I’d heard a few bad stories about the Alfa Romeo Giulia before I got to drive one for a week. Mostly from friends who seemed to enjoy just criticising things. Apparently, it is not as good as the old Alfas – even though they were terribly unreliable. 

It turns out, however, that my friends are know-nothing idiots. Because the Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce Carbon (rolls off the tongue, right?) is bloody superb. 

Powered by a two-litre turbo engine generating 206kW of power, this is a sedan to fall in love with. It retails at $89,990 and will do 0-100km/h is 5.7 seconds, but that’s not the full story. 

There’s a raw athleticism about this Giulia that screams, “I’m up for anything, amico. Let’s party.”

The red exterior – with the same sheen as a pair of patent leather knee boots ought to have – and the oh-so-small Alfa badge atop the trademark triangular grille at the front are representative of a certain amount of understatement typical of Italian design (outside of Ferrari). 

Slipping the car into manual and any acceleration at all in third or fourth gear quickly becomes illegal. Fast? Oh boy, is it fast! 

And it corners like a bat out of hell. 

I quickly learn this is a car to be trusted. Anything you want, it will happily deliver, while also serving you an espresso coffee and complaining about the Government. The rear-wheel-drive helps provide sticky grip and head-snapping acceleration.

But it is true that everyone seems to have an Alfa Romeo story and not all of them are about just how reliable the Italian carmaker’s vehicles used to be. Actually, not any of them.

My Giulia loan car was delayed a good few months after a bolt snapped and a new one had to be sent from Italy. I put that down to global supply-chain issues rather than problems at Alfa, but then again, I feel very generous towards this car.

Back when I started dating my now-wife, she had a god-awful Giulietta that was almost never going. I still remember the secret feeling of relief when someone crashed into us, rendering it a write-off. Oh, darling, that’s terrible. (Smiley face emoji.)

But just as we now accept that Skoda isn’t so bad and that Holden won’t be around forever, take a very good look at this car if you are in the market for a performance sedan.

I’m not certain it would pip the BMW 330e, but it would be a tight race. 

Alfa Romeo reckon they have “mastered technology” with a multitude of safety features that support the driver rather than get in their way. I don’t think that’s just marketing spin. I barely notice the driver assistance until I need it, unlike, say, Audi’s system, which attempts to keep drivers in line in the same way 1960s school teachers enjoyed caning boys who didn’t follow the rules.

The “Q2” limited-slip differential means power reaches the wheel that needs it most, limiting understeer and skidding. 

Mostly I keep Giulia in Dynamic mode, pressing a button for softened suspension when on crappy country roads. 

I take Elsa, who is 13 and “not interested in these sorts of things, Dad”, for a blast around some hills in Northland. She likes the Giulia very much, and ends up calculating how much above the recommended speed we take each corner. See, the Alfa will even teach your children maths.

The interior just works. Buttons when needed, touchscreen for the rest. And it is not the generic luxury car interior of Audi, Jaguar, Mercedes, etc. There’s nothing wrong with them, but they are all a bit same-y. The Giulia, on the other hand, is classy and unique – a well-thought-out piece of individualistic design.

And this is not even a top-spec Giulia. The Quadrifoglio model, which starts at $139,000, sports a twin-turbo 2.9-litre V6 and must be an absolute beast of a thing.  

The Veloce comes with a 14-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, which is strangely pitchy on the high notes. I should have dug into the controls and seen if I could sort this out, but I was having too much fun just driving. 

If you are in the market for a sub-$100k luxury sedan, I insist on you at least test-driving the Giulia. And if you don’t, I know some Italian guys in dark suits who just may pay you a visit.