THERE are a few cars that are downright ugly. Others are pretty, even beautiful. And then there's the Alfa Romeo Giulia.
Yes, despite the regular three-box shape and practical business car dimensions, Alfa designers have managed to inject a sleek and rakish element to the body.
From the muscular shoulders to the long sloping nose, the proportions are near perfect. It's one of the few cars that look good from all angles.
But aesthetics are only part of the equation when tempting buyers away from such formidable rivals as the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-Class and the Audi A4.
Initially it looked like Alfa's diesel version would prove most in demand but the backlash from the Dieselgate debacle has thrown new emphasis on the mid-range 197bhp petrol two-litre which is reviewed here.
While the turbo petrol four-pot might not be able to match the 2.2-litre diesel in terms of frugality, it's so much quieter and smoother. In fact, the smooth running engine together with a noticeable lack of wind noise help make it one of the most refined saloons in its sector.
The Alfa puts up some swift acceleration times both through the gears from rest and in mid-range when overtaking - 62mph comes up in just over six seconds and the car finally runs out of steam at 146mph. Very creditable figures for a tractable and easy going saloon.
There's ample mid-range punch, too, for overtaking. The standard eight-speed gearbox with paddle change is a cracker allowing smooth well timed ratio changes.
Handling is fluid and poised and strikes a decent compromise between relatively roll-free cornering and comfort. In fact, the ride quality is one of this Alfa's strengths - ruts and road irregularities are coped with well, the Giulia retaining its composure at all times.
It is somewhat more thirsty than its diesel brethren but my average of around 35mpg should be attainable by most owners. Emissions of 153g/km are reasonable for a powerful petrol engine.
Space-wise, the cabin feels a tad tighter than the obvious rivals, particularly in the rear where both headroom and legroom is a bit tight. The boot, however, is on a par with competitors and can carry 480 litres of luggage.
No shortage of standard features, however, in the entry level Super. LED rear lights, front fog lights, parking aids, dual-zone climate control, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and digital radio are all included.
Front seats are well shaped and hug their occupants snugly. Historically Alfa's driving position often doesn't suit British drivers but that of the Giulia is just about perfect with plenty of seat/steering wheel adjustment.
Interior design is conservative and smart enough although some of the plastic mouldings are a tad hard to the touch and the sat nav screen is relatively small. The starter button placed on the steering wheel is a nice touch as are the retro-style air vents.