

With the new Giulia Alfa Romeo is finally getting the chance to build the car it wanted to in the early 2000s. The Giulia and its light, rear-wheel drive Giorgio platform are Alfa inspired from the get-go and it shows – the car has been lauded by reviewers for its handling prowess and overall on-track performance.

In terms of looks the 159 has a much more sculptural quality about it, whereas the Giulia is much more muscular – bulging would be the word to describe it. The Alfa Romeo Giulia is certainly tailor-made for anyone bored with the oh-so familiar line-up of German executive saloons on their company car list.

Yet, unlike some of its predecessors, including the 159 the Giulia shouldn’t be dismissed as an oddball or the alternative choice, even if it is a niche one; there’s more substance to back up the style this time round.

It is strikingly different to the 159 but arguably not as individualistic in its styling, preferring to be a little bit more conformist, blending a little bit more easily into the crowd of BMWs, Mercedes and Audis.

The car feels solid and well put together but so was the 159. The interior fit and finish on the Giulia are decent and the cabin is bang up to date, making the 159 look a little dated by comparison. There are swathes of soft-touch plastic across the dashboard and doors, the leather is sumptuous and the Giulia is brimming with smart design touches; the steering wheel, with its starter button on the left-hand spoke, is a work of art.

My first drive in the Giulia was in the 2.0-litre turbo petrol model. The engine is potent, sounds better and revs more smoothly than the diesel versions. Some may disagree but in my opinion its more willing and athletic repertoire is a better match for the car’s handling than the diesel-engined versions. In fact, it’s more than a match for its rivals from BMW, Mercedes and Audi and Jaguar.

The 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol motor is also a smooth performer and like the 159 is a refined, comfortable cruiser. But where the Giulia has the 159 licked is its agility and overall performance. The 159 was arguably an over-engineered car and was no lightweight, in fact during its life cycle it went through a weight reduction programme. My 159 will never win a sprint away from the traffic lights but the Giulia is an altogether different proposition. The 200bhp 2.0 litre turbo will accelerate to 60mph in 6.6 sec with the 280bhp Veloce completing the dash to 60mph in 5.7secs. It is not too long ago that these performance figures would have been considered to be in supercar territory (and the Quadrifoglio version will out muscle many a modern day supercar).

In overall terms the Giulia is a sporting saloon in the classic mould, with an expertly judged balance between refinement and excitement. Everything you’d hope for in an Alfa Romeo in other words, with few of the excuses required in the past.

Is it prettier than the 159 though?  I’m not convinced that it is but it is certainly more muscular and handsome enough to force you to take a second look –and you should because it has hidden talents and extra appeal that the 159 simply can’t match. The compact executive game has definitely moved on considerably over the past 10 years and the Alfa Romeo resurgence looks set to continue.


Tim Logan

Club Secretary