Alfa Romeo Giulia: low number, high impact

A lively sport sedan is the 2019 Giulia Ti all-wheel-drive model. (Bud Wells photos)

Curiosity abounds all around, with regards to Alfa Romeo.

Few of the Italian marque are seen in these parts, yet several times as I parked and exited the 2019 Giulia sport sedan, someone would ask, “Is that an Alfa Romeo?”

The Alfa brand, absent from the U.S. for 20 years until the 4C Spider in 2015, seems to exude a level of respect whenever mentioned.

And its odd, colorful badge (you know, the cross and the snake swallowing a man) draws immediate attention. The red is the cross of the municipality of Milan, Italy, where Alfa Romeo was founded, and the green snake is open to various interpretations – take your pick.

The key to liking the four-door Giulia is to drive it. I said that about the 2017 model two years ago after maneuvering it into the Poudre Canyon, over Cameron Pass, down to Walden and on up to Laramie.

The new model I drove, the Giulia Ti Sport all-wheel drive, is the same – a great-handling, rear-drive-based sedan. Move the drive mode from normal to dynamic, and the crisper steering ties right into the brilliant handling and super grip.

Performance comes from a 280-horsepower, 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder engine turbocharged with direct-injection and mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. It’s quick, with 306 lb.-ft. of torque, and is a delight in the Rockies with manual-mode shifting. Here’s where the flaw shows up – the 6 ½-inch-long aluminum paddles locked to the steering column, they’re so large they have the look of a shift-training setup for high school sophomores. Paddle shifters ought to be small, out of the way except to the touch of a finger for upshift or downshift.

The Giulia retained secure manners with its all-wheel-drive system in a late-season winter test in the rain and snow.

The Giulia is EPA-rated at 31 miles per gallon for highway driving; my overall fuel average was a decent 27.8. Alfa boldly compares the sport sedan to the BMW 3 series and Mercedes C Class, along with Volvo S60, Cadillac ATS and Audi A4.

Highlighting its exterior are the V-grille and low-level front sport fascia.

V-grille and colorful badge are identifiers for Alfa Romeo.

Most inviting in the Giulia’s interior, somewhat tight in the rear, are the red-finished sport leather seats (heated in both rows). Trunk space is only 12 cubic feet.

Two optional packages – added safety with forward-collision warning plus, adaptive cruise with stop and lane-departure warning, and Ti Sport AWD special of dark aluminum wheels and all-season performance tires, low-riding front sport fascia, red brake calipers and sport leather seats – played important role in pushing the Giulia’s $41,995 base price to a final sticker of $51,885.

Among other options were Harman Kardon audio, Bluetooth, navigation, leather dash and vesuvio gray metallic exterior paint.

Alfa Romeo, owned by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, produces the Giulia, 4C Spider and Stelvio SUV for the U.S. market.