Matt Saunders
14 April 2011

What is it?

Alfa Romeo’s now rather elderly 159, which has just been given a stay of execution. Its replacement, the Giulia, has been delayed until 2013; sent back to the drawing board for a styling rethink, or so the rumour goes.

And with this, the 2011-model-year 159, Alfa is taking one last crack at the UK fleet market before the Giulia arrives. This 159 has been on sale since the turn of the year in 168bhp turbodiesel form, but only now are examples of the lower-emissions 134bhp 2.0-litre oil-burner arriving in Britain, which squeezes in for 19 per cent benefit-in-kind company car tax, and for VED band E for a £115 road tax disc. The cleanest diesel version of the Honda Accord, Mazda 6, Seat Exeo, Skoda Superb and Volvo S60 miss one or the other of those classifications, some miss both.

What’s it like?

At five years old, the 159 still looks remarkably fresh and appealing. The interior isn’t quite as convincing, despite the addition of some new leather upholstery and ‘black aluminium’ fascia trim which is as attractive as it is unusual.

The 159’s driving position feels high, the seats slightly narrow and short of squab. And material quality is a little shoddy too: our test car had a few too many rough, flimsy and sharp plastics to do Alfa’s quality men much credit.

And although Alfa insists this car’s turbodiesel engine is state-of-the-art, it’s noisy. The 159 is clattery at idle, and unusually coarse by class standards above 3000rpm. It’s got plenty of usable torque and a slick six-speed box, but there’s more turbo lag than you expect, too.

The 159 rides and handles acceptably, but it’s certainly no sports saloon, coming up short in terms of responsiveness and dynamic poise, as well as refinement.

Its steering encapsulates the nature of the car perfectly: the wheel’s imaginatively contoured and beautifully tactile, wrapped in black leather – but it sprouts towards you at an awkward angle, as if the steering column ran through the bulkhead between your feet. It also acts on the front wheels with a variable pace, giving the car an unusually large and unpleasant ‘dead-zone’ of steering angle right at the straight ahead, and then a tendency to dart towards an apex mid-corner that comes without a matching increase in required steering weight. All things considered, the car’s grippy and reasonably game, but feels a little too inert and unpredictable to drive with precision or get much satisfaction from.

Should I buy one?

This new 159 remains quite alluring in its own alternative, Italian fashionista way, but unless you’re offered a particularly appealing contract hire rate, we’d shop elsewhere – even if you do have to pay a little more company car tax. A Ford Mondeo is a much more capable saloon, and a BMW 318d, which is broadly comparable to the 159 on price if not equipment, is a much more rewarding drive.

Alfa Romeo 159 2.0 JTDM Lusso

Price: £24,150; Top speed: 126mph; 0-62mph: 9.9sec; Economy: 55.4mpg; Co2: 134g/km; Kerbweight: 1490kg; Engine type, cc: 4 cyls in line, 1956cc, turbodiesel; Power: 134bhp at 4000rpm; Torque: 258lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual

Join the debate

Comments
75

Re: Alfa Romeo 159 2.0 JTDm

3 years 1 week ago

If anyone's even briefly considered buying an Alfa Romeo 159 the last car they're going to actually buy is a bloody Ford Mondeo! They're the opposite ends of desirability! You buy a Ford Mondeo because you have to or need to not want to; I'd never compare one with an Alfa...

Re: Alfa Romeo 159 2.0 JTDm

3 years 1 week ago

Well, sounds like a completely different car from the 1750 turbo recently tested in Autocar which got a pretty glowing review..... Can the engine really have made such a difference to the rest of the car?? Just the usual Autocar inconsistency between journalists I suppose. I wonder how the 159 beat the 3-Series(and every other rival) in every dynamic test in the German run master-test with journalists from all over Europe driving thousands of miles on European roads and on track with professional drivers... strange isn't it? Or why CAR couldn't seperate it from the 3-Series so had to include both cars in their yearly top 10.. I've driven a 2.4jtd for a few thousand miles and find reviews like this pretty bemusing to be honest. The steering/handling are superb. The 159 is a great car, not just a pretty face.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5zzwuiJLD0

Re: Alfa Romeo 159 2.0 JTDm

3 years 1 week ago

montgomery wrote:
The 159 is a great car, not just a pretty face

I owned a 1.9 jtd 16v sedan for 2 years and I still own a 2008 2.4 jtd TI estate but I think "great" it's a bit too much. Nowadays I often drive my dad's 2010 Bmw 330d estate and the Alfa struggles in the comparison: seating position is the first thing you notice, you never feel confortable: in long trips it's a big fault. The Alfa steering is more direct but feels "epmty" at the centre. The Alfa feels heavier when you push harder, tyre noise is unpleasant at every speed and fuel economy is worse. Said so, I tried the 2.0 170 hp and I rather keep the 2.4 210hp, the 2.0 maybe more frugal but lacks charter and shove.

Said so, the 159 looks still beatiful, the brakes are strong and very progressive, better than BMW ones (the TI got upgraded brakes though), the engine is still good even if it can't beat 330d savage thrust and on the handling side the 159 is one of the more safe cars I ever driven, even if you try to provoke unpleasant reactions the car responds in very predictable ways. If you switch off esp/vdc the BMW may reserve you some bad surprise on a icy road, not the 159. So I'm not surprised by master test results you were talking about.

Sadly this car had been abandoned by Alfa, especially in here in Italy where at the beginnings it sold well. A weight reduction programme and a restyling was planned but never took place.

I still love the 159, in fact I didn't sold it even if I got a Golf VI 1.6 tdi as company car last year. I put the 159 on sale but the money they offered me was very little so I decided to keep it, it is in perfect shape!

Re: Alfa Romeo 159 2.0 JTDm

3 years 6 days ago

Wow big surprise another poor review from Autocar because it is a Alfa Romeo and not a Ford, Range Rover or a BMW. Firstly I would not be one to call a car that has just become 5 years old to be 'rather elderly'. I also think that the 159 has one of the best quality and best designed interiors on sale in any car today and it is a diesel saloon. I do not understand how the material quality was a 'little shoddy' too considering the amount of praise you guys give the terrible interior of the Mondeo. Cheap shiny plastics everywhere. Also again how many times do I have to say it but really honestly Autocar, how many people really care that their diesel saloon is 'no sports car'?? Mr Saunders are you really trying to say that you would rather drive a Mondeo TDCI than this Alfa? C'mon guys start reviewing the cars in the real world.

Re: Alfa Romeo 159 2.0 JTDm

3 years 6 days ago

this car is so beautiful. it would be perfect if it were a blend of 156 and 159, and SMALLER! Hope the redesign for the Giulia doesn't ruin it though... (Don't really trust Marchione's taste in cars of he allowed these atrocities to be named Lancias...)

Re: Alfa Romeo 159 2.0 JTDm

3 years 6 days ago

The 159 has not been totally abandoned by Alfa and is a far better car than it was at launch.

Here's hoping the Giulia is the step forward that is needed.

However, I can't see Autocar liking it, it has the wrong badge..

Re: Alfa Romeo 159 2.0 JTDm

3 years 6 days ago

CarDesign wrote:
Hope the redesign for the Giulia doesn't ruin it though... (Don't really trust Marchione's taste in cars of he allowed these atrocities to be named Lancias...)

What I'm afraid of is that the Giulia is aiming USA, and it must concur their taste. When they try to design globally accepted cars,there are lots of compromises, and usually they get stuck with something amorphous.

Re: Alfa Romeo 159 2.0 JTDm

3 years 6 days ago

After the Bulbous nosed MiTo and the poorly detailed Guilietta (grotesque tail light LED`s) the 159 will probaly be the last beautiful, restrained Alfa until car designers decide handsome is back in fashion.

Sure its dating a bit but its ageing with dignity and class, no cologen infused facelift needed for the one.

Re: Alfa Romeo 159 2.0 JTDm

3 years 6 days ago

jonfortwo wrote:
poorly detailed Guilietta (grotesque tail light LED`s)
isn't it funny how everyone's different - it is the detailing and especially the rear lights that i like about the giulietta!

Re: Alfa Romeo 159 2.0 JTDm

3 years 6 days ago

jonfortwo wrote:

After the Bulbous nosed MiTo and the poorly detailed Guilietta (grotesque tail light LED`s) the 159 will probaly be the last beautiful, restrained Alfa until car designers decide handsome is back in fashion.

Sure its dating a bit but its ageing with dignity and class, no cologen infused facelift needed for the one.

+1, I agree, although the Giulietta is growing on me. It has to have at least 17" wheels though or the rear arches just look huge.

If the leasing rates for the 159 had been reasonable or if Alfa's had been on any of my company car lists I'd have had a 159 like a shot.

I don't know of it is flawed or not and I don't care, it's too beautiful to worry about minor details.

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