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What Car? says

3 out of 5 stars

For Italian design flair, decent cabin space and smooth engines make the Alfa 159 a competent compact executive.

Against The Alfa 159 is not as good to drive as it should be, considering Alfa’s sporty reputation, and there’s the spectre of unreliability.

Verdict Great to look at, and distinctive, but ultimately bettered by German rivals in almost every area.

Go for… 1.9 JTD Turismo

Avoid… 3.2 JTS V6 Q4 Lusso

Alfa Romeo 159 Saloon
  • 1. Cabin space is good, and certainly better than the model it replaced, the 156 (’99-’05). Two adults can fit in the back, while front passengers aren’t left wanting for room.
  • 2. The 159 has impressive grip through bends and handles well on most road surfaces, but body roll isn’t contained and it can feel unwieldy on twisty roads.
  • 3. The 148bhp 1.9-litre diesel is the most common engine, and the best bet, followed by the 2.4-litre unit producing 200bhp.
  • 4. The engine’s ECU can give up the ghost, particularly on the diesel cars, resulting in a total loss of power and stranded owner.
  • 5. The 1.9-litre diesel manages 47mpg, the 2.4-litre does 41.5mpg, or 39mpg in four-wheel-drive trim. The 1.9-litre petrol can eke out 32.5mpg, but the 1.8-litre beats that with 36.7mpg.
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Alfa Romeo 159 Saloon full review with expert trade views

You can’t accuse the 159 of blending in with other cars on the road: its distinctive Alfa grille and jewel-like headlights certainly catch the eye. Unfortunately, it’s a case of style over substance because, although it’s reasonably accomplished in most areas, the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class are all a much better prospect.

Cabin space is good, and certainly better than the model it replaced, the 156 (’99-’05). Two adults can fit in the back, while front passengers aren’t left wanting for room. The boot is also a good size and shape although, being a saloon, the size of the opening is limited.

The 159 has impressive grip through bends and handles well on most road surfaces, but body roll isn’t contained and it can feel unwieldy on twisty roads. You can also hear the suspension thudding over the worst bumps. The steering is accurate, but not the most responsive.

Trade view

Alfa dealers can be one of the biggest drawbacks to owning a 159. Some are helpful and polite when thing go wrong, while others couldn’t care less. Find a good garage and stick with it.

Matt Sanger
What Car?'s Used Car Editor

In the compact executive market diesel is king, so think carefully before buying a petrol model. They’re far rarer on the used market than the diesels and will depreciate faster. However, if the price is low enough, they can be an economical option. The 1.9-litre petrol with 160bhp is a sensible option, followed by the 185bhp 2.2-litre, and lastly the 256bhp 3.2 V6. In late'07 the 1.9-litre was replaced with a 1.8-litre engine with 138bhp, but has much better fuel economy and lower emissions.

The 148bhp 1.9-litre diesel is the most common engine, and the best bet, followed by the 2.4-litre unit producing 200bhp. There is an option of four-wheel-drive on the V6 petrol and larger diesel, but it doesn’t substantially enhance the car's dynamics. Automatic gearboxes are optional on all models other than the 1.9-litre and 2.2-litre petrol engines.

Every model is well equipped, with the base Turismo fitted with alloys, dual-zone climate control, electronic stability control and four electric windows. Lusso spec gets leather trim and parking sensors.

Trade view

In the compact executive market diesel is king, so think carefully before buying a petrol model. They’re far rarer on the used market than the diesels and will depreciate faster.

Matt Sanger
What Car?'s Used Car Editor

Servicing costs are high, and it’s certainly worth looking for Alfa Romeo specialist independent garages for servicing older cars. Alfa doesn’t have the best reputation for reliability, so consider taking out an extended or independent warranty when the manufacturer's warranty expires.

The 1.9-litre diesel manages 47mpg, while the 2.4-litre does 41.5mpg, or 39mpg in four-wheel-drive trim. The 1.9-litre petrol can eke out 32.5mpg, but the 1.8-litre beats that with 36.7mpg. The 2.2-litre does 30.1mpg and the 3.2 V6 24.6mpg.

The 1.9-litre diesel has the lowest CO2 emission, so will cost the least to tax, while the 1.9-litre, 2.2-litre and 3.2-litre petrols all emit over 200g/km, so are noticeably more expensive. The 1.8-litre petrol and 2.4-litre diesel both pump out around 180g/km.

Insurance costs are roughly the same as rivals, with the 159 classed between groups 12 and 16.

Trade view

Alfa dealers can be one of the biggest drawbacks to owning a 159. Some are helpful and polite when thing go wrong, while others couldn’t care less. Find a good garage and stick with it.

Matt Sanger
What Car?'s Used Car Editor

Some 159 owners swear by their cars – others swear at them. Reliability problems are patchy, with a wide range of issues reported.

The engine’s ECU can give up the ghost, particularly on the diesel cars, resulting in a total loss of power and stranded owner. Other electric-gremlins include non-functional cruise control and windscreen wipers.

Brake problems have also been reported, which require replacement parts to fix, as have timing belt issues. Check the inside edges of front tyres for excessive wear – the front tracking may need adjustment.

Alfa dealers can be one of the biggest drawbacks to owning a 159. Some are helpful and polite when thing go wrong, while others couldn’t care less. Find a good garage and stick with it.

Trade view

In the compact executive market diesel is king, so think carefully before buying a petrol model. They’re far rarer on the used market than the diesels and will depreciate faster.

Matt Sanger
What Car?'s Used Car Editor
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