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The Forgotten Italian Estate: Alfa Romeo 159 Sportwagon

Currently in the Alfa Romeo lineup, there are multiple options for family cars that have a bit of style, although sadly the Alfa Romeo Giulietta will be no more later this year. That said in it’s current range, the Stelvio SUV is much better looking than all of its competitors and the Giulia saloon is, in my opinion, one of the best looking cars on the market today.  However, Alfa doesn’t make an estate. So if you have a dog, and don’t like high riding SUVs, you’re out of luck, but this wasn’t always the case. Take the year back to 2005, 15 years ago now. Alfa Romeo had a very stylish, family car back then in the form of the 159. The 159 could be had as a saloon or the Sportwagon estate. Not an SUV in sight.

The 159 was introduced at the 2005 Geneva Motor Show, alongside the equally stunning Brera coupe. The 159 was the long anticipated replacement for the fantastic Alfa 156, a car which today has a thriving community, with many incredible cars within it. This is partly due to the performance GTA model, which had a 3.2 litre V6, with a healthy 247 bhp.  However, it wasn’t just enthusiasts who loved the 156, car journalists also loved it, with it winning “Car of the Year 1998 in Denmark, Spain, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Germany, Portugal, France, and Croatia.” It also won compact executive car of the year in Whatcar? magazine and Auto Express. Alongside massive success in touring car racing also, the 156 would prove to be a hard act to follow.

So, the 159. It was bigger and heavier than the 156, which led to some of the 156 faithful feeling that it wasn’t a direct replacement to the 156. The size of the car gave it a bit more of a luxurious feel, which is replicated on the inside. The interior is very high quality, with mostly leather and soft touch plastic. This is not your traditional Alfa. Unlike the 156, the steering is not as fast as the previous generation, but it doesn’t become floaty at any point and it is accurate. The 159 was attempting to be more appealing to businessmen, which leads to this more relaxed driving experience. Sadly, there was no sporty GTA version released, so the 3.2 V6 Q4 would have to do for a sporty feel. The V6 had slightly more power than its predecessor, packing 256 bhp.

However, we’re talking about the Sportwagon, which is the rarer of the two body styles. With only a few dozen listed on Auto Trader, ranging from £1,500-£10,000, there is a lot to like about this unique car. While it isn’t as exciting as a 156 is when it comes to the driving experience, it adds in more comfort, that you would never get from a 156. If you got a 3.2 litre V6, you would get a car that would waft along the motorway with ease.  The car is also stunning and is, in my opinion, one of the best looking estates ever made. Along with the comfort factor, the car also has a large 445 litre boot, which is certainly good for this class of car. This makes the car very useful as a daily driver, especially on large supermarket trips.

To sum up, the 159 is an odd car to sum up. While it has stunning looks, as an Alfa should, the handling doesn’t match what an Alfa should be. It is nowhere near as sharp as one might expect, however the floaty sensation it gives the driver will be nice on longer journeys. The car is also very practical, which helps create a package that appears a bit left field, even for an Alfa. However, I can’t fail but to love the 159 Sportwagon. It doesn’t really stand out as a classic Alfa, but if you bought one, you’d be very glad you weren’t driving around in a bland Audi A4, BMW or Mercedes C Class of a similar period (or current models come to that!). There is just something about this car that I can’t put my finger on, but an Alfa estate just works better than an SUV.

Alfa Romeo 159

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