Alfa Romeo's back - again...

Alfa Romeo Giulia (2016)

ALFA Romeo fans, like the exhausted parents of a teething baby who refuses to sleep all night, are no strangers to false dawns, writes William Scholes.

When it is launched, every new model - an admittedly sporadic sight in recent times - is heralded as the real return to form of the storied Italian brand. However, experience tells us that disappointment invariably follows.

A limited range of cars doesn't help - at least not at a time when BMW and Audi have dozens of models.

These days Alfa has the little Mito, which has failed to tempt people out of their Minis and Audi A1s, and the larger Giulietta, which is gorgeous to behold but lags behind competitors in just about every objectively measurable way.

Beyond that, there's a dinky £60k sports car called the 4C.

Lashed together with lots of carbon fibre and a fizzy four-cylinder engine, I'd love to be able to tell you more about it.

But I can't - Alfa Romeo deemed it too exotic for Northern Ireland roads and resident mechanical expertise, though journalists were allowed to see it in Dublin.

In any case, there's the question of just what the name 'Alfa Romeo' means to British and Irish car buyers in 2016.

Folk who can remember the glory days of the Alfasud - and who are now prepared to excuse the rampant rust and reliability issues of that era - are now able to avail of free public transport.

And the marque's sporting past is very much in the past; and anyway, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz already trade on a the sporty theme to varying degrees.

In other words, while car enthusiasts might 'get' Alfa Romeo, there's no reason to assume everyone else has just been holding their breath for the company to get its act together, nor holds it even in particular affection.

Into this unpromising territory steps the car on this page, called the Giulia.

You can't fault Alfa for ambition, for it is designed to challenge some of the best cars on sale today in the shape of the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

The Giulia is typically Alfa-pretty and has had thrown at it not only the kitchen sink but also the kitchen, bathroom and living room - there's not a piece of modern safety kit or connectivity left off the spec sheet, and the engines sound promising too.

Northern Ireland sales are due to start in September, and it will be intriguing to find out how the Giulia measures up - providing we're allowed to drive it on Northern Ireland roads, of course.

Let's hope it isn't another false dawn.


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