By on March 3, 2008

v533567sxlzsmqa.jpgI’m sitting in an Alfa 147, about to fire her up. I cast my mind back to the Alfasud: a beautiful, mellifluous, affordable vehicle that introduced a generation of drivers to the joys of performance motoring. I remember summer evenings in an open Spider, a peerless pre-Miata combination of boulevardier and Lotus-like lane pilot; a car whose zingy note merged happily with the sound of estival insects. I also conjure-up a trip to France in a sonorous, serious, quick-steering Giulia, where I felt like a character in a Truffaut movie. So, will the 147 be another driver’s Alfa that rasps, bites and feels alive?

The 147 is one of those cars that look much better in person than in pictures. It has the heritage Milan chrome grill, squinty eyes, swoopy curves and some clever gimmicks (e.g. concealed rear door handles). The car appears sturdy and well-made in detail. Yet seen next to a Saturnopel Astra, the Alfa is ferociously feminine and feline. Only the Italian’s soft rear-end fails to impress. Still, is there a car in the small-hatchback class that looks better? The Euro-Civic is more space-age. The Citroen C4 rocks die Bauhaus. But the Alfa’s svelte figure has the edge in both aesthetics and athleticism.

v533572sxlzsmqa.jpgThe 147’s interior is also more sculpted and shapely than its competition. As in Bimmers of yore, the Italian’s instruments are oriented toward the driver. The dashboard design is more playful than a 3-Series, without the MINI’s overarching silliness. The 147 also offer some notable tactile delights: the grab handles are pleasantly rubbery (in a Teutonically tactile kinda way), the doors clothed in Alcantara and the steering wheel feels friggin’ fantastic.

The 147’s cabin is not without its demerits. The A-beams are hard, sad-looking and overly thick (low Cd is in, visibility is out). The silver plastic on the middle console is cheap, with a too-prominent cupholder for a car with sporty pretensions. Still, with seats that grip and support in equal measure, plenty of headroom in the front and more than merely adequate legroom for two in the rear, the 147 provides a pleasurable, Italianate place in which to savor la dolce vita.

v533575sxlzsmqa.jpgAt idle, the Alfa’s quiet. At low revs, 1.6-liter Twin Spark emits nice growly bass note and a pleasant singing high note. The 120-horse engine’s not as charismatic or aggressive as boxers of olde, yet it’s still a musical bit of mechanical artistry. Above 4000 rpm, it all goes a bit pear-shaped; the engine note becomes rough and slightly intrusive. That said…

Open road. Open throttle. Not to coin a phrase, WOHOO! Five thousand, six thousand, seven thousand– this engine can't get enough revs. It’s gone from singing to screaming and I've gone from smiling to grinning. Though the hungry 147 is slow in absolute turns– zero to sixty take a shade over ten seconds– and you have the rev the shit out of it to get there, it’s multo divertimento. Dammit.

v533579uijmsqdx.jpgThe 147’s chassis ain't no killjoy either. The Alfa not only corners neutrally but provides great throttle-steer fun. Back off in a curve and your radius tightens. Or step on the gas to correct beginning lift-off oversteer. The suspension set-up is compliant and absorbs bumps pretty well; even potholes in town don't feel particularly crashy. The steering is communicative and exact, albeit very direct. Overall, you get that feeling of fluency through the twisties that’s the mark of a sophisticated driver’s car.

So, it's a good looking, involving drive; a highly interesting car amongst vapidity. In fact, the Alfa Romeo 147 could be a strong competitor to the Audi A3, at Ford Focus prices. The operative word being “could.”

Like many machines, the 147 tells the keen observer a story. Here, it's about a company that ran out of money and decided to focus on its brand values, rather than take on its rivals’ well-rounded maturity. In other words, this Alfa reeks of underdevelopment. The gearshift action is imprecise, and the middle arm rest is in the way. The key fob buttons are illegible and the climate controls inscrutable. The turning circle is gigantic. Tire noise is ever-present and the basic ride jiggly.

v533578sxlzsmqa.jpgWorse, the Alfa has mediocre crash-test ratings, which it probably only met through last-minute structural reinforcements, which feel as if they’ve added weight. Underway, the 147 is a lively and willing beast, but it achieves that performance through short gear ratios. The engine screams at high speeds and parties (i.e. swallows fuel) like it’s 1999. I averaged 24 MPG, but 14 MPG is do-able.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m in love with this car. But I hate it too. Let's hope its successor (the 149, which will arrive later this year and might make it stateside), retains the 147's irresistible personality and banishes its bugbears.

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53 Comments on “Alfa Romeo 147 1.6-liter Twin Spark Review...”


  • avatar
    shaker

    Sorry, but the Alfa you describe looks (in side profile) like a Rabbit, but isn’t as composed, and dynamically seems somewhat inferior to the Astra (which I think looks better).
    I guess if you have to be “different”, this car fills the bill.
    And that grille looks like it would make “first contact” (in a bad way) with “objecte de alien”.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    i miss alfa so bad – there are no better engines than the italian ones – that scream sends chills up my spine. The handling – mamma mia!

    There are pity few sexy cars in the states, even fewer that i can afford – how nice to have a sexy beast in the driveway.

    sigh.

  • avatar
    trd2345

    @ shaker:

    I’m studying abroad in France right now, so I’m seeing lots of these little Alfa’s roaming the streets. I generally don’t like hatchbacks, but it is a very sleek car: when the writer says it looks better in person than in pictures, he couldn’t be more correct.

  • avatar
    virages

    Hey wow, great post, finally some one has reviewed my car… I have the 2.0l 150hp, selespeed, the one with the sequential gearbox. I agree with pretty much everything that has been said in the article. Handling and steering is great. I haven’t had a car that felt this good just turning the wheel.

    As for looks I have the 2001 version which don’t have the squinty eyes. I really think that mid cycle refreshes mess up the original designer’s intentions. In my opinion, the squinty was just to make it look more like the 159, but it doesn’t work. The back lights too were dulled (toyotafied) in the last iteration.

    The motor in my version is a silky smooth (for a four banger) high rever. I love it and to me, it is the best engine for this model. It gets the 0-100km in around 9 (never measured), but is hampered by the overal weight of the chassis. What is good tho, is the linear torque that is available everywhere. And as with the 1.6, it is a thirsty beast, I’ve been able to get 32mpg feathering it, but punch it and the numbers go tumbling. An engine any bigger will just unbalance an already nose heavy car. I hear that the 3.2l V6 is a torquesteer beast.

    The sequential gearing works pretty well, it shifts smoothly for the most part, and gets more agressive when the pedal is down, but I am sure it is thoroughly out classed by the new DSGs. The computerized clutch action is a bit twitchy starting up cold in the morning. Just make sure not to double park it, and it should be alright for your bumpers.

    I loved the drive and the good looks of this car, but all good things have to end though. Mine is a three door, and with the first born due in a few months more doors will be necessary. I am trying to sell mine, but with an initial asking price of 9000 euros in a local paper, I got exactly zero replies. I’ll have to lower and retry. Alfas don’t have the resale value that they deserve.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Is it just me? From the pictures, I see the new Subaru Impreza with the old Tribeca nose. The same side flutes running above the beltline as well. Since the Alfa designer went to work for Subaru, I’m not surprised.

    Maybe it does look a lot better in the “flesh”. The Impreza doesn’t.

    That said, it’s disappointing that the Alfa has mediocre crash test ratings, while the Impreza is tops. If the Italians are ever going to get back into the North American market, much work has to be done.

  • avatar
    JJ

    That said, it’s disappointing that the Alfa has mediocre crash test ratings, while the Impreza is tops. If the Italians are ever going to get back into the North American market, much work has to be done.

    Nah…not that much work, maybe no work at all…

    The 147 had 3 stars when it was first tested by EuroNCAP in 2001, which around that time definitely wasn’t good but not unforgivably bad either. Most cars in that segment at that time like the Golf/Rabbit and the Astra of that time had 4 stars. The first cars in the same segment to get 5 stars was the new for 2002 Renault Megane. The 147 was never tested again since the redesign, which might have given it an extra star (since cars also get points for having a seatbelt warning system etc, things that IMHO don’t necessarily affect internal security of the chassis/car). Still, right now it’s not the safest car around.

    However, the new FIAT Bravo which uses the same chassis the new 149 will use (and the Lancia Delta), has already been tested for 5 stars, which is the highest score but also class standard these days. So, basically if they don’t do anything stupid those 5 stars are in the bag. I think it even has the knee-airbag that is the newest addition to passive safety features in cars.

    Oh…and as a European I support the notion it looks better in the flesh, as well as that the version before the facelift looks better.

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    Alfa saloons have come a long way since the 67 Sprint GT Veloce with its throat sounding dual side-draft Webers.

    …. back when we didn’t worry about EuroNCAP crash tests.

  • avatar
    Zarba

    A wonderful little car.

    If Alfa actually movs the bulk of their fleet to rear-drive, as has been reported, then they could really have something.

    Unfortunately, the rumor also has them buying the chassis from GM, which is not so good.

    Oh, how I miss my 164Q. But not the repair bills.

  • avatar

    The 120-horse engine’s not as charismatic or aggressive as boxers of olde, yet it’s still a musical bit of mechanical artistry.

    I’m puzzled by this statement; I don’t recall an Alfa with a boxer engine. Did they buy Lancia powertrains for some of their small Euro-only sedans?

  • avatar
    Vega

    @edgett: starting in 1972 in the Alfasud, later the 33 and up until the late 90s the Alfa 145 (partly) were driven by (Alfa -developed) boxer engines.

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    Great review brings back memories, I really miss my Alfa. Some people understand Alfas and drive the shit out of them and the ones that don’t head over to their local appliance dealer. I dont think the styling looks bad in the pictures, nice lines. Does this 147 have the typical Italian overly far position from the steering wheel? Are there any better pictures of inside tha cabin?

    edgett none of the boxer engines were ever imported to the States, like most euro cars we only get a small offering of what is available in europe.

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    $30,000 + MSRP

    Terrible crash test ratings

    0-60 in ten seconds (under the punishment of a whopping 120 horsepower!)

    Famed Alfa reliability, durability and dependability!

    14 mpg when caned! 24 mpg when not!

    When I was downunder, these things were obviously languishing on the dealer lots. Now I know why.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    The 147 is one of those cars that look much better in person than in pictures.

    It couldn’t look worse.

    Martin, nice review.

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    In the USA there is only one shape of car that looks like an Alpha. This isn’t it.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    I wonder what happen to Alfa Romeo and I hate looking at those front end. geez!!!!

    Would you prefer buying this model? at least the front end is not so obvious
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Alfa_Romeo_8C_front.jpg

  • avatar
    1981.911.SC

    maybe I missed it, but how the heck did it get a 4-Star rating? Just reading the last few paragraphs makes me think 2 stars, then add in slow, poor quality, poor ride, noisy, and thirsty.
    I think Martin is giving Alpha a pass. This is a crappy car that is behind in technology, behind in performance and way too expensive.
    Jalopnik tells it like it is for domestic manufacturers, it should do the same for all!!!

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    Compare to Mazdaspeed Mazda 3:

    MSRP: Alfa $30,000; Mazda 3 MS $23,000

    Horsepower: Alfa 120; MS3 263

    0-60: Alfa 10+; MS3 5.6 (A Chevrolet Aveo does 0-60 in about the same as an Alfa)

    MPG: Alfa 14 city, 24 highway: MS3 18 city, 26 HWY

    Crash test: Alfa poor; MS3 5 stars;

    Reliability: Alfa left in the middle of the night, escaping the imminent clutches of the law in their last unsavory bout in the US; MS3 Japanese

    It is pretty easy to understand why Alfa is no longer sold in the US, notwithstanding the overt pining for their return on this site.

  • avatar
    whatdoiknow1

    How about some irony here.

    Yeah, we all claim to want exciting cars but I am positive that 99% of the people that come to TTAC would BUY that Matrix over this POS in a heartbeat!

    The problem with Alfas it that they NEVER seem to live up to the promise of excitiment. They did have a special Italian flare to them but as REAL cars they absolutely suck. Poor Ergonomics, poor fit and finsh, rust, badly designed components, etc.

    In reality Alfas are nothing more that low-end european shitboxes pretending to be performance cars. That dog and pony show might work in Europe but it wont fly in the USA.

    Yeah go buy that Alfa!

  • avatar
    incitatus

    I am curious how well does this car go with Mr. Farago’s flyingvaginasfobia? To me this car looks from the front just like a smaller B9 Tribeca. Any comments RF?

  • avatar
    CuoreSprtv

    Larry P2 why are you comparing it with MS3? It’s no 30gs, more like 14, and if you want to compare it with MS3, compare it to GTA version (not sure if they still make it though) with the famous Alfa’s 3.2 V6. And yes, I like it more pre-restyle. I still think for a 8 year old car, it looks fresh and more interesting that most of the compacts today.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    In this case “the grass always looks greener on the other side of the (ocean) fence” may not apply.

  • avatar

    incitatus :

    I am curious how well does this car go with Mr. Farago’s flyingvaginasfobia? To me this car looks from the front just like a smaller B9 Tribeca. Any comments RF?

    Thanks for asking. The therapy seems to be working.

  • avatar
    AKM

    In reality Alfas are nothing more that low-end european shitboxes pretending to be performance cars. That dog and pony show might work in Europe but it wont fly in the USA.

    Yeah right. That’s why I see monte Carlos SS, Cadillac escalades, Lincoln Navigators, and other crapboxes pretending to be luxurious on the road everyday. People will be badge snobs regardless of the country.

    The 147 is the car that single-handedly revived the luxury compact segment in Europe. It’s definitely flawed (and yes, it looked better before the mid cycle redesign and is now severely outdated), but this goes to its credit, having led to the Audi A3, BMW 1-series, and more generally, upgrades to most vehicles in the segment, delivering some of the finest quality-for-price cars of today, such as the Mazda3, Citroen C4, Honda civic (euro spec), and so on.

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    In Australia, MSRP on these things is $37,000. THe AU dollar is worth $1.07 to the US Dollar. Do the math. In good old Britain, they go from 15,000 to 19000 Pounds. The US dollar goes at 50 cents to the pound today.

    http://www.drive.com.au/Editorial/ArticleDetail.aspx?ArticleID=10203

    On Christmas Day in Christchurch, NZ, I looked at the window sticker on one of these (and there were a gawdawful bunch of them languishing) at $45,000 NZ (when NZ buck was worth .80 US). I staggered backwards, clutching at my chest. Somebody must really love alfas downunder!

    Here’s a used 2007 model in NZ being sold by a dealer:

    http://www.trademe.co.nz/Trade-Me-Motors/Cars/Alfa-romeo/auction-119904249.htm?key=105174

    So while my comparisons aren’t exact, they are the best I can come up with.

    What would they cost if they were made to comply with US safety and emissions standards, IFhey could be made to comply? In NZ, where they don’t, it appears the market has resoundingly rejected Alfa’s all-out sales blitz. They sell but a pitiful handful there. Maybe its just me, but something tells me that Alfa would dearly love to get a piece of the massive North American market. Yet they don’t. I bet they have done some market research and have concluded that the Alfa brand is the kiss of death.

    One British reviewer found that the Alfa did 0-60 in closer to 11 seconds. That’s truly, epically embarassing!

  • avatar
    Geotpf

    Due to taxes, currency differences, and other things, cars (in general) are significantly more expensive in Europe than in the US. Clearly, this wouldn’t cost $30k+ if it was sold in the US.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    It has the heritage Milan chrome grill, squinty eyes, swoopy curves and some clever gimmicks (e.g. concealed rear door handles).

    The pictured car has rear doors?

  • avatar
    CuoreSprtv

    Looks like it cost in roughly the same as a base MINI Cooper (which is actually made there too), so no way it can be translated into 30k american

  • avatar
    virages

    Common you people dumping on the car. When the thing came out at the end of 2000 it was a game changing car. The thing had passion, wasn’t too expensive compared to the Audis and BMWs in the same range, and handled exquisitely. But that was 8 years ago. Now the euro is selling for $1.50 instead of $0.76… so you can’t compare this thing to a Corrola, the driving dynamics aren’t the same despite the small engine in the one reviewed, and the price range is misleading.

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    Alfa’s troubles make the American 2.8 look like child’s play. North American Market Share? Heck, they packed up fled in the middle of the night!

    Google “Alfa Romeo” with “bailout” or “troubled” or “government subsidy” if you want a clear picture of a once proud marque.

    The time for the TTAC “death watch” is long past, this is a company that is brain dead and has been on artificial life support for decades, waiting only for a court order to turn off the respirator.

    This is not a competitive car from a competitive company. Alfa sells cars in niche markets with lax or nonexistent safety, emissions and economy standards. Why are there so many Alfa dealers in NZ with so few Mazda dealers? Because Mazda focuses on the lucrative US market (Miata: the best British roadster ever designed in California for the California market). Alfa can’t compete here and so it doesn’t.

  • avatar
    frontline

    Kinda simple : Alfa brings in the MiTo at $ 20,000 base with a 4 and half star crash rating****and a 5 yr 75,000 mile on every inch of it and all the testers like it almost as much as the Mini and Alfa just might have a chance! Maybe.

  • avatar
    synthetic

    As others mentioned, the 4 star rating is very questionable.

    The car is lacking in every department. As subjective as a car’s looks might be, this one is plain silly. The statement that it looks better in person might hold true, but by how much?!

    A 120HP engine getting below 30MPG and when pushed as thursty as a freaking Escalade?! All that for a 0-60 of over 10 seconds?

    Questionable safety, reliability and a jaw-dropping price badged as a virtually bankrupt marque like Alfa can only get a 4 out of 5 on an online review. Everywhere else, the underestimated Mazda 3, Miata, Civic, and even the rediculed Cobalt win by a landslide.

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    I got passed by one of the new Alfa Spiders outside of Nelson, NZ while I was lumbering along in my heavily-loaded Toyota Corona saloon. Although it pulled away, it didn’t pull away with much, if any urgency. Here’s the skinny:

    http://driving.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/driving/new_car_reviews/article1428800.ece

    A $60,000 US car that does 0-60 in 8.8 seconds is pretty much underwhelming. And then there is the hotrodded version, for $10,000 more that does 0-60 in ….. yawn……ummm, where did I leave the Fritos this time…… hold it ……..7 seconds. Did I hear you say 7 seconds?

    And a whopping 260 horsepower. Wow.

    For 70 large, you should rightfully expect and get deep into the fours. A $60,000 car in the high eights is nothing short of a scandal!

    The Europeans, because they have no choice but to buy this garbage, are far less fawning about them than Americans.

  • avatar
    Vega

    Ok guys, cool down. While the 147 is in dire need of a followup, it’s not as bad as you think. And Alfa bankrupt? No it isn’t. It’s owned by Fiat, sharing a lot of platforms and thus won’t go anywhere. And please people, stop hating on the scudetto grill (also no Subaru comparisons please). It’s called heritage. Google Giulietta Spider and you’ll know what I mean.
    And if you really want to cry about what you’re missing out on in the US, take a look at a 159 sportwagon.

    Oh, and pease please stop using European prices directly converted to Dollars to compare car prices, because: a) prices in Europe are generally higher (partly due to included VAT) and b) it’s not that Europe has been getting more expensive in the last few years, the US has become cheap. European wages and prices didn’t suddenly collapse just because the Dollar has tanked. Stop being so USA-centric.

  • avatar
    Vega

    Larry P2: Did your girlfriend cheat on you with an Alfa driver? You seem to be very angry at the brand…

    “Alfa sells cars in niche markets with lax or nonexistent safety, emissions and economy standards”

    Yeah, niche markets like Europe.

    “Why are there so many Alfa dealers in NZ with so few Mazda dealers? Because Mazda focuses on the lucrative US market”

    Yeah, cause everybody knows that any brand has only a globally limited nubmer of dealers. That’s why many US dealers means —> no NZ dealers. Right. Oh, and at EUR/USD 1.50, the US market is not a lucrative market for a european company.

    Judging a brand from the viewpoint of a small and remote niche market (like NZ, population 4.3m) can obviously be quite distorting.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Due to taxes, currency differences, and other things, cars (in general) are significantly more expensive in Europe than in the US. Clearly, this wouldn’t cost $30k+ if it was sold in the US.

    That’s correct. Cars are much more expensive in most of the world in comparison to the US. In addition to taxes, etc., a lot of it is due to the size of the US market. Practically everyone wants a piece of it, and they need to sell cars for less if they are to compete in a country with 300 million people.

    Just one example — a VW Passat with a 2.0 liter gas turbo and manual transmission carries an MSRP of $24,680. In the UK, the same car with similar equipment carries a retail price of L21,525, or about $43,000. In France, it would cost E34,400, or about $51,000.

    The comparison isn’t apples to apples, because the European prices include tax, license fees, etc.. But even those components don’t explain the entire price difference.

    If Alfa sold these here, they would have to be priced more in line with the competition. Not that they could sell many of them — most Americans wouldn’t touch a low-priced Italian car if you put a gun to their heads.

  • avatar
    JJ

    Funny how Alfa leaving the US market in 1995 still has so big of an influence on Alfa’s US brand perception today.

    Alfa today makes cars that can compete with the other offerings in the market regardless of image and styling. To get to that point, every car they launched in the last 10 years or so has been a big improvement over its predecessors, as will be the new 149 when it will be here, which we already know because the previously mentioned FIAT Bravo upon which it will be based is a good car with modern small turbocharged engines, as can be seen in this TV commercial, now with bonus zjerman language dialogue.

    Bravo Schuey Raikkonen

    Bravo

    And on the pricing issue; after all stupid taxes and rediculous green taxes, a base Porsche Cayenne Turbo can be yours in the Netherlands for 163,973 Euro, which against 1.50 would be US$245,959.50. So translating European prices into US prices really doesn’t serve too many points.

  • avatar
    shaker

    PCH101:
    “…most Americans wouldn’t touch a low-priced Italian car if you put a gun to their heads.”

    The nail has been hit…

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    “Larry P2: Did your girlfriend cheat on you with an Alfa driver?”

    Worse. I owned an Alfa.

    It was the sorriest POS ever built. It sucked gas, was slower than a candied turd, and dreadfully, suicidally unreliable.

    Once I luckily escaped from ownership, at a steeply discounted price, it caused much searing soul searching about my personal character defects that drove me into making such an terrible decision.

    Alfa’s are made for people with too much money coupled with no personal merit. They are a dandy’s car: all superficial looks and pizzaz and no substance. I imagine if Alfa ever does return to the US market, it will focus on Las Vegas and Hollywood. B level actors, lounge lizards and all the other oily hoi poloi.

    BTW, when the aging and obsolete Alfa Duetto was last sold new in the United States in the late 80′s and early 90′s, it sold for in excess of 30 large. This is when a new loaded Miata could be had for $18,000.

    I doubt they have come to their senses about pricing since. Why would they, apparently theres some Alfa koolaid drinkers out there.

    And owned by Fiat? We won’t discuss that troubled company’s connections with GM, now will we?

  • avatar
    BigChiefMuffin

    My first car was an Alfasud, 20 odd years ago. It was wonderful. My brother and mother both had Spyders around then – they were flawed but fun. I drove a 147 last year, really wanting to fall in love with an Alfa again. But, no matter how hard my heart tried to delude myself, my head just kept on saying “this is quite a good car, but there are better cars about. Furthermore, in the UK, the Alfa dealer service is just appalling”. Much as I wanted to, I just couldn’t do it..

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    PCH is correct about the low price italian car stigma. It’s one thing for your Ferrari to be in the shop…

    Still, they could do a good niche business here again. I would recommend they improve the gear shift feel though.

    This is exactly the kind of car that could take off here if offered by a more reputable brand. Good looking, high efficiency, fun to drive, practical, and cheap.

  • avatar
    JJ

    And owned by Fiat? We won’t discuss that troubled company’s connections with GM, now will we?

    Well, why not.

    GM paid FIAT about 1.5 billion US dollars (when those were still worth something) only to be able to part with them when FIAT hit a low point and after that FIAT has had a very good record of turning the company around towards profitability.

    They focused on where they’ve always been good at, namely building small cars, which is now starting to give their bigger cars more credibility again as well.

    In fact it seems like they finally are in a position to give Lancia a decent range of cars again, and also financially compared to the industry in general, they’re not doing so bad at all.

    The brand image you are picturing seems to be based on their early 90s cars, which I would say is completely right for that time, yet I think not accurate anymore nowadays.

    And sure, if you’re willing to sacrifice everything that makes a car stand out in any way like driving dynamics and design for plain vanilla reliability you should buy a driving apllience like an excruciatingly boring Toyota and forget about cars.

  • avatar
    FromBrazil

    Wow! It seems like some people are still reeling from the pain of Fiat triiping up the ole General!!!!

    Anyway, Alfas just like Fiats, had a terrible 80s, a recovering 90s and are now coming back into their own. Great handling, fun-inducing driving. I, for one, am glad they’re back. I’d rather put up with a little “perceived” lack of realiability for everything else they offer. If some people had their way, we’d all just drive Japanese.

    No thanks!!

    FWIW, this car is beautiful and the upcoming 149 will be even more so. I’d buy it in heartbeat.

    Has anyone else already said it? These cars have soul. More than any BMW series 1 ou Audi whatever could ever dream of.

    Just saying…

  • avatar
    Busbodger

    Car reviews which focus on a car’s abilities at their limits are tiring me these days. I drive back and forth to work at the speed limit and not once do I need to run the engine to the red line, drift around any corners, or take on any races with Corvettes.

    Please, let’s keep in mind that a car can still be a joy to drive when it’s “slow”. Like the saying goes it is more fun to drive a slow car fast than it is to drive a fast car slow.

    I drive a 115HP VW Cabrio. Fun little car and it has done the daily trips with good comfort, sporty performance when I need it, and I can put the top down. No, I’m not going to scare any Shelby Mustangs or Corvettes but then why would I try?

    Just happy getting 30 mpg, fun to drive faster on the backroads, can load up the wife and kids for a quick trip to Grandma’s house 100 miles away, etc etc etc.

    The Alfas I knew in Italy (3 years) were fun cars. All of them needed a little more attention than a modern Honda but the attention was seldom expensive or complicated. Much like my VWs.

  • avatar
    FromBrazil

    By the way Martin,

    Could you do the new Fiat Bravo. It’ll be coming to Brazil in a year or less, and by what I’ve read so far, I’d like one very much. Since I enjoyed very much your review of the Alfa 147, I’d love to see what you think of the Bravo.

    Thanks in advance!!

  • avatar
    AKM

    No, I’m not going to scare any Shelby Mustangs or Corvettes but then why would I try?

    As a matter of fact, driving a 2002 Golf, I often end up passing those cars, more than often driven under the speed limit by retirees….

  • avatar
    wsn

    I just browsed through Mazda’s Italian website. Mazda 3 5-door models range from 15k to 22k Euro.

    Considering 1 Euro = 1.5 USD, that’s about 50% more expensive than in the US.

    Now let’s compare Mazda 3 with the 147 in terms of performance, utility and reliability. No matter how you put it, I don’t see the 147 reaching 70% of the Mazda 3′s substance. In that sense, the 147 would be absolutely over-priced, if it’s anywhere above 15k Euro or 22.5k USD.

  • avatar

    OK, I live in England, own a 2003 147 2litre (gas) and a 2005 156 (2.4 diesel) so I’m biased, but work with cars and travel in the USA, so have a good overall view.

    First off – forget Alfa reliability issues. The 156 has done 65000 mile in 2 trouble free years, normally being thrashed, always loaded with work gear. The 147 at 4 and a half years old burns a little oil, but the T spark always did.

    Economy – Its a heavy car and the 1.6 is to small for it. With the 2.0 it should average well over 30 MPG. The 2.4 (a unique to Alfa 5 cylinder turbo, also in the 159 and Brera/spider) averages 45. It gets 35MPG at 110mph, 50 mpg cruising at 80mph.

    Build – these are previous generation, so arnt BMW quality, but the current ones really are. Yes the 147 gearchange is sloppy, but the 156 isnt. Who knows why, they are so similar mechanically.

    Competition – sit in your ultra reliable Mazda/Honda/Nissan. Do you feel special? Just seen yourself in a store window reflection? Like the way the light catches the shape of the car? Really? Thought not. And as for American cars, no wonder Detriots in trouble, they might be cheap, but you get what you pay for. Ive seen better plastic packaging than some US luxury car dashboards…

    You cant compare any car from the early 90s to current models. Mud sticks, but EVERYTHING was crap at that point, some just had better PR!

  • avatar

    Oh, and the reason for the Subaru Tribeca/Alfa grill likeness-Scooby poached the designerfrom Alfa. Guess he missed Milan…

  • avatar
    juniper1

    I generally do not rush to defend any particular cause in public forums, but the amplitude and harshness of the negative opinions regarding Alfa’s from some people on this forum are completely unfounded and unqualified. Clearly, the majority of these individuals know less than nothing about Alfa Romeo, have never driven one, have never owned one, have never lifted to hood of one, and probably never sat in one. Those in the USA probably haven’t seen one newer than 15 years old. If you have ever owned a properly maintained Alfa of any vintage and remain disgusted with them, I can assure you that you’re in the minority if not the extreme fringe.

    I have owned around 10 Alfas of all types in the last 25 years including at least one of a Giulietta, Spider, Berlina, Alfetta, GT, GTV, GTV6, and 164. Of course I have other European and American cars as well and I can tell you that Alfas have always been special, well engineered, efficient, enjoyable, and satisfying machines.
    They’re not for everyone and neither is any other car worth having, and unless you’re dealing with utterly and completely utilitarian devices, there’s no point comparing them to anything else on the basis of cost, performance, and features. Is there a family car you can buy new today that is incapable of outperforming and E-type in one dimension or the other? I doubt it. It will be a sad world if this logic resulted in everyone driving Corollas. Buy an Alfa if you want one and please don’t buy one if you don’t.

    I guess I don’t understand why anyone who claims to be an automobile enthusiast would project ridiculous and uninformed opinions regarding what many others consider to be great cars with a rich and unequaled history in motorsports and many innovations. I admit I also don’t understand why someone who loves Fords must hate Chevys (allow me to make this generalization based on personal observation rather than scientific fact), if you consider yourself a “car guy” then do yourself a favor and stop being a “Mazda-, BMW-, MB-, Whatever- guy”. Look at a car’s merits objectively and from the perspective of your own personal preferences before you spew out useless nonsense about topics you’re not qualified to discuss. You’re just making a fool of yourself in public.

    Thanks for reading this vent.

  • avatar
    V6

    Nice article. but but for the people who do not know, i think the article should mention this car came out in 2001 with 1 minor update since, so it’s not going to be particularly competitive with the newer competition in certain areas now is it?

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    First of all, I have to apologize to everyone for going AWOL at the worst possible time. The article was published while I was practically on the road to the auto show in Geneva. The past few days have been quite hectic, so against all the customs of this site I didn’t respond to the many interesting and kind postings. Sorry!

    To answer a few of the posts:

    - Virages: thank you for the interesting information! And I sure feel relieved whenever the owner of a car I review agrees with my conclusions.

    - Vega: thanks for answering Edgett’s question for me. I’d add that the 146 had a boxer too.

    - 1981.911.SC: you address a real conundum I had when you ask about the 4-star rating.

    You see, based on the statistics, I was going to give it three stars but that just didn’t feel right. This car gave me real feelings of joy when I drove it fast. One time, when I had a bout of insomnia, I got out of bed in the middle of the night and went outside for a drive — it’s that seductive. It’s no Plymouth GLH, either: with its excellent chassis, it has real substance too. So I said what the hell, I’ll give it four stars — knowing many would disagree.

    - Incitatus: both the Subaru flying vagina and the Edsel horse-collar/vagina were heavy-handed attempts at creating a brand image, and employed the parody of a radiator grille. The Alfa snout has been right there for half a century. I think there’s a difference.

    - Gardiner Westbound: sorry, the TTAC picture editor culled the four-door versions. Here a gallery of other 147′s:
    http://www.pixamo.com/users/martinffm/view?thing=166897

    - FromBrazil: thanks very much for the kind compliment! And I’ll see whether I can get hold of the Fiat.

    - Juniper1: I agree with you 100%.

    - V6: you are right.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    @LarryP2
    “In Australia, MSRP on these things is $37,000. THe AU dollar is worth $1.07 to the US Dollar. Do the math. In good old Britain, they go from 15,000 to 19000 Pounds. ”

    So if you compare British prices, how is a Mazdaspeed 3 $23,000?
    Base price for a Mazdaspeed3 in GB is 19,000 Pounds.

    The 147 is a little bit… old. Other than that it’s actually pretty nice. Especially the 150hp diesel with the Torsen LSD. It doesn’t feel like a FWD car.
    The only thing that eliminated it from my shopping list was the insurance rating.

  • avatar
    carguy1964

    I am sorry from what I read here on this car…but really, we are talking about a gutless 120 hp twinspark engine here, attached to a obviously heavy car for 24k apx dollars…that gets shitty mpg…grant it , it may be fun to drive, but for that matter a 2006-2008 miataspeed would kick that POS all the way back to Italy..but then again you must be having alot fun durning those god awfull 10 seconds, time standing still seconds, just to get to 60 mph, to want to commute in that car… BTW…the Mits Evolution and the WRXTI would Kill it! Hell even the so called Rally inspired base Lancer could put a serious hurt on that car..


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