Mixed grille

The 159 is a great looker with am­ple char­ac­ter — but it is not with­out quirks

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige Used Car - GRAHAM SMITH grah.smith@big­pond.com

NEW

Men­tion Alfa Romeo in con­ver­sa­tion and you’re sure to get a mixed re­sponse. The Ital­ian brand has plenty of ad­mir­ers will­ing to wax lyri­cal about its sen­su­ous styling and fab­u­lous han­dling but there are prob­a­bly as many who would con­demn it for poor build qual­ity and dodgy re­li­a­bil­ity.

There’s no ques­tion the brand has had its is­sues over the years and has left many own­ers dis­ap­pointed, but it’s also fair to say there’s some­thing very ap­peal­ing about it.

It’s be­yond ar­gu­ment that Al­fas look beau­ti­ful with their sleek lines, sexy curves and dis­tinc­tive grille.

Slip be­hind the wheel and it’s im­pos­si­ble not to be im­pressed by the re­spon­sive han­dling and will­ing en­gines that make an Alfa such a joy to drive.

Alfa’s prob­lems have long been build qual­ity, re­li­a­bil­ity and back up. They were slop­pily built, regularly broke down and when they did there was no one to pick up the pieces. But with im­proved dis­tri­bu­tion and the fac­tory back­ing of Fiat there’s ev­ery rea­son to think the own­er­ship ex­pe­ri­ence shouldn’t be as frus­trat­ing as it once was.

The 159 was a mid-sized model sold in sedan and wagon vari­ants with a choice of petrol and diesel en­gines, man­ual, au­to­matic and self-shift­ing man­ual gear­boxes, and the op­tion of an all-wheel-drive V6.

In­side, the front seats were com­fort­able and sup­port­ive and there was am­ple head, leg and el­bow­room. The rear wasn’t quite as gen­er­ous and it could feel a bit of a squeeze for those out back.

There was a range of diesel and petrol en­gines on of­fer. The diesels con­sisted of a 1.9-litre four and a five-cylin­der 2.4litre, both tur­bocharged, while the petrol en­gines were a 2.2litre four and a 3.2-litre V6.

Depend­ing on the model the trans­mis­sion choices were a 6speed man­ual, 6-speed auto and a 6-speed Se­le­speed self­shift­ing man­ual.

All mod­els with four­cylin­der or diesel en­gines were front-wheel drive, but those with the lusty V6 were AWD.

A 1.7-litre four-cylin­der turbo en­gine be­came the en­try en­gine in 2011.

NOW

Given the check­ered history of the brand, be cau­tious when buy­ing an Alfa and have a me­chanic who is fa­mil­iar with them check your cho­sen car. That won’t guar­an­tee that you won’t have any is­sues but it should re­duce the chances.

Ask for a ser­vice record to be sure that the car you’re about to buy has been cared for. If you can, talk to the me­chanic who has been do­ing the work on it.

The feed­back we’ve had from own­ers is re­as­sur­ing with vir­tu­ally all of them heap­ing praise on their cars, and few re­port­ing any prob­lems.

There are things to watch out for though. The electrics regularly crop up in crit­i­cism of the 159, so take the time to check that ev­ery­thing is work­ing, the win­dows, door locks, air, ra­dio etc. Give ev­ery­thing a work­out.

Check the in­te­rior for bro­ken plas­tic trim parts as they can break and fall apart.

If you’re buy­ing a diesel you should be aware that they can have prob­lems with re­gen­er­a­tion of the diesel par­tic­u­late fil­ter. They don’t al­ways do it au­to­mat­i­cally, as they should, and it can mean a trip to the dealer to have it done.

The petrol en­gines have tim­ing chains, but the diesel en­gines have cam belts, which should be changed ev­ery 100,000km or four years, so make sure it’s done. A bro­ken belt can mean ex­pen­sive in­ter­nal en­gine dam­age.

OWN­ERS SAY

Roger Clark: I bought a 2011 diesel 159 Ti Auto 12 months ago. It was a one-owner car with 83,000km on the odome­ter. The tie-rod ends had to be re­placed to get it road­wor­thy but I’ve done 10,000km since and it has been to­tally re­li­able, eco­nom­i­cal and a joy to drive.

Matthew Coyle: I own a 2009 JTS Ti man­ual. De­spite my con­cerns about the frailty of Al­fas I have had ab­so­lutely no is­sues with it. Once I get well into sec­ond the en­gine kicks in and away we go. I get peo­ple ad­mir­ing it ev­ery­where I go. The only draw­back is the fuel con­sump­tion, which is about 10.5 L/100 km, but as it’s an Alfa and most of my driv­ing is in the hills I just don’t care!

Richard Jamieson: I owned a 159 1.9 JTD. I was at­tracted to the Alfa badge and also the looks. I found the 159 to be a stylish, well-made car, although it was a lit­tle heavy and not as fuel ef­fi­cient as oth­ers. It was beau­ti­ful in­side. The prob­lems were a failed elec­tronic steer­ing lock, power win­dow mo­tor and high front tyre wear, not bad for a car with the Alfa’s rep­u­ta­tion.

John McDon­ald: My 2007 2.2 JTS 159 has now done 120,000km. It’s a great car, it still looks as good as new and I have no in­ten­tion of selling it.

Craig Humphrey: I owned a Ti man­ual from 2010-2014. I love the look of the 159, it’s clas­si­cally Ital­ian. The en­gine was the 1750 TBI, which I found to be strong and lively. On the neg­a­tive side the electrics were a con­stant bug­bear and I only got 25,000 km out of the tyres.

Ed­die Sto­paynik: I bought my 159 diesel new in 2010. It’s stylish in­side and out. Fuel econ­omy is more like 13.0L/100 km than the claimed 8.0L. I’ve also had some prob­lems with the en­gine and the dealer ap­pears un­able to fix them. Now that it is five years old I’m tak­ing it to an old fash­ioned in­de­pen­dent Ital­ian car spe­cial­ist who de­liv­ers on ser­vice, prop­erly re­pairs the car and charges rea­son­able prices.

James Panas: My dad and I bought a diesel in 2008, and it’s has been phe­nom­e­nal. I was ini­tially drawn to the beau­ti­ful Ital­ian ex­te­rior and stylish, com­fort­able in­te­rior. Ad­di­tion­ally, the car has and con­tin­ues to of­fer great fuel ef­fi­ciency and per­for­mance. In some cir­cum­stances the car’s hard steer­ing and wide turn­ing cir­cle is a chal­lenge but it’s these im­per­fec­tions that makes the 159 a true Alfa Romeo.

SMITHY SAYS

Stun­ning looks can de­ceive. Won­der­ful to drive, but not nec­es­sar­ily to own.

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