New Alfa wagon is pretty, more spacious than before, and as good to drive as the saloon.

What is it? The 156 Sportwagon was almost as pretty as the saloon it was based on, and nearly as roomy. Yes, you read that right: the old 156 wagon actually had a smaller boot than the saloon. Which didn’t stop it selling, and now that the new 159 Sportwagon has a load bay that’s 40 litres, or 25 per cent, larger than the 159 saloon’s, it might appeal more. What's it like? It’s a better finished load space, too, a fact that’s of more consequence than usual because it reflects the seriousness of Alfa’s efforts to build a higher quality car. So the fact that the load bay is trimmed with classy carpet, and that it provides a neat pair of chrome-handled, flock-lined cubbies at waist height, as well as load lashing eyes, twin courtesy lights and a ski hatch, is encouraging. Roof rails are also an option. So you can see that Alfa has tried hard. That said, it’s disappointing that the rear seat backrests merely flop onto the cushions below, providing a less than flat floor. Despite its greater utility, this Alfa is still more lifestyle estate (whatever that means) than capacious load-lugger. Should I buy one? Although the wagon does without a boot bulkhead, it nevertheless feels satisfyingly rigid. The result is that you’re no less willing to drive it in a sporting style than the saloon. We tried the 183bhp 2.2 JTS petrol version, whose relatively late torque delivery means you have to work this car like an Alfa to get the best of it. In other words, you have to rev it. Since the engine is sweet and a rangey revver, this is a pleasure, and you soon find yourself enjoying this estate rather more than that label usually implies. Which is the point, of course.


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