Alfa Romeo Giulia 2023 UK first drive

The Alfa Romeo Giulia came out in 2016, meaning it will turn seven this year. For most cars, that would be a sad affair, of growing older, with dated looks and tech. But some things are better for being a bit old-fashioned, and the Italian saloon is a perfect example.

It has now received its third update, gaining 3+3 LED matrix headlights that mimic the new Tonale’s, as well as a fully digital gauge cluster and a new alloy wheel design. Meanwhile, the engine range has been rationalised to just the 276bhp 2.0-litre petrol, with the lower-powered petrol and diesels being dropped in the UK. Happily, the 2.7-litre V6 Quadrifoglio will also make a return later this year.

A fair model year update then, but it’s not going to make the world sit up and take notice of the new high-tech, cutting edge Alfa, is it? Well, that’s fine for now. An all-new electric Giulia is in the works, and in the meantime the more other marques move to heavy four-wheel-drive hybrids with touchscreen-only controls and intrusive active safety systems, the more the relatively simple Giulia is a uniquely enticing offering.

Because it’s just as good as it always has been. You sit low, in the perfect driving position yet with a good view out. Look around and, yes, you can criticise the materials, but everything feels solid enough and there’s not a touch-sensitive icon in sight. Instead, a button to turn off the lane keeping assistance, a rotary dial for the infotainment screen and knobs and switches for the climate. The new digital gauge cluster even has a mode where it looks like the dials from a ’60s Alfa. Who knew the Italians did zen?

Get going and there’s an effortlessness to everything. The engine actually feels its 276bhp, because it doesn’t have two tonnes to lug around. The steering is very quick but doesn’t feel hyperactive, because you’re not in a teetering SUV and the chassis is in perfect sync. Oh, the chassis: it’s such a joy.

Drive the Giulia at 60% and it feels good: planted, balanced and able to positively drive out of a corner. Go a bit harder and it’s magical, feeling on its tiptoes, gently starting to yaw into a turn and up for anything.

It’s at this point that you might want to add a bit of throttle and tweak the car’s balance, but the old frustration with the Giulia remains: the traction control stays firmly on whichever driving mode you pick. It’s a very good, smooth system, just overly cautious. That the Tonale, a front-led crossover, does let you turn it off feels like a bit of a taunt.

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