Alfa Romeo 159 Sportwagon review
The Alfa Romeo 159 Sportwagon is a stylish addition to the lifestyle estate ranks. It's fast, involving and fun to drive
The Alfa Romeo 159 Sportwagon mixes the styling flair we've come to expect from the Italian car maker with a range of punchy diesel engines and a practical estate car body. This isn't an estate car in the mould of the gigantic Skoda Superb Estate or legendary Volvo V70, but as a user-friendly alternative family car, it fits the bill.
Gorgeous Italian looks set the 159 Sportwagon apart from the rest of the family estate car crowd. Its distinctive headlamps, off-set front numberplate and sleekly-styled body are all pure Alfa Romeo. If you want to turn heads, the 159 SW is a sure-fire way to do it. Inside the evocative cabin features trademark Alfa Romeo details, including a sporty trio of dials on the centre console and deeply cowled instruments in front of the driver.
There isn't really a weak engine in the line-up and the impressive 1750 TBi petrol is the most potent choice. The turbocharged 1.8-litre unit delivers 200bhp and 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds, but you pay the price at the pumps - claimed economy is only 34mpg. The more efficient 2.0-litre JTDm diesel comes in two states of tune, with either 136bhp or 170bhp, and both are strong performers. The driving experience is as sporty as the car's looks suggest, with responsive steering and agile handling.
From a safety perspective the Alfa Romeo 159 Sportwagon is competitive. When it was originally tested by Euro NCAP the saloon was awarded five stars for adult protection. It comes with six airbags as standard, as well as electronic stability control. A knee airbag for the front passenger is an optional extra. When it comes to reliability, Alfa has patchy history but its recent efforts are vastly improved. The firm ranked a 25th in our 2011 Driver Power satisfaction survey.
The 159 Sportwagon is a lifestyle estate. What does that mean? Well if you think of it as a hatchback, rather than an out-and-out estate, you'll be on the right track. The boot has a relatively small opening as well as a high loading lip, and it's not the biggest around, either. It provides 445 litres of luggage space with the rear seats in place, and a modest 1,245 when they're folded - so it's better suited to picking up the shopping than a piece of antique furniture.
Prices are competitive for a premium model - although you'll pay more than for a comparable estate from a mainstream manufacturer - and the diesel engines provide decent efficiency and economy. The low output 136bhp diesel has claimed economy of 54.3mpg and CO2 emissions of 137g/km. However, rivals like the Audi A4 Avant and BMW 3 Series Touring are even cleaner, making the Alfa Romeo 159 SW a left-field choice for most company car buyers. Resale values aren't up to the high standards of its German rivals, but even entry-level models come with Bluetooth connectivity and cruise control as standard.