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Alfa Romeo 147 – on sale March 2005

Alfa Romeo

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Review

Four years after its launch, Alfa Romeo has updated the 147, and although it may look like merely a few cosmetic tweaks, much has changed under the skin. The main change is the intro-duction of a comfort suspension system – quite ironic for a brand that has always been renowned for its sporty heritage and driver focused cars.

The system, which is an optional extra on the entire range but standard on the 1.9-litre MultiJet version, combines a double wishbone front suspension with a MacPherson layout at the rear. The result is surprisingly good – the new 147 has a smoother ride, especially on less than perfect roads, but still retains the impressive handling it has always been known for, making it great fun to drive and a blast round twisty roads.

Alfa has also introduced a new higher output 150bhp version of its 1.9-litre MultiJet oil burner. Although this is only an extra 10bhp over the old unit, there is quite a noticeable difference, particularly in in-gear performance, and like the rest of the much-lauded M-Jet range it’s very un-dieselesque in terms of noise and refinement.

The styling changes are from the evolution not revolution school with a new larger rear light clusters and a new front end which brings it into line with the new family face of Alfa and gives it a more aggressive stance. Bizarrely the GTA version will remain unchanged, as was the 156 GTA when the range was facelifted.

Other changes include a new Easyspeed automatic gearbox, which is fundamentally the same as the Selespeed option but minus the steering wheel shift buttons.

A four-wheel drive version, based on the Q4 technology used in the 156 Crosswagon (not currently available in the UK) will also make it into the range after launch.

Strengths: Great handling and fun to drive
Weaknesses: Rear slightly cramped, looks dated compared to competition
Opportunity: Sharper styling and comfort suspension option should broaden appeal
Threat: Will still struggle to rival the Golf, A3 and 1-series
The USP: Italian style and sportiness with added comfort
Price: £13,500-£17,000 (est)
Engines: 1.6 TS 105bhp, 1.6 TS 120bhp, 2.0 TS 150bhp, 1.9 JTD 115bhp, 1.9 MultiJet 150bhp
Transmission: 6spd man, Easyspeed auto, Selespeed auto
Performance: 0-62mph 12.1-8.8sec; top speed 114-129mph
Efficiency: 48.7mpg-31.7mpg; 155g/km 211g/km CO2
Rivals: Golf, Civic, Focus, Astra, Megane, A3, 1-series

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