We’re unabashed fans of the Alfa Romeo Giulia here, naming it our 2018 Car of the Year, the best small luxury sedan to lease, and a better sport sedan than the segment-defining BMW 3 Series. Even still, it wasn’t perfect, but the 2020 Alfa Romeo Giulia has exorcized its worst sins.
The biggest knock on the Giulia since day one has been the quality of certain interior parts (which ought to tell you something about how good the car is otherwise). Alfa, to its credit, listened to customers, dealers, and the media and fixed what most needed fixing for the 2020 refresh.
Up first: the flimsy infotainment control knob. Until now, Alfa infotainment systems could only be controlled by the black and silver knob behind the shifter, and it felt as though they used two cents’ worth of hollow plastic to make the thing. It felt like it would pop off in your hand at any minute, though after a year of driving the car I never had an issue with it actually doing so. That thing’s gone, replaced with a slightly larger and significantly heftier piece that not only looks better but feels like you’re operating an expensive piece of equipment, not a kid’s toy.
In case you’re still scarred from the old one, Alfa’s also made it optional. The frameless 8.8-inch infotainment screen is now a touchscreen, so you can just poke that if you prefer. Unfortunately, it still has an issue with glare and reflections when the light hits it from certain directions, but the sharper graphics make it much easier to read through the glare.
Behind the glass, Alfa’s stocked it with a new operating system and user interface backed up by a more powerful processor. The new software gives you a customizable home page with app tiles you can rearrange, a better navigation system, and a lot of new functions. The old system always felt a little limited in what it actually did, but this one rectifies it with features like performance pages (with the missing gauges I asked for, like oil pressure), redundant digital climate controls, and controls for the new active safety features on offer. Alfa’s also given it the ability to receive over-the-air updates and interface with a new phone app that’ll let you check the car’s status, find where it’s parked, lock and unlock, and start or stop the engine.
Although you can poke and swipe the screen if you want, the control knob is easier to use and, for certain functions like rearranging the tiles, mandatory. Either way, the system is intuitive and easy to navigate, so you should pick it up quickly. It’s also fairly customizable, letting you make certain favorite tiles bigger, change what’s displayed on certain tiles, and more. The old system got the job done, but this feels like a big step forward into a modern, phone-like interface.
Alfa wasn’t done in the center of the car, either. Rearranging the center console very slightly—moving the electronic parking brake switch and scooting the shifter back—allowed Alfa to move the cupholders back and create a small storage bin in front of them as well as a very small one next to the shifter. This is doubly good, because the Giulia was previously short on places to drop things like keys and phones, and because the cupholders used to be so close to the dash, your drinks would get caught on the climate control dials if you didn’t tilt them just right when you pulled them out. And don’t worry about your phone, because back between the infotainment control knob and the armrest Alfa has carved out a slot for it to rest in, and it can be upfitted to a wireless charger.
The last piece of the center console to get an update is the shifter itself, now leather-wrapped and accent-stitched rather than all plastic. It’s not just nicer to hold, it works better, too. Before, you had to know the trick to getting the car into neutral; otherwise you’d be sitting at the car wash going back and forth between drive and reverse trying to find it. Now, a simple tug in the right direction will switch between drive and neutral, while a trigger pull is required to get into reverse.
Likewise getting a look and feel update is the steering wheel. Alfa’s made it slightly thicker—but not too thick like some brands do—and finished it in a finer grade of leather and larger perforated inserts at the nine and three positions.
I mentioned earlier there are new active safety features you can control in the screen, and the update brings the car up to speed with the industry. Previously, only forward collision warning and lane departure warning were available. Now, Alfa’s added automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assistance, blind-spot monitors, traffic sign detection, and drowsy driver alerts. The adaptive cruise control has also been upgraded with traffic jam programming that lets it bring the car to a stop and then get moving again in heavy traffic.
The Alfa Romeo Giulia didn’t need much fixing, so rather than spend a bunch of money it didn’t need to and fix things that weren’t broken, Alfa carried out a precisely targeted campaign of eliminating trouble spots and enhancing key features. Bravo to that.
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