THE Alfa Romeo Giulia carries enough Italian flare to be an appealing, if slightly niche alternative to the ubiquitous German saloons.

First of all, it’s a beautifully-sculpted car, with a design that oozes elegance without ever becoming overtly aggressive or shouty.

A triangular grille defines the car’s distinctive front end, with the registration plate offset to the left due to the space taken up by the dominant central feature.

It’s a combination that works well to the extent that, if it appeared in your rear view mirror, you might take a second glance and think ‘that’s a bit different.’

The rest of the car’s bodywork brings plenty more design flourishes in the form of short overhangs, a long bonnet and muscular haunches.

Of course, this Giulia is not to be confused with the Giulia Quadrifoglio - the widely talked about 190mph turbocharged V6 fire-breathing monster that puts out 503bhp and costs more than £60,000.

No, this is the regular Giulia with a 2.2-litre diesel engine and a price tag roughly half that of its much-hyped sibling.

Needless to say, it doesn’t provide quite the same driving thrills, but the turbocharged diesel unit is no slouch, offering enough acceleration for most everyday situations.

There’s also a new rear-wheel drive system to add to the driving enjoyment, giving the car real feel and poise through the corners.

Meanwhile, a sophisticated rear suspension set-up and tweaking of the steering bring more smiles as you press on through B-road bends.

Choice of materials is also key to the car’s handling. To obtain the weight-to-power ratio and outstanding torsional rigidity, this Giulia employs an array of high-strength and ultra-lightweight materials including, for example, carbon fibre for the driveshaft and aluminium for the doors, wings, engines, brakes and suspensions.

If you do trade up to the Quadrifoglio version, then the use of ultra-lightweight materials extends to other components including carbon fibre for the bonnet, roof, front splitter, rear spoiler and body inserts.

The 180bhp diesel engine in the test car is the first all-aluminium diesel unit in Alfa Romeo’s history. The four-cylinder engine uses latest-generation MultiJet II injection system and is also available in 150bhp form. Both are combined with impressive eight-speed automatic transmission.

There’s also a couple of 2.0-litre petrol engines and a 2.9 bi-turbo V6 petrol in the Ferrari-inspired Quadrifoglio version for those seeking outrageous performance.

The Giulia comes equipped with a new Alfa DNA selector, which modifies the car’s dynamic behaviour according to the driver’s selection: Dynamic, Natural, and Advanced Efficiency. It adjusts a multitude of settings, including those of the engine, suspension, steering, transmission, rear differential, instrument display, brakes and safety and driver aids, according to the mode selected by the driver.

This is a car that cries out to be enjoyed, to be driven with enthusiasm. The more you ask of it, the better it gets.

In keeping with Alfa Romeo tradition, the Giulia features a host of technical innovations which benefit both the driving experience and vehicle safety.

Inside, the design is centred around the driver, with the main controls grouped together on the small steering wheel in a similar fashion to a Formula 1 car.

Premium materials include carbon fibre and real wood, while - depending on trim level - a 3.5- or seven-inch colour instrument display offers the driver all the essential information about the car at-a-glance.

In conclusion, there’s no doubt this is an elegant saloon that offers enough driving pleasure to be attractive.