Alfa still a leader in style
But expert maintenance is the key to getting the best out of your 147
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.
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.
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.
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