Many times in the car world it’s the Goldilocks cars that make the most sense.
They are the ones that are not too fast and not too slow, not too old and not too new, not too costly and not too cheap, and one of them is the Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce.
When the latest Giulia arrived in Australia it was the hotrod Giulia QV with V6 turbo engine that got people talking about the great looking mid-sized Alfa. The howling V6 soundtrack and taut suspension and hip-hugger sports seats were all wonderful, but the car was M3 money and had flaws.
Now there is the Veloce, one step down but one level up in many ways, that is the one to park in your driveway.
The Giulia line-up starts with the Sport, which now sets the price point $63,950, but the one in the middle is the best pick and – perhaps surprisingly – the most delightful drive.
You don’t have to go fast in the Veloce, unlike the Quadrifoglio. And you get everything you need – from a reasonable $71,450 – in a car that’s more enjoyable for more of the time and one to recommend to people who usually focus on Audi, Benz and BMW badges.
The Veloce comes as Alfa upgrades the Giulia for 2021 with everything from a bigger – and very overdue – infotainment screen to a safety package that can now recognise Aussie traffic signs and give you a nudge if it thinks you are a bit fatigued. For old-school alfisti, the traditional Alfa tragics, there is also active suspension, a limited-slip differential, bi-Xenon headlamps, wireless phone charging and – wait for it – heated rear seats.
The Giulia is the sort of car that’s now being ignored by SUV lemmings, even though it makes impressive sense for the sort of driving that most people do for most of the time. It will happily slur around the suburbs, is quiet and very comfortable at highway cruising pace, and turns heads outside the coffee shop with styling that is as obviously Italian as a pair of hand-tooled leather loafers.
The cabin is comfortable for four adults, the boot is fine – although not big enough for a Saturday trip to Bunnings for garden furniture – and it’s very easy to park.
If you want to turn the wick up, the car responds like an old-school sports sedan. Because it is. There is rear-wheel drive, big brakes, pin-sharp steering and seats with support but enough comfort for long-distance touring.
The four-cylinder turbo engine in the Veloce is muted, by Alfa standards, but makes good power and torque that is fed through an eight-speed auto. It’s a tasty package with 206 kiloWatts and 400 Newton-metres of torque, numbers that means it has more than enough go when the road turns twisty or there is a slow-poke caravan ahead.
The Giulia is composed and responsive on driving roads, with light steering that has good feel and impressive brakes, but – again – you don’t have to be cracking along to enjoy it. It’s a creamy car and driving is like skimming the top from a well-brewed cappuccino. I’m not a fan over the over-sized shift paddles, even though they are nicely presented in polished alloy, but the steering wheel is well sized and shaped and unlike the gorilla-style rims on a lot of German sports sedans.
Inside, the infotainment system is much better than the earlier Giulia, with is a very welcome 8.8-inch display – even if it’s still tiny compared to the latest Benzes and BMWs and even the Genesis G70 – there is a big digital speedometer, and the leather trim is terrific on seats which are supportive but don’t feel as cramped as an F1 cockpit.
There are still flaws, from the restricted front-three-quarter view, and the boot, and the design that puts the front number plate off to one side, but these are only little things. And there are no signs of the quality misfits or the electronic bugs that bugged my first Giulia experience with a QV that had broken switches, and a teeny-tiny infotainment display, and a general feel that it was not quite right.
This time around, it’s a car to enjoy and possibly to love. And it’s proof that an Alfa in 2021 can be more than just a boy’s toy and a ticking time bomb with rust and breakdowns just around the corner.
My good friend John, an Alfisti since he was a little one, is raving about the Giulia Veloce and wishing he could get one to replace his sensible new Kia Cerato. He says it is the best Alfa he can remember and, this time, he is right.
ALFA ROMEO GIULIA VELOCE
Position: sporty family car
Price: from $71,450
Engine: 2-litre petrol turbo
Transmission: 8-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Safety: 5-star ANCAP
Plus: style, equipment, design, driving
Minus: not much at all
THE TICK: the best Alfa for a long time