Dare To Be Different (Alfa Romeo 147, 2001-2009)

ENGINES - Both diesel and petrol units are available, with the high capacity motors offering a predictable mix of enhanced performance and refinement. Bucking this trend is the lowly 1.6 petrol unit, which is surprisingly good, although it does need to be revved hard to maximise its potential.

EXTERIOR – Despite its age the 147 remains a familiar and distinctive sight on the road. Typically Italian in its looks, the 147's design is one of the more flamboyant around even today. You will have to make the odd sacrifice, though. At the rear the car's tailgate is a modest size, which means the loading aperture can prove small.

INTERIOR - The 147’s deeply sculptured fascia, hooded main dials and, in the case of the optional leather upholstery, are all full of character and ensure that the compact Alfa can never be criticised for being bland. Don't forget that the 147 is a compact hatch in the traditional sense, which means the cabin is more snug than spacious. Front seat occupants will be fine, but those in the back could do with a bit more legroom.

DRIVING - The Alfa’s most obvious feature is its quick steering. It requires a little over two turns from lock to lock, which means you almost only have to 'think' the car through bends. The low-slung driving position, firm suspension and rev-hungry petrol engines all contribute to an engaging and sporting experience. If you don't want to change gear so often, go for a high power diesel variant. But don't be fooled, as it's probably quicker on the right roads than a petrol variant.

OWNERSHIP - There are more practical, more spacious and more plentiful cars around, but for many the 147 looks better and delivers a more enjoyable driving and ownership experience. For the most recent cars you may have to travel, as dealerships aren't that plentiful. Elsewhere, specialists are the best place for pampered examples. Be prepared for higher than average premiums from unenlightened insurance companies and, in the case of petrol models, the need to dig deep at the pumps if you use the car enthusiastically.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR - Evidence of general neglect should be avoided, while signs of cosmetic damage should be challenged. Kerbed wheels, a heavily stone chipped bonnet and parking dents aren't desirable and could also be hiding more serious mechanical issues. Everything should work - even minor niggles can prove costly to repair. And most of all, the driving experience should be as described. Strange noises, engine flat spots and a smokey exhaust could signal problems and be your cue to walk away. It goes without saying that a thick pile of garage receipts should also be present.

MODEL HISTORY

2001: Alfa Romeo launched its 147 compact hatch with 1.6 and 2.0-litre petrol engines. Manual gearboxes are standard, a semi auto Selespeed ‘box is optional on the 2.0-litre cars. In time diesel engines appeared plus a high performance GTA variant. 2005 saw a mild facelift and engine upgrade.

REASONS TO BUY - looks, racy character and engine performance, the desire to be different.

REASONS TO BEWARE - reliability niggles, thirsty petrol engines when pushed hard, modest space in rear of cabin, Selespeed auto gearbox.

PICK OF THE RANGE - 147 1.9 JTDm 16v Lusso 3dr.

WHAT TO PAY

2007 07 4,625

2007 57 4,895

2008 08 5,455

2008 58 5,760

2009 09 6,645

2009 59 7,035

Figures relate to showroom prices for cars in A1 condition.

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