Alfa still a leader in style

But ex­pert main­te­nance is the key to get­ting the best out of your 147

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Used Review - GRAHAM SMITH graham.smith@cars­guide.com.au

IT WAS clear the 147 was dif­fer­ent from the rest the mo­ment you slipped into the heav­ily con­toured driver’s seat, with long cush­ions for ex­tra sup­port un­der the legs.

The gearshift fell eas­ily to hand and there was a sporty feel to the dash and con­trols.

Once you hit the road the re­spon­sive en­gine and the nim­ble chas­sis came into play in a most re­ward­ing way. In short, the 147 was a fun car to drive. It was also an at­trac­tive one with its dis­tinc­tive Alfa grille, bon­net and head­lamps. The high sculpted flanks, thick roof pil­lars and large cen­tre head­rest in the rear made rear vi­sion a prob­lem, how­ever.

There were three-and five­door hatch body styles. The five-door was the more prac­ti­cal with bet­ter ac­cess to the cabin. The sta­ple en­gine was a 2.0-litre Twin Spark four­cylin­der that gave it plenty of zip. It was avail­able with a fivespeed man­ual gear­box or a five-speed clutch­less au­to­mated man­ual shift Se­le­speed box.

The hot­shot GTA, re­leased in 2003, was pow­ered by a 3.2-litre V6 with six-speed man­ual or six-speed Se­le­speed gear­boxes. The down­side: it was some­what thirsty.

For econ­omy-minded driv­ers, Alfa added the JTD, a 2.0-litre turbo diesel four-cylin­der, three years later.

IN THESHOP

Older Al­fas de­vel­oped an aw­ful rep­u­ta­tion for re­li­a­bil­ity, rust and re­sale and even cur­rent mod­els such as the 147 are still viewed with sus­pi­cion. To­day’s mod­els are bet­ter built and more re­li­able but they still must be checked thor­oughly, prefer­ably by an Alfa ex­pert.

En­gine, trans­mis­sion and cool­ing sys­tem leaks are com­mon, and brake pads and ro­tors wear at a high rate. The cam-tim­ing belt on the 2.0-litre must be changed at the rec­om­mended three-year/ 60,000km in­ter­vals as there is a real risk of in­ter­nal en­gine dam­age should a belt break.

The diesel belt must be changed at five-year/ 100,000km in­ter­vals. Thor­oughly test-drive a Se­le­speed trans­mis­sion to as­sess its op­er­a­tion and walk away if there is any in­di­ca­tion that all is not well— re­pairs can be ex­pen­sive.

The man­ual is a much bet­ter buy from the cost and driver en­joy­ment per­spec­tives. Main­te­nance is cru­cial so check for a ser­vice his­tory.

INACRASH

Even the base model had dual front and side airbags in 2001. It also had the key safety fea­ture of elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol yet when tested by ANCAP it gained only a dis­ap­point­ing three-star rat­ing.

ATTHEPUMP

The 2.0-litre Twin Spark man­ual re­turns an av­er­age of 7.2L/100km and when linked to the Se­le­speed it con­sumes about a litre more. The GTA is the fuel guz­zler of the range with an av­er­age claimed con­sump­tion of 12.1L/100km while the diesel is the fuel miser, av­er­ag­ing 5.9L/100km.

Nim­ble: The sleek 147 is fun to drive but there are eco­nom­i­cal ver­sions too

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