An Alfa for males

At last — a petrol 159 that lives up to the look

Herald Sun - Motoring - - First Drive - PAUL POTTINGER paul.pottinger@cars­guide.com.au

THE af­fec­tion felt for Alfa Romeo says much more for the power of nos­tal­gia than that of its re­cent mod­els. With the ex­cep­tion of the ex­cel­lent new Gi­uli­etta hatch, Alfa’s heraldic crest— dig­ni­fied in decades long gone by some great sport­ing cars— has come to adorn some dead or­di­nary de­vices.

The 159 comes with a ca­pa­ble if coarse five-cylin­der JTD turbo diesel but the two petrol en­gines avail­able to date fell far short of in­spir­ing. More than five years into its life cy­cle and barely 18 months be­fore it’s re­placed by an all-new sedan, the vis­ually rav­ish­ing but com­mer­cially still­born 159 gets the petrol en­gine it’s al­ways needed.

VALUE

Al­most all 159s sold here go out in ex­trav­a­gant Ti trim (pic­tured), low­ered, with low-pro­file 19-inch wheels and vivid in­te­rior stitching. You needn’t look past the $49,990 model with six-speed man­ual (no auto with the TBi en­gine) and lus­trous Alfa Red paint. Full leather, 18-inch al­loys of new de­sign and talk­ing dash are stan­dard.

TECH­NOL­OGY

The di­rect in­jec­tion 1.75-litre turbo four is found in full-cream form in the Gi­uli­etta QV. Even with the 159’s mildly re­duced 147kW/320Nm out­put, it kills the revvable but wheezy and now-re­tired 2.2 JTS. Los­ing some 70kg (kerb weight’s now a rea­son­able 1430kg) hardly hurts. Strangely, there’s an el­e­ment of diesel in the TBi’s drive char­ac­ter­is­tics. Al­most all that torque turns up at 1000rpm and power puffs out well south of the 6500rpm red­line.

It’s all about mid-range re­sponse and fuel ef­fi­ciency. At 7.7 sec­onds, the TBi’s just be­hind the petrol V6 in the 0-100km/h run. Us­ing 8.1L/100km, it equals the diesel.

DE­SIGN

The Gi­u­giaro de­sign is six years old but hon­estly, dar­ling, you don’t look a day over three. From the Alfa shield grille on the tip of that long pa­tri­cian nose to the ta­pered tail­lights, it re­mains the most dis­tinc­tive four-door on the road.

It’s also sin­gu­lar in­side, though not so age-re­sis­tant. Still, love the cen­tre con­sole and Ital­ian di­als. Seems churl­ish to point out the boot open­ing might have been de­signed to dis­cour­age use.

SAFETY

A five-star crasher with seven airbags, col­lapsi­ble ped­als and brakes with the right feel and bite. The spare’s full-size. Huz­zah!

DRIV­ING

The tauter sus­pen­sion and mas­sive tyres of the Ti edi­tions would make more of this tractable, tal­ented driv­e­train but in al­most all sit­u­a­tions the non-en­hanced ver­sion is surely prefer­able.

It pulls em­phat­i­cally from al­most as low as the tacho can go to the ex­tent you can al­ways stay in fourth, or even higher and drive al­most au­to­mat­i­cally. Over­cook take-offs and there’s play­ful tug­ging through the beau­ti­fully sculpted steer­ing wheel but that— and the vast turn­ing cir­cle— are the chief re­minders that it’s a front-wheel-drive.

There’s none of the au­ral fizz that char­ac­terised past Al­fas (sadly that’s been so since they went to di­rect in­jec­tion) but the com­posed ride and pre­dictable han­dling are more than wel­come new traits.

VER­DICT

Niche model within a niche brand though it is, the 159 with TBi is fi­nally able to give its fel­low Eu­ros some­thing to think about.

Dis­tinc­tive: The Alfa 159 fi­nally lives up to the prom­ise of its looks. Talk­ing dash is stan­dard (Ti edi­tion shown)

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