Kelley Blue Book: What it’s like to drive the 2021 Alfa Romeo Giulia

United States
  • Powerful engines
  • Modern styling with hints of heritage
  • Agility
  • High-performance Quadrifoglio variant
  • All-wheel drive is on the options list
  • Alfa Romeo name not as well regarded as Lexus, Audi, BMW, etc.
  • Dealer network still patchy
  • Long-term reliability still unknown
What’s new this year?
  • Range streamlined to four trim levels
  • Base model renamed Sprint trim
  • Revisions of standard and optional features
  • Four fresh paint choices arrive
KBB editors’ overview

The 2021 Alfa Romeo Giulia is a premium compact sports sedan. And the only contender in its class designed and built in Italy. This is an important point because (sweeping generalization alert) Italy is a nation of car nuts, bless their little Gucci loafers. 

The 2021 Alfa Romeo Giulia

Alfa Romeo

Some of the most arguably beautiful cars to have ever existed come from Italy, with a fair proportion of those wearing Alfa Romeo badges. Even if we take the position that a company is only as good as its last car, then the 2021 Giulia still puts Alfa Romeo in a high bracket.

Under a distinctive and well-designed skin, the Alfa Romeo Giulia has the goods to compete with such formidable opponents as the BMW BMW, +0.46% 3 Series, Audi A4, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. These German cars have evolved over multiple generations, the Giulia has been around since 2017. But Alfa Romeo has more than 100 years of experience to draw from, including plenty of involvement in motorsport.

This is where the Quadrifoglio comes in. Its name means “4-leaf clover” and was a lucky emblem for an Alfa racer in the 1920s. It’s been on sportier Alfa Romeo cars ever since. The 2021 Giulia Quadrifoglio has a 505-horsepower V6 engineered by Ferrari.

With any version of the Giulia, though, Alfa Romeo seems to have made its own luck.

How much does the 2021 Alfa Romeo Giulia cost?

The new-for-2021 Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint trim level kicks off the range with a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $ 39,450. Adding a $ 1,295 destination charge makes that $ 40,745. All-wheel drive is an extra $ 2,000.

The 2021 Alfa Romeo Giulia

Alfa Romeo

Taking a Ti Sport and selecting several options (like driver assistance features, carbon-fiber trim, and an Executive package containing a Harman Kardon audio system) could total around $ 57k. This is before going the whole high-performance hog and spending $ 76,345 on a new Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio before options.

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In the luxury compact sedan world, these prices are not particularly keen. The excellent Genesis G70 and new-for-2021 Acura TLX are comfortably below the Giulia. The also-new Lexus IS is more affordable. The Audi A4 is slightly less expensive and comes with all-wheel drive as standard. Comparable variants of the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class cost a little more.

Before buying, check the Fair Purchase Price to find out what others in your area are paying for their new Giulia. Resale values are just behind the Giulia’s German rivals, all of which are outperformed by the Lexus IS in this respect.

Driving the 2021 Alfa Romeo Giulia

This is most definitely a sport sedan. Its turbocharged 4-cylinder engine makes more power than those in rival cars. The 2021 Giulia also has a precision and nimbleness that European cars are so good at achieving. The BMW 3 Series is usually considered the car to beat for driver appeal. It has some serious competition in the Giulia.

A sport suspension is fitted as standard, so be prepared for a taut ride. It’s complemented by selectable driving modes known as Dynamic, Natural, and Advanced Efficiency — also referred to as Alfa DNA. And Brembo brakes are part of the deal. This is a 3rd-party supplier that counts Ferrari, RACE, -1.88% Aston Martin, Lamborghini, and Porsche POAHY, +0.46% among its clients.

Extra performance-focused equipment in the 505-horsepower Giulia Quadrifoglio includes a torque-vectoring differential. It adjusts the speeds of each rear wheel so the car can tackle corners more effectively. The Quadrifoglio also has stronger Brembo brakes and a fourth driving mode called Race, giving this car some real track-day credentials. It’s a serious alternative to a BMW M3 or a Mercedes-AMG C 63 S.

Favorite features

Q4 all-wheel drive
Alfa Romeo calls its all-wheel-drive system Q4, and it’s optional in the Sprint and Ti versions of the 2021 Giulia. The Quadrifoglio is resolutely rear-wheel-drive. But not everyone lives in an area where the weather is kind enough all year round to enjoy a rear-drive performance machine to the full. So Q4 brings some all-season reassurance, directing up to 60 percent of available torque to the front wheels when conditions dictate

Giulia Quadrifoglio
Admittedly, the Quadrifoglio (the g is silent) is a niche machine, but there aren’t many cars with this kind of power — from a Ferrari-derived engine, no less — and handling abilities that can break Germany’s dominance in the super-sedan category. It can sprint from standstill to 60 mph in only 3.8 seconds and hit a top speed of 191 mph.

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2021 Alfa Romeo Giulia interior

The engine start button set into the 2021 Giulia’s steering wheel is just begging to be pressed, to set off a joyful chain of events where corners are attacked and engine noises tingle the spine. Just looking at the Alfa Romeo emblem in the middle of the steering wheel is a reminder that the Giulia is something special.

On the other side of the wheel is a twin-cowl instrument cluster, another Alfa signature, housing a 7-inch digital driver information display. And, in the Ti Sport and Quadrifoglio, almost oversize paddle shifters.

The standard front seats are well-cushioned and well-shaped. The sport seats in the higher trims are even better. Leather seating surfaces are standard right from the entry-level Sprint trim, with the Quadrifoglio gaining 14-way power-adjustable front seats covered with leather and Alcantara (simulated suede).

The dash is unfussy, and the materials are all appropriately premium. The sun visors, however, are way too small. Rear accommodations are pretty much average, as is trunk space at 13.4 cubic feet.

2021 Alfa Romeo Giulia exterior

Some cars just have an exterior design that the maker thinks will appeal to the most people and generally gets the job done. That’s not how Alfa Romeo goes about it.

To wear that special triangle grille (the scudetto, or little shield) means going beyond merely being easy on the eye, easy in the wind, and easy to produce. It has to hit a few other places, like the heart, and to look like something drivers would really want to own.

You could easily argue that the Alfa Romeo Giulia succeeds in this mission. It definitely has an Italian attitude where style is considered part of the substance, not just a flourish that goes on top. Especially the dramatic Quadrifoglio version.

Optional appearance bundles include a Carbon package with various exterior and inside elements in carbon fiber along with dark alloy wheels. And a Nero Edizione brings similarly sinister touches to the grille, exhaust tips, side mirror housings, and window surrounds.

The four new paint colors for 2021 include two shades of red, a cool green, and Orca GT Junior — kind of bronze with an extra touch of yellow. This pays homage to the Alfa Romeo GT Junior coupes of the 1960s and 1970s.

2021 Alfa Romeo Giulia standard features

One of the great things about having a glorious heritage is that it provides lots of evocative names. Sprint, for example, was a wonderful little ’70s/’80s Alfa coupe. Now it’s applied to the 2021 Giulia’s base trim.

We say base, yet the equipment levels are anything but. Rain-sensing wipers, 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry/ignition, selectable driving modes, Brembo brakes, leather seating surfaces, 10-way power-adjustable front seats, and dual-zone automatic climate control are all standard.

The infotainment system is based around an 8.8-inch touchscreen and features four USB ports Apple AAPL, +1.61% CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, and satellite radio. Advanced safety features include forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, and rear parking sensors.

2021 Alfa Romeo Giulia options

Buyers can equip a new Giulia with all-wheel drive, although the Quadrifoglio is an exception. Higher up the trim level ladder, features like heated/14-way power-adjustable front seats, heated steering wheel, and larger alloy wheels become available.

Option packages cover various cosmetic bundles, heated rear seats, mechanical limited-slip differential, wireless charging, a 14-speaker/900-watt Harman Kardon audio system, and the two driver assistance packages (itemized in our Safety Technology section).

The Quadrifoglio has its own muscular drivetrain and all the accompanying hardware, plus carbon-fiber trim pieces and that Harman Kardon system as standard. Special options for this model include an exposed carbon-fiber roof and Sparco carbon fiber front racing seats.

2021 Alfa Romeo Giulia engine

Propulsion for most versions of the 2021 Giulia comes from a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine generating 280 horsepower and 306 lb-ft of torque. Rear-wheel drive (RWD) is standard and all-wheel drive (AWD) is available as an option.

The Quadrifoglio deploys rear-wheel drive only. And those wheels are turned by 505 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque from a twin-turbocharged 2.9-liter V6 developed by Ferrari.

Both engines connect to an 8-speed automatic transmission. They each require premium gasoline and have an engine stop/restart function to save some fuel while idling.

2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4
280 horsepower @ 5,200 rpm
306 lb-ft of torque @ 2,000-4,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 24/33 mpg (RWD), 23/31 mpg (AWD)

2.9-liter twin-turbocharged V6
505 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm
443 lb-ft of torque @ 2,500-5,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/25 mpg

Which model is right for me?

2021 Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint

280-horsepower engine
Brembo brakes
Sport-tuned suspension
Leather seating surfaces
8.8-inch infotainment touchscreen
Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration

2021 Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti

18-inch alloy wheels
Dark gray oak interior trim
Front parking sensors
Heated front seats/steering wheel

2021 Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti Sport

Mechanical limited-slip differential
19-inch alloy wheels
Aluminum paddle shifters
Genuine aluminum interior trim
Heated/power-adjustable front sport seats
Sport front fascia & rear diffuser

2021 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio

505-horsepower twin-turbo V6
Carbon fiber hood/roof
Active aerodynamics
Adaptive suspension
Torque vectoring rear differential
High-performance Brembo brakes
Performance quad exhaust system
Harman Kardon 14-speaker/900-watt surround-sound system

2021 Alfa Romeo Giulia safety technology

Full Speed Forward Collision Warning Plus: Standard in every new Alfa Romeo Giulia. The Plus aspect refers to automatic emergency braking that will activate if the driver has not reacted in time. Some manufacturers only have a low-speed system in their base models.

Active Assist 1 package: Available as an option with the Sprint model. Includes adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, active blind-spot monitoring, front parking sensors, automatic high beams, self-dimming side mirrors, and an infrared light-reducing windshield.

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Active Assist 2 package: Optional in the Ti and Quadrifoglio models. It augments the initial package with partial self-driving on the highway and traffic jams, and includes driver attention monitoring.

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