There seem to be more options than ever if you’re looking for an affordable performance car. The Alfa Romeo Giulia is a relatively new contender, released for the 2017 model year. It’s a small sedan packed with plenty of style and some powerful engine options.
The Volkswagen Arteon debuted in the same segment for the 2019 model year. It already has some fresh new updates for 2021, including a reworked exterior and an interior overhaul. Despite these changes, it still can’t keep up with the Alfa Romeo Giulia in terms of sportiness.
What the 2021 Alfa Romeo Giulia offers
From the outside, the Alfa Romeo Giulia really stands out from the crowd with its unique grille design and angular body. However, the motor situated under the Giulia’s hood is an even better selling point. It’s a turbo-four that makes 280 hp and 306 lb-ft of torque, paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Car and Driver say that this engine gives the Giulia exceptionally fun handling. It’s incredibly quick, with AWD models able to reach 0-60 mph in as little as 5.5 seconds. It can even round tight corners at these high speeds and the wheels respond quickly to even the slightest of inputs.
The Alfa Romeo Giulia also comes standard with three drive modes which can either improve performance, ride quality, or overall efficiency. For the thrill-seeking crowd, Car and Driver recommends getting the Performance package available for the middle Ti trim. It includes a limited-slip rear differential and an active suspension to make the Giulia even more athletic.
The interior isn’t nearly as impressive, but it still has many refined luxury touches. The standard model’s cabin is composed of soft-touch surfaces and higher trims can have real wood or brushed metallic accents. The seats are also comfortable, but the Giulia is predictably lacking in second-row space.
Testers also said that it can’t carry as much cargo as other rivals. Still, at least riders can enjoy a large infotainment touchscreen equipped with standard smartphone integration.
The 2021 Volkswagen Arteon tries to keep up
The Volkswagen Arteon doesn’t really have the same exterior flare as the Giulia, but it’s far from ugly. In fact, Motor Trend editors thought the subtle changes for this year make it the most stylish Volkswagen available. It has all-new bumpers, wheel arches, and a clamshell hood.
Under this hood is a 2.0-liter turbo-four capable of 268 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. It’s paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission, but it also has a manual shifting mode.
Most come with front-wheel drive, but the Arteon SEL Premium is only available with AWD. This trim also comes with an exclusive LED lightbar for the grille.
Motor Trend clocked the Volkswagen Arteon’s 0-60 mph time at just over six seconds. Braking performance was slightly more disappointing, and Motor Trend said that the pedals feel mushy at first. The steering wheel also doesn’t provide much feedback and the transmission’s performance is inconsistent.
On the upside, the Volkswagen Arteon has a pleasantly roomy second row and cargo area. The dashboard was heavily remodeled: it has a new steering wheel, air vents, and an optional lighting system. The infotainment screen is an inch smaller than the Giulia’s, but you can pair it with your smartphone wirelessly.
Why the 2021 Alfa Romeo Giulia stands out
Despite the Arteon’s higher horsepower and a manual shifting mode, critics were more impressed with the Giulia’s performance. Its ride is smooth enough, but it’s not as fast and doesn’t have the sportiest handling.
The Giulia also gets slightly better gas mileage than the Arteon, an estimated 27 mpg combined compared to 23 mpg combined. the sportiness of the Giulia is truly hard to beat.