It is the most unlikely combination but diesel powered convertibles are now all the rage. Alfa Romeo is one of the most stylish brands out there and there is no denying that 'Spider' is an iconic name. However, the latest version of the car made famous by Dustin Hoffman in the 1967 movie 'The Graduate' has been a bit of a slow burner.

Inspired by Giorgetto Giugiaro's Alfa Romeo Brera, the car was developed by Pinninfarina and Alfa Romeo Centro Stile. The exterior of the latest evolution is chunky and muscular - a far cry from the curves of the original boat tail Spider. The front end has hints of Brera and SZ thanks to the multiple headlights.

The Spider is of course a drop top and the double layer fabric hood is a well insulated unit. With the press of a switch it folds effortlessly into its own compartment in 25 seconds leaving the 200 litre boot untouched and equally usable roof up or down.

Spider uses Brera’s underpinnings and platform. Suspension is made up of a multilink rear end, and double wishbone front end. On anything other than smooth roads the Spider will scuttle shake at a level that is conspicuous by today's standards.

When pressed, the chassis is up to the job, however, and spirited driving is rewarded. I spent a lot of time grinning behind the wheel. The speed sensitive power steering is sharp and direct with a decent turning circle also.

There are three engine options in the range starting with a 2.2 (185bhp) petrol unit, the diesel 2.4 is the mid range offering and the range topper is the 3.2 (260bhp/V6) petrol Spider.

Under the hood of my test car lurks a five-cylinder 20 valve 'multi-jet' turbo diesel 2.4 litre engine matted to an excellent 'Q Tronic' automated manual six-speed transmission. I also had paddle shifts and a convention auto gear lever to play with, and spent a lot of time making downshifts just to hear the car blip its throttle.

The latest JTDM unit pushes out 200bhp. 0-100 comes up in 8.4 seconds while top speed is 228km/h (142mph). The 'Brembo' brakes are super and as I always say a fast car is no good if it can't stop quickly. Should you get carried away VDC (vehicle dynamic control) is standard and of course switchable.

When driven economically the Spider will stretch to 52.3mpg and average 41.5mpg! The power plant is also Euro 4 compliant and should meet Euro 5 also, so it is clean and as green as the best out there while managing to deliver excellent performance. The variable geometry turbo incorporates a 'for life' maintenance free particulate trap (DPF) - this is a good thing apparently.

If you opt for the six-cylinder petrol powered version you will have bragging rights with your mates as the car is fitted with Bosch 'platinum' spark plugs!

Michael Sheridan