UNUSUALLY for an Alfa Romeo road test, I’m going to start with cold, hard facts.
We’ll leave the emotive stuff about passion and pedigree until later.
When we reported on the launch of the 159 several months ago, we said it was a car which deserved to succeed, but a lot depended on what the leasing industry throught of it.
Well, it seems they’re quite impressed. The 159 turbodiesel Turismo on test here has a residual value on a par with the Honda Accord and Volkswagen Passat, but more impressive is the fact that its monthly rental rates are on a par with its rivals.
The Fleet News database gives a benchmark rental of £434 a month, compared with £421 for the Passat, £430 for the Accord and £455 for the Saab 9-3. Impressive stuff, and a sign that the 159 has brought mainstream acceptance to the brand.
Alfas may have traded on superficial attraction in the past, but the 159 has the substance to make it an enduring affair over three years and 60,000 miles.
And, as you’d expect from an Alfa, the 159 is a beaufitful car – a seductive mix of masculine, aggressive face and slinky, feminine curves.
While this car is unmistakably Italian looks-wise, it feels quite Germanic with build quality in most places on a par with BMW – although it still doesn’t match the general feel of the interior of an Audi.
But where the A4 is logical and sober, the 159 takes a different route with more of a flourish. The interior is dominated by the centre console which is angled towards the driver, creating an aircraft-style cockpit feel.
But unlike the usual Germanic mono colour scheme, Alfa has added swatches of milled aluminium to brighten things up. It not only looks good, but it feels good, too.
Shutlines and panel gaps and feel are excellent, with only the anaemic-looking gearlever and horribly fiddly and plasticky indicator stalks letting the side down.
On the road the 1.9-litre JTD turbodiesel proves powerful and refined. It offers 150bhp – the norm for a sporty upper-medium model these days – but just as impressive is the engine’s subdued nature. Wind noise, is subdued, too.
Although unmistakably a diesel, it never really advertises the fact once you’re up and running.
With a nice, meaty band of torque available from 2,000rpm, acceleration is available pretty much on demand, no matter what gear you’re in.
Factor in a flowing ride with suspension stiff enough to match the 159’s sporting character yet supple enough to avoid it becoming a chore over rough roads, and it is a solid companion to rack up the miles in.
It seems that Alfa Romeo really has added some substance to match its style.
P11D value: £20,322
CO2 emissions (g/km): 159
BIK % of P11D in 2006: 21%
Graduated VED rate: £135
Insurance group: 12
Combined mpg: 47.1
CAP RV (3yr/60k): £7,175/35%
Monthly lease (3yr/60k) £434
We don’t like
THREE RIVALS TO CONSIDER
DESPITE being the most expensive, the Accord looks good value as it comes with satellite navigation and hands-free phone kit as standard – a pricey option on the others. All four are evenly matched on power – the Passat and Accord offer 140bhp and the Saab and Alfa 150bhp.
EMISSIONS AND TAX RATES
THE Honda is the cheapest for benefit-in-kind tax, costing a 22% taxpayer £72 a month thanks to its lower emissions. The Passat will cost the same driver £77 a month due to its lower front-end price, while the Saab and Alfa Romeo will both cost £78.
HONDA has introduced a menu pricing system in its dealers, and it’s helped – the Accord will be cheapest with a bill of just over £2,000. The 159 will cost nearly £2,500 thanks to higher garage labour rates – and don’t forget those dealers are well spaced apart geographically.
Accord :3.45 (ppm) £2,070 (60,000 mile total)
9-3: 3.53 £2,118
Passat: 3.81 £2,286
159: 4.15 £2,490
HONDA claims the Accord will return 51.4mpg on the combined cycle, which equates to a diesel spend of £5,300 over 60,000 miles. The Saab is close behind on 48.7mpg, while the Passat returns 47.9. The Alfa is last on 47.1mpg – which equates to nearly £5,800-worth of diesel.
Accord: 8.83 (ppm) £5,298 (60,000 mile total)
9-3: 9.32 £5,592
Passat: 9.48 £5,688
159: 9.64 £5,784
WITH the highest residual value prediction and the lowest front-end price the Passat wins this sector. CAP estimates it will retain 36% of its cost new after three years/60,000 miles, or 21.47ppm. The 159 and Accord will retain 35% of their cost new and the Saab 30%.
Passat: 21.47 (ppm) £12,882 (60,000 mile total)
159: 21.91 £13,146
Accord : 22.37 £13,422
9-3: 23.77 £14,262
THE lowest SMR and fuel costs, plus a strong RV, add up to a narrow win for the Honda which will cost £20,800 over three years/60,000 miles. The Alfa is 1ppm adrift from the Accord, with the Saab nearly another penny per mile further back, costing around £22,000.
Accord: 34.65 (ppm) £20,790 (60,000 mile total)
Passat: 34.76 £20,856
159: 35.70 £21,420
9-3: 36.62 £21,972
IN financial terms the Accord is the winner, with the lowest running costs and the cheapest company car tax bill for drivers.
And it’s a fine car, blending quality and generous levels of standard equipment. But in this sector the Alfa Romeo’s style and driveability make it even more desirable, despite the fact the it costs slightly more to run and tax. Discerning drivers can do little better in this semi-premium sector than the 159.