The new Alfa Romeo 159 is a stunner to look at. Jaw dropping lines and some super engine options are sure to leave BMW 3 series and Audi A4 owners more than a little jealous.

Alfa Romeo says the 159 is not a 156 replacement - yeah right! Elegant and modern when viewed head-on the Giugiaro designed 159 is reminiscent of the 156 at its launch - a feast for the eyes. Sadly the 156’s semi-hidden rear door handles are no more, this was a real talking point when the 156 was launched but now the 159’s headlights will prove the most interesting exterior feature. Overall the car has grown, which is good news for ‘big’ executives. It looks purposeful and squat from any angle. The new Alfa has built in aggression without appearing thug like. You will simply smile walking up to it.

Inside the cabin is larger than the 156 but headroom is limited courtesy of the low set roofline. The driver as ever gets all the toys pointed their way including a few 70s style dials I haven’t seen for a few years in a production car.  

On the go, the bad news is the famous Alfa raspy exhaust note is gone; there isn’t even a hint of a growl from the 1.9 JTS or 1.9 JTD I tested. This is no doubt down to nasty EU regulations but the aural loss is a real shame. One of the best sounding cars I ever tested was the 156 GTA (3.2 V6) that growled like a demented lion – it was fantastic!

Handling is far more civilized than in the 156, plus now there is a good chance passengers will actually enjoy the ride. The steering is precise and quick in the front-wheel drive car and the brakes are reassuringly sharp. All 159’s get a 6-speed gearbox, which helps with fuel economy but also aids ‘progressive’ driving. The suspension is double wishbones up front and a multi-link set up in the rear. 16 inch alloys are standard on ‘Tourismo’ versions with 17s on ‘Sportivo’ specified cars.

The price has risen from 156 with the entry 159 costing a serious €36,550 (rising to €49,300 for the 3.2 4X4) but what is very interesting is the hit Alfa Romeo is taking on its diesels. Traditionally diesel variants are a grand or two more expensive to buy than their petrol equivalents but not with the 159. €36,550 gets you a 1.9 petrol (JTS) or 1.9 diesel (JTD).
This clever bit of marketing is really going to throw the cat amongst the pigeons as Alfa’s JTDs are not only excellent motors but miles cheaper than their rivals. JTD power comes in three outputs, 120bhp (1.9 litre 8 valve) 150bhp (1.9 litre 16 valve) or 200bhp (2.4 litre 5 cylinder 20 valve).

There should be a 159 for everyone as it is made up of a nine car range with six engine options varying in output from 120bhp to 260bhp (and four-wheel drive). There is also a good all-in service deal and 2+1 warranty.

37,000 cars will be sold in the ‘D’ sector (Avensis/Mondeo etc) in 2006, 7,000 of those will be premium marques like the Alfa Romeo 159. There is no denying Alfa Romeo makes very pretty cars but sadly I know too many heartbroken Alfa owners who’ve been let down by poor reliability in the past. Let’s hope the 159 can rebuild Alfa Romeo’s reputation.

Michael Sheridan