Alfa Romeo 159 review
If you’re in the market for an executive model, you don’t necessarily have to buy something sober and German. Instead, you could opt for an Italian car with sporting flair.
While that might seem like madness, if you’ve always dismissed the idea of buying an Alfa Romeo because of the company’s poor reputation for reliability, maybe it’s time you opened up to the idea.
We won't pretend for one minute that the Alfa 159 is as clinically efficient as its more obvious German rivals, but that’s rather the point. If you want family transport that stands out from the crowd, puts a smile on your face and will also cost you less money, this could be just the thing. Buy with your eyes open, and pretty exec can be a good pick.
The Alfa Romeo 159 arrived in 2006 as a replacement for the 156. It was on sale for six years before production stopped in 2012.
The 159 saloon replaced the 156 in January 2006 and was available with 1.9, 2.2 or 3.2-litre V6 JTS petrol engines. There were also 1.9 or 2.4-litre JTDm turbodiesel options.
From May 2007, Alfa offered a new entry-level 159 in the shape of the 1.8-litre MPi petrol model; and at the same point, the Sportwagon five-door estate was also introduced, with identical engine options to the saloon. In October 2007, the Q-Tronic automatic transmission debuted in the 3.2 V6, 1.9 JTDm and 2.4 JTDm – the latter benefits from a power boost to 210bhp, having previously delivered 200bhp.
Then, in August 2009, two excellent new engines appeared: the 200bhp 1750i petrol turbo and a 170bhp 2.0-litre JTDm diesel.
The 2.0 JTDm and 1750 TBi are the best engines. Although the 1.9 JTDm is muscular and frugal, it’s also most likely to give problems.
The auto is nothing special and it’s also less reliable than the manual alternative. The entry-level trim is the Turismo, followed by the Lusso, then the Ti. All cars come with alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, power folding mirrors, seven airbags, cruise control and electric windows. Lusso spec adds leather upholstery, automatic lights and wipers, plus parking sensors, while the Ti has sportier trim, 19-inch wheels, lowered suspension and heated front seats.
Alternatives to the Alfa Romeo 159
Audi’s A4, BMW’s 3 Series and the Mercedes C-Class are the most obvious alternatives. All are more anonymous, but come with a wider choice of engines and body styles and are more readily available. Yet you’ll pay significantly more for any of these options, and while you may be rewarded with greater reliability and better build quality, neither can be guaranteed.
If you’re after a premium badge on the cheap, you should look to Sweden. Volvo’s S60 is comfortable and spacious, but offered as a saloon only, while Saab’s 9-3 comes in saloon or estate forms. Neither is a class leader in any particular area, yet they both offer strong value for money.
What to look for:
On cars that haven’t had regular oil changes, the turbochargers can cause issues. Plus, the dual-mass flywheel fails on cars used for stop-start driving.
Front tyres don’t last long, and this is often because the steering geometry is out. The front upper wishbone bushes also wear out, adding to the problem.
Some steering racks can last as little as 60,000 miles before they have to be replaced. Look for signs of fluid leaks and feel for heavy steering.
If the gear-change is notchy, you’ll just have to live with it. The manual box itself is strong enough, but the shift action isn’t especially satisfying.
The cabin is typically Italian and all the more attractive for it. Even basic cars look superb, while top spec editions get higher-quality materials. The front seats are comfy and supportive, but the rear is a bit tight on leg and headroom. The boot isn’t very spacious, either, with a mere 405-litre capacity.
All 159s need an oil and filter change every year, but a full service is required only every two years. Diesel-engined 159s can go for up to 21,000 miles between check-ups, while petrol-engined editions cut this to 18,000 miles.
There’s no requirement to change the coolant at any set point, but it’s checked at each service. Fresh brake fluid is required every two years, while the 1.8 MPI, 1.9 JTDm and 2.4 JTDm engines have a cambelt. This needs replacing every four years or 60,000 miles.
Alfa Romeo has recalled the 159 four times. The first, in March 2007, related to the roof bars on cars built from July 2005 up to that date. Models made from March 2005 to February 2007 were recalled in July 2007 due to oil leaks.
Some 159s produced in October and November 2007 were fitted with faulty brake hoses, which could lead to failure; they were recalled in December 2007. Another brake issue led to the final recall, in 2009, which affected cars made between November 2006 and November 2007.