The Alfa Romeo 159 – Head vs Heart

Way back in 2006 Alfa Romeo launched the 159 to compete with the German trio, namely the Mercedes Benz C Class, BMW 3 series, and Audi’s A4. Critics says it didn’t quite get there. Criticizing the materials as not quite “there” yet, and labeling the power plant as a lazy and thirsty. By the time Alfa remedied this with the 1750 tbi variant, it was too late. Every body else moved on, and Alfa was left behind. Or were they?

The 159 was Alfa’s attempt at escaping the assumption that all Alfa’s are unreliable, and if online forums can be believed, this seems to be the case.

Alfa Romeo 159

The Setup

Running with a variety of engines ranging from 1.8 all the way up to the 3.2 V6, including some diesel variants, Alfa managed to keep the platform exclusive to the 159 and the Brera. There are some GM cars that uses the same engine setup, but don’t think for a while that Alfa copied them, it is in fact the other way round.

While engine options vary, the rest of the car stays pretty much the same, offering Automated headlights, rain sensing headlights, duel zone climate control, ABS, EBD, stability control, Heated seats and mirrors, electronically adjustable driver seats, 7 airbags, cd/mp3/bluetooth, a big button to start you engine,  a 5 star Euro NCAP rating, and, and, and.



The looks

There is absolutely no denying the fact that even after 12 years, the Alfa has barely aged. The headlights, the subtle curves along the side, the flared wheel arches at the back, all of it ensures that there is not one single angle this car seems unattractive.

The Italian design and extravegance goes on further on the inside. Two giant tunnels face you, while the console faces the driver. Nothing about the car says boring, nothing about it is cold and distant. One fat reviewer said it’s very “plasticy” and the switches feels cheap. While there my be a bit more plastic in prominent places, it does not feel cheap, the switches are fine too.


Has the Alfa lost its Alfaness?

No. When you are buying one of these beauties, there is an entire checklist to go through. So lets start.

Earlier models came with the wrong power steering fluid. The fluid should be green, and not red. The engine sub-frame is prone to rust. Improper wheel alignment may cause excessive wear, requiring a fortune on tyres. The 1.9 and 2.2 jtm models have issues where the timing chain stretches. Some of them has issues with the rear door locks.

Did you notice something in the paragraph above? There is no mechanical issues, except for the timing chain in only two of the variants. User forms and owners clubs report some “niggles” but in general that it still a proper Alfa.

The Drive

While I must be honest in saying I have not driven one (YET), one of the issues that was mentioned is the seating position. While it’s German rivals offers seats you sit IN, the Alfa has seats you sit ON. I can believe that statement if it is the same as the 156. That being said, I would not think it to be uncomfortable.

It is said that while the steering is not as sharp as the BMW, the Alfa is direct, and gives adequite feedback. It is after all a car for passionate drivers. This Alfa loves long and bendy roads, and I have never seen one where the owner is not smiling while driving.


When Alfa caught up and made the 1750 tbi engine available as an option, this Alfa was taken seriosly. The 1750 tbi has a 4 cylinder 16v turbo, down-tuned to produce close to 200bhp. Torque is rated at 320Nm @ 2000 rpms, but it keeps it al the way to the red line. A 0-100km/h sprint will take only 7.7 seconds, and it will happily oblige to take you all the way to 235km/h. If the 156 is anything to go by in terms of handling, I do suspect it will stay solid, unlike the Infiniti Q50, which feels like it’s going to take off any minute.



These majestic cars are relatively affordable, with the average price for a low mileage (sub 100k) going for between R140-R150,000 for a 2012 model.

If I am looking for a car, I can understand that there are better alternatives available, and maybe even more sensible. However, as things stand now, I will be hard pressed not to take one of the beauties home with me, it is after all the heart that will win this battle.


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Juan Loubser

I am an old fashioned 30 year balding, ham fisted egghead, with a love for mechanical engineering, Victorian era architecture. There was always something about cars, and up to this day I cannot put my finger on it, the easiest way to explain it would be to like it to something you just understand, you get it, you don’t know why or how, but it’s something you've understood all your life. With Torquesteer I have created a couple of Goals. One is to tour the little market town of Todmorden, England in a MG B roadster, and the Second is to do the US route 66 in true american muscle style. Driving a Tesla is also on the list.

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