Alfa Romeo 159 Hatchback review (2005-2012)
Great to drive, generously equipped, affordable to run and buy, the 159 ticks all the right boxes while appealing on an emotional level too.
The 159 lives up to its sporting looks from behind the wheel. The steering is ideally suited to the task, with just the right amount of self-centring and weight. Feel, precision, resistance to kickback - it's got the lot. The 159 is no faster round bends than its rivals, but does feel particularly planted and stable. Front-wheel-drive executive saloons don't get any better than this. The pay-off, however, is in the ride quality. It's not crashy or jarring, but it is quite firm. Those large tyres create a fair bit of road noise over some surfaces too, making it a less tranquil travelling companion than it could be. And due to the long bonnet, parking can be a little stressful at times, while vision through the rear screen is restricted. Alfa offers a varied engine range, and we love the characterful five-cylinder turbodiesel, but most sales will be of the responsive 1.9-litre turbodiesel. They'll outsell four-cylinder and V6 petrol engines by some margin.
Giorgetto Giugiaro has been responsible for styling some of Alfa's most beautiful cars, and the 159 is the icing on an already tasty cake. It looks great from any angle, but the front is the most striking aspect - those headlamps are simply stunning. The range is large, with a choice of saloon or 'lifestyle estate' Sportwagon bodystyles, nine engines and various trims. Lusso spec, with standard ribbed leather, looks particularly keenly priced. The BMW 3-Seires is its key rival, but competition will also be fierce, with the Audi A4, Mercedes C-Class, Lexus IS and Saab 9-3 all battling hard.
The cabin nearly matches the body for sophistication and style. Sunken dials, an aluminium centre console and the wraparound dashboard wouldn't look out of place on a £50,000 sports car. The starter button is a bit gimmicky, but Alfa even pulls this off. There's evidence of cost-cutting in some of the switchgear, though. Storage space is also at a premium, but despite its flaws, the Alfa's cockpit feels special - rare in the traditionally conservative sphere of executive car design. Comfortable seats are supportive and front a near-perfect driving position. There's decent legroom in the back, but due to the sloping roofline, tall passengers will find themselves hunched over. The boot is also impractical, with a small opening and shallow, short load space. The seatbacks don't fold down and there is no external boot release. The warranty is good though, and retained values show some promise as Alfa strives to close the gap to German brands here. Fuel economy of the JTD diesels is very good and extended service intervals mean 18,000 mile gaps between checks. The car also has the benefit of a five-star Euro NCAP assessment, too.