Alfa Romeo’s now rather elderly 159, which has just been given a stay of execution. Its replacement, the Giulia, was delayed until 2016; 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 took 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% 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. Although, over its life span there have been a variety of petrol and diesel engines for motorists to choose from, including the range-topping 3.2-litre V6 powerplant.
Even now, 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.
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.