Driven: 2021 Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti, the Best Kept Secret In Sports Sedans

In a sports sedan segment that is dominated by luxury brands, the Alfa Romeo Giulia is one of the best. Amazingly, we've found that the crazy Quadrafolio version isn't the only version worthy of extreme praise.
Giulia Ti 10 photos
Photo: RiversCars
The Giulia stands out in a sea of fairly straightforward sports sedans because it's quirky. It's not as batty as the insane Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing. It's also nowhere near as cold and formulaic as anything from BMW or Mercedes.

Those aren't knocks on those companies either. Each of them builds wonderful cars that can inspire drivers. Still, the Giulia has found a brilliant little niche. It's sized a bit oddly, it's shaped more beautifully, and it's full of personality.


Considered the middle trim level of the Giulia line, the Ti Sport or for 2022, the Veloce, blends the sensual and curvaceous styling of the Quadrifolio with a more restrained powertrain. Instead of a 505-horsepower V6, a 280-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder sits under the hood.

Of course, that four-banger benefits from a fairly large turbocharger. Then power gets routed to the rear wheels through an eight-speed traditional automatic. All-wheel drive is optional on the Giulia so long as you don't opt for the Quad.

Even without all-wheel drive, the Ti Sport can get to 60 miles per hour from a stop in 5.1-seconds and reach a top speed of 149 miles per hour.

According to the EPA, the Giulia gets 24 mpg in the city and 33 on the highway. In our many days with the Giulia it returned an average of 27, the same as its EPA combined rating.

Brand new, these will run you $47,000 or more but even with low miles they can be had in the second-hand market for much less.

Driving Impressions

Theatre is what the Giulia is all about. And the show begins even before getting into the car. Instead of being much like the other sports sedans mentioned that outset, the Giulia isn't all agro. It's not shouting at anyone about how powerful it is. There are no giant bulges anywhere.

It's sultry though. It demands that you drink its shape in and that makes getting to open the door handle and slip inside all the more satisfying. Of course, no amount of gawking can prepare you for how good this 2.0-liter turbo engine sounds.

Push the steering wheel-mounted ignition button and it roars to life. The driving experience is similarly exuberant. That's most evident in "Dynamic" mode. Sure, it takes a few moments for the fairly large turbo to spool up and for power to get to the ground but once it's moving, this thing flies.

In fact, triple-digit speeds approach far quicker than you might be prepared for. Snapping off shifts is easy with the eight-speed ZF transmission. Personally, I haven't found paddles that I like more than the Giulia's in a car of its price or lower. They're metal, they have the plus and minus signs milled into them, and they're mounted to the column.

To say that the steering in the Giulia is good would be like saying that the Lamborghini Miura is a classic. Technically, they're both true but we're understating to a degree that feels almost criminal. The road surface seems to be transmitted to the wheel with 6G clarity.

It's not harsh, it's just verbose and clear. As you direct the front wheels they respond instantaneously. Push harder into a turn and the weight progresses nicely and continues its excellent feedback. The body sticks to the ground without any sort of struggle.

Our car was fitted with Pirelli all-season tires and they felt incredibly sticky. Wet weather didn't startle the Giulia either. This sports sedan is so flickable. It's so happy to change direction and then charge on that we found ourselves doing it far more than is prudent.

In a single word, the Giulia is engaging. It's engaging from the moment you look at it before getting in to the moment that you stare back at it as you walk away from it at your destination.

Interior Comfort and Quality

The Giulia feels like a high-quality Italian hand bag inside. The leather upholstery really puts other brands to shame. It's rich and finds the perfect balance between stiff and supple. The layout is comfortable too with tons of seating adjustments including an extendable thigh bolster.

If there's anything to complain about up front it might be the lack of headroom. As a 6'6 (198cm) individual, I had to lean back quite a bit to find a driving position that didn't involve touching the headliner. Nevertheless, there's enough in here to love that I quickly forgot about that small blemish.

Everything feels special. We've touched on the steering wheel but here's a reminder that it feels great and looks even better. The center console is also nicely appointed. The leather and aluminum accents feel great to the touch. We love the small slot for a phone just below the main central storage cubbie.

It's also great to see that Alfa didn't make the dash super busy. This is a driver's car and it shows. The center control stack is simple and easy to use. Climate control is done through physical buttons and deeper controls are accessed via an iDrive-esque center dial.

If there's a complaint about the Giulia it comes down to size. The rear seats aren't exactly spacious. I couldn't fit without turning my neck a bit. Even shorter riders aren't immune though. The Giulia automatically pushes the driver's seat back when the car is turned off (an option you can turn off).

More than once that all but trapped a back seat passenger who had yet to get out of the car. Of course, the size of this sedan plays a large roll in how good it is to drive so we're ok with picking our battles.

Tech and Features

So the real downside of the Giulia is that the infotainment system isn't actually all that good. Once your device is connected it does fine but just getting that to happen requires multiple unintuitive selections.

Get past that hurdle and the rest is fine. The driver information display is good and provides lots of useful information. There are a number of USB ports too. Even the safety systems are good. The lane-keep and blind-spot monitoring are outstanding.

The biggest boon to the Giulia is the DNA system. It controls the character of the car at the flick of a wrist. Never before have we found three different driver settings that feel so different. Ride, steering, throttle response, and braking all get adjusted and feel right for their description.

Then there are the cool little touches. The full-color puddle lights are outstanding. We love the dual-pannel sunroofs too.

Final Thoughts

The Giulia isn't well known for being wildly reliable and that's clearly an issue. Beyond that, it's well known for its 505-horsepower performance model. What's shocking is just how under the radar the Ti Sport or Veloce trim flies. 

This thing might be bright red and have a similarly firey interior but it might as well be a proper stealth bomber on the road. It's certainly just as much of a weapon.
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