If you’re after a slightly left-field choice, it has real appeal

Our Verdict

Alfa Romeo 159

Fleet-friendly Alfa 159 leaves too much to be desired on quality and refinement to rival the best in class

21 January 2010

What is it?

It’s Alfa Romeo’s 3-series and A4 rival, given a fresh injection of poke. Or rather, a fresh direct injection of poke, thanks to a new powerplant that promises to be a mainstay of the Italian firm’s entire range over the next few years.

The 1750 TBi unit has turbocharging, direct injection and variable valve timing among its technical arsenal. In this 159 Sportwagon, this unit produces 197bhp from just 1742cc. More tellingly, it also musters 236lb ft from just 1400rpm.

That’s enough, claims Alfa, to take the 159 wagon from 0-62mph in 7.9sec, and on to a maximum of 146mph. What’s more, CO2 emissions of 194g/km mean the 1750 TBi is several bands lower in company car tax than the old 2.2 JTS petrol model. And you only have to service it every 21,000 miles.

What’s it like?

All of the impressive stats would be meaningless if the new powerplant had glaring weak spots in its torque curve, or if it proved thrashy. But in fact it’s quite the opposite; the 236lb ft does arrive commendably low, and yet you can rev the unit out to 5500rpm before it starts to tighten. The torque curve feels extremely flat, offering excellent throttle response in any of the gearbox’s six ratios.

Refinement is excellent; even if you choose to flirt with the red line, the 1750 remains smooth and far from unpleasant in tone. And once you’re at motorway cruising speeds it just fades into the background, despite a relatively short sixth gear that equates to 3000rpm in sixth at a fast motorway pace.

The 159’s chassis is no spring chicken, but it’s capable enough to hold its own. The steering is direct and reasonably communicative, and body roll is well contained; given an empty, smooth, flowing cross-country route, there’s fun to be had here.

The spec is relatively generous too; our range-topping TI test car costs a whisker over £26k, but for that you get heated sports leather seats, sports suspension, 19in wheels, a sports steering wheel, Brembo brake calipers, rain, dusk and condensation sensors and Bluetooth connectivity.

The 1750 lives up to the promise shown during its continental launch last summer, therefore, but well known 159 foibles do remain; the ride, while generally composed, can get a little thrashy over large potholes – although the suspension and wheels on the T1 probably didn’t help in this area.

The fascia is stylish, with deep-cowled instrument dials and excellent flourishes of aluminium trim, but Alfa’s stock of black plastic does the rest of the front cabin few favours.

And while the gearbox is slick once it’s warmed up, it’s a bit nuggety on a cold winter morning. Boot capacity is short of the C-class estate, A4 Avant and 3-series Touring too, and rear legroom is still in short supply.

Should I buy one?

Minor idiosyncrasies mean the 159 will probably remain the choice of the individual in a market dominated by the relentlessly mainstream Audi, Mercedes and BMW. But with this motor, Italy’s contender has probably never made such a compelling case for itself. If you’re after a slightly left-field choice, it has real appeal.

Join the debate

Comments
68

27 January 2010

[quote Autocar]

It’s Alfa Romeo’s 3-series and A4 rival, given a fresh injection of poke. Or rather, a fresh direct injection of poke, thanks to a new powerplant that promises to be a mainstay of the Italian firm’s entire range over the next few years.

[/quote] Did I read that correctly? £26K for a car with an interior as cheap and nasty as an amstrad stereo. My guess is the guys at German Car dealerships will lose no sales at all. It takes more than a good engine to make a sporty estate.

27 January 2010

sounds good to me. The new engine tech is making a much better case for petrol, and that can only be a good thing.

27 January 2010

Autocar writes it as if its a good spec petrol engine, but to me it sounds extremely poor. They say it's good because it has 197bhp from a 1750cc engine with all the turbo/direct injection/vvt etc. rubbish. and 190 something g/km thats rubbish also. Years ago we had the Mini engine which is a 1.6 !! and that has 208bhp and 165 g/km. Alfa make crap engines.

But maybe they have spirit? so that makes up for it for some people.

But i would rather choose the cold power of numbers and performance.

Seems like marketing propaganda to me which autocar are unwittingly typing up...without making a judgement as to whether this is actually upto expectations of what is good.

Thats the conclusion i'm leaping into with delight anyway.

27 January 2010

[quote beachland2]Autocar writes it as if its a good spec petrol engine, but to me it sounds extremely poor. They say it's good because it has 197bhp from a 1750cc engine with all the turbo/direct injection/vvt etc. rubbish. and 190 something g/km thats rubbish also. Years ago we had the Mini engine which is a 1.6 !! and that has 208bhp and 165 g/km. Alfa make crap engines.[/quote] The Alfa engine may be down 10bhp, but has 40lbf more of torque. Sounds decent, nice not to have to drop a gear on the motorway for passing or an incline. You can't compare economy (or co2 emissions) between a car weighing 1240kg (mini cooper JCW) and 1540kg (alfa 159 1.7500 sportwagon). For the power and performance the engine makes available in the 159 it's competitive with other cars in the same range , though in terms of emissions/economy its hampered by not having start/stop, intelligent alternators or anything that the bmw/audis are using now. I think it sounds good, shame about the interior quality and the weight though, reckon they could trim 150kg of it no problems (my main complaint with modern cars - my 98 civic was barely over a tonne!)

27 January 2010

The torque is pretty decent, but then it is 150cc bigger than the Mini engine.

The Alfa is 1540kgs, But the BMW 3 series 330i is 1470kgs, has 236lbft but with 268bhp and has 173g/km in a 3.0 litre engine. It really pours salt in Alfa's gaping wounds.

27 January 2010

[quote beachland2]But i would rather choose the cold power of numbers and performance[/quote]

You have no soul. And comparing the two is just daft.

That's what the 159 should have been like from the start.

The interior is better than they say, more style than a bland, grey, German effort.

27 January 2010

[quote beachland2]Autocar writes it as if its a good spec petrol engine, but to me it sounds extremely poor. They say it's good because it has 197bhp from a 1750cc engine with all the turbo/direct injection/vvt etc. rubbish. and 190 something g/km thats rubbish also. Years ago we had the Mini engine which is a 1.6 !! and that has 208bhp and 165 g/km. Alfa make crap engines.[/quote]

the mini is a city car, this is a saloon, an d slightly over engineered one for safety to. so they aren't comparable for CO2.

27 January 2010

[quote beachland2]

The Alfa is 1540kgs, But the BMW 3 series 330i is 1470kgs, has 236lbft but with 268bhp and has 173g/km in a 3.0 litre engine. It really pours salt in Alfa's gaping wounds.

[/quote]

Can you buy a reasonable spec 330i for 24k OTR?

Some chance - try adding 10k

27 January 2010

The car in the pictures is not the 1750 Tbi, the interior , on the Tbi has been improved, the silver in the centre has been replaced by darker satin finish, and the overall quality is better, but of course is still a 5 year old model.

27 January 2010

[quote Mr£4worth] It takes more than a good engine to make a sporty estate.[/quote]

You are absolutley right, stunning good looks, a racing history and an italian heritage make the Alfa the sporting estate of sporting estates.

You are also right when you say that german car dealerships will not lose sales, but that does not mean the masses are necessarily correct in adopting the herd mentality.

Buying an italian over a german means you have a love of life and a pulse.

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