The Alfa Romeo Giulia has bags of character, plenty of Italian charm and a slightly more playful edge than some of its rivals.

With its distinctive shield grille, rakish roof and bold curves, it's an elegant compact saloon that oozes machismo.

Sharp handling and a good variety of engines mean the driving dynamics match the sleek looks.

The steering is remarkably quick and the chassis feels well balanced when cornering - putting a smile on the face and offering an element of fun.

Petrol engines are available, but my test car came in 2.2-litre diesel flavour, with 190hp available.

With a 0-62mph time of around 7 seconds, the acceleration is swift if unspectacular.

However, when combined with that nimble handling and an engaging rear wheel drive set-up, it has enough going for it to feel like a genuine driver's car.

The seating position is first rate, with a cockpit designed around the driver.

The automatic gearbox is smooth-shifting and responds quickly to throttle inputs.

With this version of the Giulia, Alfa has hit upon a nice balance between performance and economy. With a combined fuel consumption rate of 52.3mpg and emissions of 156g/km, the figures are pretty favourable.

As is now standard for Alfa, the car is equipped with the 'DNA' drive mode system.

Switching from one to the other adjusts the eagerness of the vehicle’s engine, transmission, steering, suspension, brakes, and acceleration.

For the most part, the vehicle is excellent in N (natural) mode, but it's handy to be able to switch to D (dynamic) when the road conditions allow. You then find that you've got more responsive and direct control behind the wheel.

Inside, the Giulia's cabin has been improved in recent years, bringing it much closer to the quality found in some of its German rivals. Indeed, there's no doubt that plenty of plush materials and up-to-date tech are dotted around.

In Lusso TI trim, the interior feels highly luxurious and a pleasant place to be, with ambient lighting adding to the sophisticated aura.

The things you touch most frequently have a premium feel, typified by the leather sports steering wheel and gear knob.

The infotainment system and central console now has a revised layout and is all the better for it.

The clear 8.8-inch touchscreen is in easy reach and view of the driver. It's an intuitive piece of equipment that gives access to audio, navigation and a variety of apps.

There are creature comforts such as built-in smartphone support and wireless device charging to enjoy.

Space-wise, front seat occupants have plenty of room to get comfortable in the supportive seats.

Adults will be comfy enough in the back too, although there's not quite so much space to spread out.

But it's the Giulia's looks that could prove the vital selling point in terms of attracting buyers who fancy a character-filled alternative to the ever-popular BMWs and Audis.

The front end is quintessential Alfa, with the registration plate set off to the left of the signature grille.

The headlights narrow sharply towards the centre of the car's face, adding to the purposeful look.

Meanwhile, when viewed straight on from the front, two bold lines funnel outwards from the shield-shaped grille right across the meaty-looking bonnet, creating a great sense of uniformity and joined-up thinking in terms of the bodywork's design.

When observed side-on, the main crease flows upwards from around the top of the front wheel arch towards the back door handle, combining nicely with the effect of the angular roof to create an athletic look.

At the rear, the light signature is consistent with that seen at the front, while an exhaust pipe on either side completes the car's dynamic appearance.

Alfa Romeo Giulia Lusso TI

PRICE: £41,180 on the road

ENGINE: 2.2 turbo diesel 190hp


ACCELERATION: 0-62mph in 7.1 seconds

TOP SPEED: 143mph


ECONOMY: 52.3mpg and emissions of 156g/km