Living with an Alfa Giulia Veloce: the long-term verdict

Published: 06 January 2022 Updated: 06 January 2022

► The affordable sporting Giulia
► CAR lives with Alfa’s saloon
► This one’s a green Veloce

By the time you read this the pritty car will have gone. I’ve spent six months and over 6000 miles with the Alfa Giulia Veloce, and already I know I’ll miss the flair – both visual and dynamic – it’s brought to the increasingly unfashionable saloon segment. In fact, the Veloce is so sporting it’s easy to think of it as an outright sports saloon, not a direct rival to the less overtly sporting four-cylinder German execs. After half a year onboard, I’m slightly puzzled that you don’t see more of them about.

We got off on the right foot thanks to an alluring design that makes the Germans look more forced and certainly less beautiful, especially with our car’s Visconti Green paint complemented by yellow brake calipers – two options mostly responsible for upping our car’s price from £40,210 to £41,606 (the other was the £250 Climate pack). I tended to clean the Veloce often just to help that stunning paint ping out, and strangers would actually comment on it (always nice strangers too, because Alfa people are nice).

giulia veloce interior

One of my earlier reports addressed the infotainment, previously a Giulia weakness, with a new touchscreen and tile-based menu. It remains a way off BMW’s iDrive, but it functions perfectly well, looks smarter and removes the frustrations I’d felt trying to manipulate previous-generation software. But with technology being so high on buyers’ order of preferences these days, I understand why all the premium Germans might jump the queue.

The other main reason is rear-seat space. At 2820mm, the Giulia wheelbase is 31mm more compact than the latest 3-series, which isn’t much, but on longer family trips I found myself (long ago stalled at 6ft 1in) not putting the driver’s seat back quite as far as normal to avoid squeezing the 10- or 13-year-old feet behind me. That was never an issue in the 330i I ran previously (though those feet are one year older). Ultimately we had enough space, and at least the boot was generous enough at 480 litres, but it’s definitely a consideration if you’ll regularly use the rear seats.

As well as infotainment, there were improvements in quality, but the fundamentals of a highly driver-focused Ferrari-as-saloon cabin remain: twin analogue dials recessed down tubes like seaside binoculars; long, slender paddleshifters fixed to the steering wheel; and some of the best seats you’ll find in any car. They’re positioned low on the floor (a friend with back issues actually shouted as they plunged into the seat, flailing at thin air), offer an excellent blend of comfort and support, and perfectly set a tone of sporting luxury and heritage with their ribbed leather trim.

I enjoyed driving the Veloce thanks to its pacey steering, strong brakes and fleet-footed chassis (where the more compact wheelbase is a benefit). The 2.0-litre turbo engine produces 276bhp in a package that weighs 1429kg (not so bad, and 41kg lighter than a 3-series); this is a surprisingly rapid car with a punchy energy that gels well with the responsive chassis.

Power delivery isn’t perfect, with some turbo-pressure lumpiness, a narrow powerband and a rev limiter that cuts in soft and early around 5500rpm (I unexpectedly hit it a couple of times when overtaking in manual mode, which woke me up). Fuel economy has wavered quite dramatically depending on my enthusiasm, from mid-20s to almost mid-30s on a tank, but overall I’ve averaged 29.5mpg with a mix of short rural runs and longer motorway and cross-country jaunts; matching the official 32.8mpg should be perfectly achievable.

A high-frequency noise annoyed for a few minutes every time I turned the Giulia off, but nothing failed and there was no need to visit the dealer. Had lockdown not reduced our mileage, however, we’d have needed a service at 9000 miles where other manufacturers stretch them to 18,000.

giulia veloce front cornering

I’ve mentioned before that our test car didn’t get adaptive dampers and I do think that’s a mistake, though they’re bundled in a £1950 Performance pack that includes a limited-slip differential, so it’s a big commitment. The first Veloce I tested a couple of years ago rode on 18-inch alloys with adaptive dampers and the ride quality was dreamy, all supple and controlled. Since then the 19s have become standard, which look gorgeous but remove some tyre profile cushion, and combined with fixed dampers the result is a deterioration in the secondary ride quality (that is, how it deals with imperfections on the road surface – the primary ride over longer-wave undulations is still very good).

The decision not to allow owners of such a sporting car to disable stability control is also bewildering, even more so when that limited-slip differential is available and the whole point of having one is the control you feel over the rear axle when stability control is disabled on, say, a trackday.

Overall, though, the Veloce is very much a cut-price alternative to the brilliant Giulia Quadrifoglio, which makes you whoop with its twin-turbo V6 but suck air through your teeth with its £69k price. The takeaway? I’d have another Veloce in a heartbeat, but next time I’d spec the adaptive dampers.

By Ben Barry

Logbook: Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce

Price £40,210 (£41,606 as tested)
1995cc turbocharged four-cylinder, 276bhp, 5.7sec 0-62mph, 149mph
32.8mpg (official), 32.3mpg (tested), 195g/km CO2
Energy cost
18.5p per mile
Miles this month
Total miles

Month 5 living with an Alfa Romeo Giula Veloce: road trip!

Locked and loaded
The Giulia’s boot matches a 3-series saloon’s at 480 litres, and with a bag under the front passenger’s legs and another between the kids, we fit in our luggage with visibility intact, although the BMW’s rear legroom is better. Noticeable improvement in ride quality with the car fully loaded. Just 257 miles and a predicted 4hrs and 45mins to go.

Queasy rider
Nice trip cross-country via Queniborough to hook up with the motorway network. Youngest gets easily car sick, just as I did. I massage the controls, making time on the straights, nursing it through the corners, but the sections with more flow reinforce just how sweetly the Giulia handles and steers. Windows open, bag at the ready…

giulia veloce dial

Tried it, didn’t like it
Dynamic mode peps up the energy, but it’s giddy and shunty, so I typically leave it in Normal. With the kids onboard and a motorway schlep, I try A for, erm, Aconomy. It basically dials all the response out of the top of the throttle, so you just press it harder and don’t enjoy driving the car as much.

Hurry up and wait
We stop for a quick and early lunch at services before Bristol, pre-empting huge queues. But this drops us behind the rest of the UK racing to the West Country, and we lose over an hour in stop-start traffic around Bristol. Never seen so many cars on the hard shoulder for toilet stops.

giulia veloce shell

Drive to arrive
We’ve made it! Dusty road to old farmhouse where our host has a nice line in old signage. Computer says we’ve averaged just over 30mpg and still have half a tank of fuel. Not bad considering the passengers and loaded boot.

giulia veloce beach

Ho Ho Holiday!
Holiday really begins at Westward Ho! beach, I think the UK’s only beach with an exclamation mark! We expected huge queues, but it’s easy to drive onto the toll road to the car park. Man at the gate asks for his fiver. ‘Nice colour,’ he adds of the dust-streaked Visconti Green. He should have seen it 260-odd miles ago.

By Ben Barry

Logbook: Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce

Price £40,210 (£41,606 as tested)
Performance 1995cc turbocharged four-cylinder, 276bhp, 5.7sec 0-62mph, 149mph
Efficiency 32.8mpg (official), 29.1mpg (tested), 195g/km CO2
Energy cost 20.5p per mile
Miles this month 1452
Total miles 5377

Month 4 living with an Alfa Giulia Veloce: every hero has a flaw

These reports have been very positive, so here’s a negatives special for this month only. Really it’s small if irritating stuff, like an electric handbrake that doesn’t auto release when I accelerate – sometimes I can trick it with a light tap on the accelerator, but mostly not, which makes it worse.

The doors lock and unlock with a loud beep like an alarm, and there’s a high-pitched frequency for a few minutes when you lock it, which on the plus side briefly prevents our cats from using the garden as a toilet. The throttle can feel lumpy, especially in Dynamic, almost like there’s too much turbo pressure as you ease in and out of it – this reminds me of the very earliest McLaren 12Cs, but I also noticed something similar on the Giulia QF.

Finally, the ride – super-supple on the 18s and adaptive dampers I first tried, often very poor on the 19s that are now compulsory and the passive dampers fitted to my car. This is the biggest deal-breaker, but thankfully adaptive dampers remain optional. Fitted with those, I’d still happily own a Giulia. And to end on a positive, I bust through the official quoted mpg with a 34.6mpg this month.

By Ben Barry

Logbook: Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce

Price £40,210 (£41,606 as tested)
Performance 1995cc turbocharged four-cylinder, 276bhp, 5.7sec 0-62mph, 149mph
Efficiency 32.8mpg (official), 34.6mpg (tested), 195g/km CO2
Energy cost 16.6p per mile
Miles this month 1135
Total miles 3925

Month 3 living with an Alfa Giulia Veloce: better, but not £114k better

I took the chance to compare the most affordable sporting Giulia (our £41,606 Veloce) with the most expensive sporting Giulia, the £156,000 GTAm.

The Veloce delivers a fair chunk of the driving experience, particularly its quick-witted steering, well-balanced chassis and little pops for gearshifts. Of course it can’t match the GTAm’s excitement, but more surprising is that it doesn’t ride as nicely – a reminder that the Veloce really needs the optional adaptive dampers not fitted to our example.

Meanwhile, a long trip helped improve fuel economy by around 4mpg to almost 30.6mpg – close to the 32.8mpg official figure.

By Ben Barry

Logbook: Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce

Price £40,210 (£41,606 as tested)
Performance 1995cc turbocharged four-cylinder, 276bhp, 5.7sec 0-62mph, 149mph
Efficiency 32.8mpg (official), 30.6mpg (tested), 195g/km CO2
Energy cost 18.4p per mile
Miles this month 551
Total miles 2790

Month 2 living with an Alfa Giulia Veloce: dreaming of Maranello

You might remember comparisons drawn between the Alfa Romeo Quadrifoglio and Ferrari 488 GTB. Sounds fanciful, doesn’t it, but not only is there truth in that, it’s something that also extends to the more humble Veloce.

So how does a four-cylinder front-engined saloon feel a bit like a mid-engined turbocharged V8 supercar? Some of it’s sleight of hand in the visuals – suggestive stuff like the start button on the steering wheel, and long paddles fixed to the steering column rather than turning with the wheel.

But there’s substance too: like the Ferrari, the Alfa’s steering is unusually rapid off-centre and strikingly light. The engine has a juicy swell of torque in the mid-range (okay, all turbo cars do, bear with), and even the gearchanges have a similar digital pop. Factor in a sharp front end with adjustable handling (though, argh, you can’t turn the ESP off) and while the 488 and now the F8 Tributo of course exist in another realm of dynamics and performance entirely, the Giulia does a good job of translating their delicacy and excitement given they’re fundamentally not similar at all.

One crucial element is missing from my test car: the 488’s ride quality, because its 19-inch alloys and fixed-rate dampers can be disappointingly lumpy, sometimes even on stretches of motorway. The last Veloce I drove had 18-inch alloys with adaptive dampers, and its supple, sophisticated ride had echoes of Ferrari.

The Veloce now gets 19-inch alloys as standard, but you have to invest £1950 in the Performance Pack A (if there’s a ‘B’ on the configurator I can’t find it) to have adaptive dampers, which also bundles in a limited-slip differential. Yes, it is a bit odd to offer an LSD in a car that electronically forbids drifting, but the long and short of it is you need to spec the adaptive dampers for the full Fezza saloon experience. Lumpy ride aside, though, CAR’s saloon-shaped 488 impersonator is still a riot to drive.

By Ben Barry

Logbook: Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce

Price £40,210 (£41,610 as tested)
Performance 1995cc turbocharged four-cylinder, 276bhp, 5.7sec 0-62mph, 149mph
Efficiency 32.8mpg (official), 26.2mpg (tested), 195g/km CO2
Energy cost 21.3p per mile
Miles this month 833
Total miles 2239

Month 1 living with an Alfa Giulia Veloce: hello and welcome

If money is no object and practicality not your priority, I’d say take a look at the Giulia GTAm, Alfa’s new £156k, 532bhp track-focused two-seater. Or perhaps the combination of £67,195, a 503bhp V6 and actual back seats is more you, in which case you might fancy the Giulia Quadrifoglio, basically a more sensible version of the same. But if you want a large helping of sporting flavour in a much more affordable package, this Giulia Veloce is right up your strada.

The Veloce won the driver’s-choice gong in our BMW 3-series mega-test two years ago, though it was marked down on a couple of shortcomings, including interior quality and infotainment. So the Giulia was always good if imperfect, but now it’s been refreshed with more polish. A stint on our long-term test fleet will let us assess the improvements (and just enjoy driving one again).

The latest rejig of the Giulia line-up raised the entry price by £715 and the top spec by £4k, but our Veloce has gone down slightly, with more equipment as standard. The line-up starts with Sprint at £35,710, the Veloce now at £46,210 and the Veloce Ti rounds it out at £46,210. That gets more kit and is more obviously visually differentiated by its carbon pack.

Nothing else in this segment looks so alluring – classically beautiful in a modern way, and unusually sporting for this end of the market. This hasn’t changed. The fundamentals of the interior also remain the same. There are fabulous sports seats with plush wraparound bolsters and black ribbed leather that recalls classic Alfa Romeos, and a dashboard and steering wheel with echoes of Ferrari 488/F8 Tributo – things like the flow of the architecture, the start button on the wheel, and the long, slender paddleshifters fixed to the steering column.

So the good stuff remains, but the laggy old infotainment has been replaced. It now integrates superbly with the dashboard, and appears to be one long piece of glass that flows from the centre console right through to the instrument cluster, with classic analogue dials for rpm and mph placed on top. You control it with a new 8.8-inch touchscreen, or a rotary controller that borrows BMW iDrive logic – no bad thing.

There’s also a new centre console – bigger cubbies, new wireless phone charger – but the real win is the gearshifter. It used to look like a child’s plastic sword had been driven down into the transmission tunnel, but it’s now wrapped in leather, which makes a huge difference to cabin quality.

The Veloce’s 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol four produces 276bhp and 295lb ft, and still has an eight-speed auto as standard. Other markets get all-wheel drive, but it’s purely rear-wheel drive over here, which given the relatively modest power and sporting bent seems a better fit. That keeps the car’s weight reasonable too, at 1429kg, which always helps the handling and performance, and gives fuel efficiency a boost. Alfa quotes an entirely tolerable 32.8mpg and 195g/km, though our first month is a bit further from that than we’d like, in the mid-20s. Short lockdown trips and a couple of squirts won’t have helped.

The Giulia’s closest rivals are the XE and 3-series, but neither correlates exactly on both price and spec with a Veloce – the Jaguar R-Dynamic costs either £30,985 in 247bhp trim with RWD, or £36,035 with 296bhp but AWD. The BMW 330i M Sport offers 254bhp for £40,640.

So the price is quite punchy, but there’s a reasonable level of standard equipment, including keyless entry, rear-view parking camera and sensors front and rear. You can crank up the price with a restrained options list (Driver Assistance Pack, stereo upgrade, leather dash, sunroof) but ours rises a comparatively modest £1400. That includes two upgrades that make a pretty car even more seductive: Visconti Green paint (£700) and yellow brake calipers (£450). There’s also a £250 Climate Pack, which adds bonus features like a cooled glovebox and rear air vents, but also the not-climate-related rear USB port too.

giulia veloce ltt side

Notable by its absence is the Performance Pack, which brings a limited-slip diff (not such a big deal given you can’t turn the stability system off, oddly) and more importantly adaptive dampers – which were fitted to the car that performed so well in our 3-series group test. That car also wore 18-inch alloys with plumper sidewalls, and the combination meant it rode very well.

So, dynamically, this car is as different as possible to the last one I drove, and it’ll be interesting to explore that in the months ahead.

Spec details of our new Alfa

Happy compromise
Veloce gets a 2.0-litre turbo four good for 276bhp, but also 32.8mpg officially. Eight-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive is the only UK spec, even if AWD is offered elsewhere. Four-piston brakes are standard, but adaptive dampers and 19s optional – our car gets only the latter.

The good stuff stays
Giulia has been on sale since 2016; updates focus on improving interior quality and infotainment rather than the right-first-time dynamics and design. Key benefit is the new 8.8-inch touchscreen – it has a much more user-friendly interface thanks to grouping functions under swipeable tiles, and it neatly integrates technology into a driver-focused cabin.

£1400 well spent
Not too many options to worry about, but the Performance Pack brings adaptive dampers and a limited-slip differential. There’s also a 900W Harman Kardon audio system, plus an upgraded Driver Assistance Pack, which includes auto full beam and traffic-sign recognition. Our car also gains yellow calipers and Visconti Green paint, £1400 all in.

By Ben Barry

Logbook: Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce

Price £40,210 (£41,610 as tested)
Performance 1995cc turbocharged four-cylinder, 276bhp, 5.7sec 0-62mph, 149mph
Efficiency 32.8mpg (official), 24.5mpg (tested), 195g/km CO2
Energy cost 22.4p per mile
Miles this month 506
Total miles 1406

By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator