Alfa Romeo Giulia: A beautifully designed car beyond the German or British offerings
If you're in the market for a compact executive saloon and want something beyond the mainstream German or British offerings - good as they are - here's a thought for you.
It's sleek, beautifully designed and comes in choices from a £29k entry-model right up to a £59,000, 190 mph range-topper.
The car is the Alfa Romeo Giulia. It's one the Italian manufacturer has, well, not quite bet the farm on, but which is a critically important car for its future. That and its new SUV, the Stelvio.
More on the Stelvio at a later date. The Giulia has been on sale for a year now, and the omens so far look good. You may recognise the name from the smaller Giulietta supermini, which has been around since 2010.
What is it? For the uninitiated, the Giulia is a rival to the likes of the BMW 3 Series, Merc C-Class, Audi A4 and Jaguar XE.
For those prepared to look beyond the badge snobbery of some devotees of the higher end German manufacturers, it is an option to be seriously considered, not least due to its looks.
In a class dominated by the Germans, its long, clean, taut lines flow from its long wheelbase, which is created by its rear-wheel drive architecture.
It comes in saloon body style only so far, and in five trims. The initially limited range of engines is expanding, and in my opinion the best is the 2.2-litre diesel, which comes with two power outputs: 178bhp and 148bhp.
There is also a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol unit, and a very powerful 2.9-litre V6 petrol powerplant on the range-topping model, the very fast Quadrifoglio.
The trim levels are standard Giulia, Super, Speciale, Veloce and Quadrifoglio, which some readers out there may remember as an echo of the four-leafed clover Alfa heritage of old).
Standard equipment on the entry-level car includes eight-speed auto transmission, 16-inch alloys, daytime running lights, LED rear lamp clusters, Connect infotainment system and new AlfaTM DNA selector.
Super gets 17-inch alloy wheels, leather and fabric seats, steering wheel paddle shifters and special interior trim.
In Speciale, you get 18-inch, five-hole dark alloy wheels, red-painted brake callipers, Bi-Xenon headlights, powered and heated sports seats, sports bumpers, black gloss window surround and rear sports diffuser with dual exhausts.
Veloce raises the game yet further with an enhanced sports interior and exterior, 18-inch, 10-spoke Turbine alloy wheels and a 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine, producing 280hp and 400Nm of torque.
The mighty Quadrifoglio is equipped with the Ferrari-inspired 510hp 2.9-litre BiTurbo petrol engine and is easily identifiable thanks to its aerodynamic enhancements, 19-inch alloy wheels and 35W bi-Xenon headlights with AFS.
Inside it has sports seats trimmed in leather and Alcantara, a sports steering wheel with red power button and the AlfaTM DNA Pro selector with race mode.
The performance enhancements include uprated brakes, active aero splitter, chassis domain control and torque vectoring technology, while options include ultra-light carbon seats and carbon ceramic disc brakes.
Sophisticated technology is in all models as standard, including an integrated brake system, forward collision warning, and autonomous emergency brake with pedestrian detection.
A new 8.8-inch high-resolution Connect 3D Nav system offers a series of features and functions, including a next-generation interface with advanced voice recognition for connectivity with all mobile devices.
The Alfa Romeo Giulia range is on sale now priced from £29,180. If you're tempted by the fiery Quadrifoglio, it's on sale from £59,000 on the road.