Only on the night of the Fleet News Awards does the aesthetic volume get cranked up to 10. All those lovely smart men in their dinner jackets…
But most of the time it’s a prosaic industry – which goes some way to explain why Alfa Romeo has always faced an uphill struggle.
Why opt for gorgeous but temperamental Alfas when clinical BMWs, Audis and Mercedes-Benzes are more predictable, easier and cheaper to run?
But Alfa Romeo reckons it is turning a corner, especially with the likes of the 159, and part of this transformation is the new Brera.
A concept version of it has been hawked about the exhibition halls of the globe for some years and the general reaction has been: ‘surely it’s impossible to make a car that gorgeous for a price normal people can pay?’
Well, that’s probably the case. The production Brera has lost some of the slinkiness of the concept but it is still a head-turning car. Perhaps the only criticism could be that the rear is a little too bulbous, but otherwise it has the flair that makes Alfa Romeo unique.
It also has some of the other traits that we’ve come to expect from Alfa Romeo. During my week with the car, the boot release kept sticking, and it can only be opened from the key fob. So a day was spent with my bag trapped in the boot. Then it suddenly opened. Then it suddenly stuck, and then it opened again.
Now it’s not a major thing but such are the shaky foundations on which Alfa Romeo’s reputation teeters that it assumes a significance way above its actual importance.
Like many people, I want to love Alfa Romeos and sitting in this car I could feel the stirrings of romance.
The metal fascia with the recessed dials chopped into it, the cool ribbed leather seats and elegant metallic steering wheel are all lovely. There’s hardly any space in the back, but then it’s not designed to be practical. If that’s what you want, there’s always Alfa’s GT coupe – it’s cheaper and, in my eyes, much prettier, too.
Unfortunately though, the car we had had been fitted with the wrong engine.
The 185bhp 2.2-litre JTS unit feels sluggish, while there’s very little clutch feel, and the throttle response is all or nothing so it’s not actually much fun to drive, even though it looks like it should be, and the steering is nice and sharp.
P11D value £24,272 CO2 emissions (g/km) 221 BIK % of P11D in 2006 31% Graduated VED rate £190 Insurance group 15 Combined mpg 30.1 CAP RV (3yr/60k) £10,625/44% Monthly lease (3yr/60k) £435
We don’t like:
THREE RIVALS TO CONSIDER
THERE is little choice at this price if a driver wants a coupe. The RX-8 looks good value while the new TT, which would be delivered in October, seems to have carried on where the old one left off. The Sports Coupe is less in-your-face, but still has plenty of performance.
RX-8 £22,272 C230 £23,727 Brera £24,272 TT £24,437
EMISSIONS AND TAX RATES
THE Audi is the cheapest on tax and will cost a 40% taxpayer £187 a month in benefit-in-kind tax. The Brera will cost £250 with the Sports Coupe on £253. The Mazda might be the cheapest in P11D terms, but its high emissions mean it is the most expensive at £264.
TT 183g/km/24% Brera 221g/km/31% C230 229g/km/32% RX-8 284g/km/35%
THESE cars all come with wide, low-profile tyres which cost a lot to replace. The Brera is the cheapest, costing £2,184 over 60,000 miles. The Mazda may not suffer from premium labour rates like the TT and C230, but its 12,500-mile service intervals keep costs high.
ppm 60k total Brera 3.64 £2,184 RX-8 4.23 £2,538 TT 4.40 £2,640 C230 5.34 £3,204
THE TT uses the trusty Volkswagen Golf GTI engine and delivers combined fuel economy of 36.7mpg, equating to £7,140 spent on fuel over 60,000 miles. The others can’t compete, and the next best, the Sports Coupe would have a £1,500 larger bill. The RX-8 is hugely thirsty.
TT 11.90 £7,140 C230 14.46 £8,676 Brera 14.60 £8,760 RX-8 17.72 £10,632
ANOTHER convincing win for the TT which holds on to more than half of its value over three years/60,000 miles, according to CAP. None of the others perform poorly, although the Sports Coupe is starting to show its age a little. The Brera is predicted to retain 44% of its cost new.
TT 19.65 £11,790 Brera 22.45 £13,470 RX-8 22.50 £13,500 C230 23.62 £14,172
THE TT has a low fuel bill and high residuals which suggest it is going to continue to be a huge favourite. The Brera shows up well, coming a clear second thanks to its decent all-round proposition, but it is still £2,844 more expensive than the Audi over three years/60,000 miles.
TT 35.95 £21,570 Brera 40.69 £24,414 C230 43.42 £26,052 RX-8 44.45 £26,760
THE Brera certainly has looks on its side, but the signs in this sector are ominous for it and the rest of the competition. We’ve only driven the TT on its press launch, and there aren’t any in showrooms yet but you can assure drivers wanting to get to the front of the queue that it’s a great drive, has low tax costs and looks great. And for the fleet manager, the TT is relatively cheap to run, too, with brilliant residuals and good wholelife costs.