The Alfa Romeo 159 is the Italian car manufacturer’s Compact Executive car range that was produced between 2005 and 2011. Unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show, it hit the showrooms as the replacement for the Alfa 156. The car was built on the GM/Fiat Premium platform, originally intended for the group’s Executive car class.
The Premium platform was heavier than the normal chassis and lead to concerns of sluggish behaviour due to the extra weight. The body shape, designed by Giorgetto Guigiaro, has a very smooth, curvy look, with the traditional, bold folded bonnet, cylindrical headlight cluster and Alfa shaped grille at the front. The rear rounds off to either a hatchback or saloon shape with inset, wrap around tail-lights and matching bumpers.
The interior has a typical Alfa style with instruments designed to be easily read by the driver. Giugiaro’s layout was intended to compete with the style and elegance of Mercedes and BMW cars giving the occupants a high level of comfort.
Changes brought in during 2009 were, due to the cars much acclaimed looks, purely mechanical or alterations to the internal layout. The car did receive the new bee sting aerial and the Ti package had impressive new alloy wheels. There was also a Sportswagon version introduced at the same time, which is capable of carrying 445 litres. When the rear seats are folded down this increases to 850 litres of cargo space.
In 2009 the drive train was updated with the fitting of the new 2.4L JTD turbo diesel which combined excellent performance figures and economical driving to make it the most popular version of the Alfa 159. Pick up for the Alfa went from 0-100Km/h in 8.4 seconds from the 154Km engine and it generates 179g/Km of CO2. The gearbox was also updated with the 6-speed, Q Tronic automatic delivering timely gear changes and smooth operations.
The other engine option is the 2.2L petrol, linked to a 6-speed manual gearbox, which can reach 100km/h in 8.8 seconds. Here fuel economy runs at a combined rate of 7.3L/100Km, while the 2.4 achieves the same run on 6.8 litres. The earlier models installed with the 1.8L MPI were, due to the extra weight, a little slow off the mark averaging 100Km/h in 10.6 seconds.
Across the range the Alfa 159 performs well, with good control and nice predictable steering, and the Q4 4x4 eagerly hugs the road.
As standard kit, the Alfa 159 comes equipped with climate control, cruise control, powered sunroof, alloy wheels, parking aid, power steering and for safety reasons it is also fitted with seven airbags. Knee bags were offered as an optional extra. All have the rake/reach steering wheel, leather upholstery, central locking and ABS. The later models come with plenty of connectivity with a touch-screen info centre, Bluetooth hands free capability, USB/iPod ports and CD/radio player.
All the little extra safety features and devices give the 159 an excellent five-star ANCAP rating. The inclusion of seatbelt pretensions, ASR traction control, EBD, stability control and Hill Holder function all make this a car that stays on the road, out of harms way.
Those who fancy a higher quality leather interior can opt for the luxurious Pieno Fiore or the sporty Alcantara leather seating with heating and memory settings and electric folding mirrors, all in an optional metallic finish.
On performance the Alfa 159 hatchback compares equally with the Hyundai Getz, Kia Rio Sedan, Mazda 2 and the Suzuki Swift. On style, it is leagues ahead of the competition. The longer, larger sportswagon sees itself bracketed against the Audi A4, BMW Touring, and the Mercedes C220 CDi. Against these the Alfa holds its own and again out paces the competition in terms of looks and style.
The Italian style really shines through against the practicality of German design, and Alfa have managed to take a little from their rivals in the engineering stakes. Like all Alfa’s, the 159 is not perfect but it looks pretty good despite its unpredictable elements.
Residuals are always a problem and the competition holds value better, which is somewhat unfair as the reliability and mechanical issues commonly queried in Alfa cars are less than they were. What it will mean is that picking up a bargain is more likely if the Alfa 159 is chosen over its rivals.