WHEN it comes to style Italian designers always seem to have the edge, both in the world of fashion and cars.
So it comes as no surprise to see just how stunning Alfa Romeo's new compact executive saloon the Giulia is in the metal.
With its clean cut muscular lines, long bonnet, swept back headlights and of course instantly recognisable shield-shaped Alfa grille with the traditional offset number plate this is an appealing choice for someone who wants to strand out in the crowd.
It's been a long time since Alfa has produced a car that not only looks better than most of its German and Japanese competitors but also arguably drives better.
And it's nice to be able to park a car in a large supermarket car park and be able to look around and not see another mirror image. Try doing that with a model from any of the premier German brands.
The Giulia is one of those cars which oozes glamour and style and always gets a second look.
The Italian car maker has produced a Giulia before - it's an Italian girl's name meaning youthful - but not since the 1960's.
The latest incarnation is rear-wheel-drive, an indulgence perhaps to the purists who have been hankering for another model which epitomises the company's sporting heritage.
That means it's fun to drive, has a character all its own and performance to put a smile on any enthusiastic driver's face.
Step inside and the cabin is just as stylish as the exterior although there is definitely a minimalist touch to it, mainly because most of the on-board functions are carried out on the centre screen via a control knob near the gearshift.
Nevertheless multi-adjustable full leather heated front seats with the Alfa crest embossed in the headrests, one of the best looking - and handling - multi function steering wheels that I have seen in a long time, aluminium sports pedals and clear crisp dials all make this interior a sporting driver's delight.
Add to that a starter button built into the steering wheel - which is also heated - and you can see just how much thought has gone into producing a car which stands out from the crowd.
Sensibly oversized aluminium paddles sit behind the steering wheel ensuring that it's easy to make manual gear changes no matter what position the wheel is in.
With a 2.2-litre turbocharged engine mated to an eight speed gearbox the Giulia's accelerator is delightfully responsive to the smallest touch of your right foot.
And if you want even more response you can switch to the car's dynamic mode or for better economy opt for eco.
When it comes to handling and grip the Giulia is a credit to the marque's heritage and the steering is brilliant, pin sharp and positive.
Fuel consumption is pretty good too. After several hundred miles of driving I couldn't get anywhere near the official figure of more than 67 miles per gallon but I did record a creditable 48 mpg.
Luggage space is pretty good with a boot which is capable of accommodating a generous 480 litres although a narrow opening can be a little restrictive when trying to pack in large items.
Rear seats with a 40/20/40 split, however, make things a little more flexible.