Alfa Romeo 159 saloon (2005-2012)
“Stylish, spacious and comfortable, the Alfa Romeo 159 is an appealing Italian alternative to more obvious German cars.”
- Well made, distinctive cabin
- Broad choice of trims, all of which are well equipped
- Comfortable driving position
- Not as economical as rivals
- Small boot and cabin storage areas
- Resale values lag behind the class
The Alfa Romeo 159 is a beautiful car, and the firm focused on improving build quality and comfort when it introduced this model in 2005. There are a wide range of versions to choose from, but all cars are well equipped: even the entry-level Turismo trim comes with alloy wheels and dual-zone climate control.
Choosing the best engine is a little more challenging; the petrol and diesel engines are smooth and quiet, but fuel consumption and emissions for the more powerful units are poor. However, the recently introduced 1750 TBi turbo petrol engine is a highlight, as it’s quiet and powerful.
MPG, running costs & CO2
The most frugal 159 is the 1.9 JTDm ECO diesel, which returns 54.3mpg and emissions of 138g/km. However, the more powerful BMW 318d offers 62.8mpg and 118g/km. Specify an automatic gearbox and those figures are even worse, while the 3.2 V6 petrol returns a poor 25.7mpg. Much better is the 34.9mpg 1750 TBi turbo petrol, which is the pick of the range.
Engines, drive & performance
Despite the racy looks, the Alfa Romeo 159 isn’t as fun to drive as some rivals. The seating position is comfortable, while the instruments are clear and easy to read – the use of Italian text on the dials is a novel touch – and the bank of dials on the centre console is angled towards the driver, giving the feel of an aeroplane cockpit. The steering is light and accurate, and there’s lots of grip in corners. All the engines are smooth and quiet, and while none give a real shove in the back, only the entry-level 120bhp 1.9 JTDm diesel feels slow.
Interior & comfort
Even on the big 19-inch wheels of the range-topping TI model, the 159 does a great job of keeping the cabin shake and rattle-free. However, wind noise is obvious on motorways, as is tyre rumble on models fitted with bigger wheels. Still, owners rate the 159’s comfort highly, putting it 20th of 100 in the 2010 Driver Power survey. The car provides plenty of head and legroom, too.
Practicality & boot space
While there’s lots of cabin space for front and rear passengers - especially headroom – practicality is no more than average for a family saloon. The boot is a little smaller than you’d find in a Ford Mondeo or BMW 3 Series, although there is a ski hatch for through-loading long items. Cockpit storage space is a little lacking, but there’s a storage box in the centre armrest and a reasonably large glove compartment.
Reliability & safety
Safety is a strong point, with a five-star Euro NCAP rating and a wide range of electronic aids to keep the car from skidding and help shorten braking distances. The 159 certainly feels better built than anything Alfa Romeo has produced before. However, a 2010 survey by Warranty Direct put the firm second from bottom for reliability, so things still need to improve.
Price, value for money & options
If you take account of the 159’s generous standard equipment and the prestige of the Alfa Romeo badge, the 159 looks keenly priced. However, it doesn’t hold its value as well as an Audi A4 or BMW 3 Series, and flagship versions such as the Lusso and TI seem expensive, even though they come with leather upholstery, a Bluetooth phone connection and sports bodykit.