Alfa Romeo 159 – Left of the Middle

Despite the term ‘left of the middle’ being connected to the little Oz singer Natalie Imbruglia, it actually refers to something more liberal or radical, which is exactly where Alfa Romeo likes itself to be, although they continue to take on the motoring giants from Germany, they refuse to follow their lead when it comes to the design of their car, complete with heart and soul.

Over a 5 year period the 159 had various engines, the range topper being the 3.2 litre V6, although not an M3 beater, in the real world it had more than enough power to keep pace with the rest of the pack, although the running costs for the V6 weren’t the cheapest.

Surprisingly for an Italian marque it was the diesel engines that shone, in 2009 came the Eco 1.9-litre JTDM diesel engine  with a claimed fuel economy of 54mpg and emissions of 138g/km, although even this was bettered by the 2.0-litre JTDM, producing 170bhp, a 0-62mph in 8.5 seconds but with an economy of 52mpg and 142g/km CO2 emissions, meaning despite the above average performance figures you didnt pay for it at the pumps.

During it’s life petrol engines would gradually disappear from the 159 range until by 2011 only the diesels remained, such was the demand and durability of the engines.

Although the 159 was bigger, more advanced and powerful than the 156 series it replaced, the 159 was generally less expensive. It also did a little better at maintaining value than did previous Alfa models. it’s worth noting that early models where available with only two trime levels, however by 2009 Alfa Romeo had added to this and five where on offer, meaning it’s worth checking the registration of the car to find out what the kit levels are on that particular model.

So whats it like to drive? If you can find a road that combines a sequence of bends and undulations where the manual transmissions can be worked as their designers intended, you will discover a car that is endearing and surprisingly competent. Alfa Romeo has managed to strike a pretty good balance between sporty body-control and comfort, with the most versions of the 159 treating occupants to an impressively refined ride. But it’s not just the twisty stuff where the 159 puts a smile on your face, it’s also very good at long journeys, almost lile the car was built for them. Very comfortable, incredibly efficient on the motorway and the drive is beautifully smooth.

Building on it’s reputation from the 156, the 159 was another step forward for Alfa Romeo in build quality and reliability, not only was it taking on the VW Passat and Honda Accord, it was now beginning to worry Audi’s A4 and the BMW 3 series, quite rightly too, it was better looking, just as frugal and also as a used buy held it’s value well.

As with any used buy, it’s important to do the right checks, a professional inspection is ideal before committing to buying any used car. So too is careful examination of the log book and any service receipts that come with the car as they give an indication of how well it has been maintained.

What to look for:

i) Engine oil leaks can occur even in quite recent models and are costly to eradicate due to the amount of dismantling involved. Look at timing covers, the sump and power steering pump and connections.

ii) Despite the very best efforts of Alfa Romeo, parent company Fiat and its various suppliers, electrical issues still crop up.

iii)  Some owners report endemic paint chipping on the lower panels, even when mudflaps have been fitted. Look also for fading and clear-coat deterioration on horizontal panels. Cars with these problems may have spent a lot of time outside and be suffering dash warping or other damage to the interior.

iv) Hard driving combined with suspect component quality sees front-end consumables not reaching 100,000 miles. If the steering pulls to one side when driving in a straight line or the tyres are edge-worn, get a professional inspection before committing to buy. Check with an Alfa specialist for aftermarket parts that will have greater longevity.

Alfa Romeo certainly seems have improved build quality with the 159 and cars we’ve driven so far were certainly free of any squeaks, rattles or problems.

It’s nice to know that left of the middle is a good place to be, Italian style.



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