UK Car Road Test

Alfa Romeo 147 2.0 TS Lusso 2002

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Alfa 147 European Car of the year 2001.

European car of the year is normally a politically imposed death sentence, for some rather unworthy piece of junk which wins because it was that countries turn and that was just about the best thing they managed to come up with in the preceding 12 months.

But in this case I think they for once got the award bang on by choosing the 147, a car for the masses but which embodies the true Alfa spirit. This is no bland eurobox, but a truly exciting piece of automotive engineering, and positive proof that Alfa are now  fully back in the fold as a top line European manufacturer.  Thru the last two tricky decades Alfa has gone back to basics, and lately produced some superb cars which have restored its once tarnished image. Now that buyers faith is pretty much restored they have pushed the envelope ever further and the result is this superbly dynamic motor.


It may fit into the small/medium hatch market dominated by the VW Golf, but it really could not be any more different

Styling is a touch on the wild side, butch and handsome. Alfa have gone out on a limb to be different, but have shaped in superb looks at the same time, so many new cars look different but are butt ugly its untrue, the Alfa does not head down that route but brings a new level of style to the Hatchback market.

When I first saw the design sketches for the 147 I was a little worried as it looked a little reminiscent  of the original Allegro design and we know how that translated from paper to metal. But I need not have worried The 147's execution in metal is perfect. With the big Alloy wheels echoing perfectly the original design intentions. 

Just look at the detail in the front end this is no accountant cheapened design, this is car designers dreams made reality

Note the offset plate, the chrome dividing strip, the elegant curves of the grills, the curvy, mirrors, the multi shaped lights, the list goes on and on. .

The back end is a little bit FIAT it is true, and the rear door handles are not as well hidden as the 156, but that is offset by those big strong muscular wheel arches, and that swage line that makes the car look like its straining at the leash even at a stand still. 

Inside the 147 is a mix of modern and Pure Alfa classic. The sporty looking seats come in classic black leather and are firm and very supportive. The dials almost hark back to the triple binnacle of old spiders.  Carpets are black/grey trim is grey roof lining is grey. It sounds oppressive, but its classic sports car simple and focus's you on the delights of driving rather than the passing fads of the trim.

Getting the body comfy is a little more difficult than getting the eyes comfy. Italians, really must be a strange shape. They appear to have evolved slightly, recently to a more British/German type build, but you would guess that they are still all very slim, short legged long armed monkey like people with small feet and tiny hands and fingers, judging by the relative positions and size of the controls to the seat.

Whilst the interior does not quite reach the standards of say and A3, it is way more interesting than a Focus. It all appears solidly built too and in this example was tight and rattle free. I'm sure if you dug deep enough you could find some strange cheap Italian bodge to wince at, but if they are there they are well hidden. 

 

neat cup and change holders

 nice modern styling

rather strange attempt at air flow controls

 work that lot out then

You only have to check out the sheer volume of stuff squeezed in here to see that Alfa have not scrimped and cut any corners  

Comfort Features
Adjustable Steering Column
Adjustable Steering Column
Centre Arm Rest Front
Centre Arm Rest Front
Cup holders
Cup holders
Drivers seat Lumbar Support
Drivers seat Lumbar Support
Front Door Bins
Front Door Bins
Head Rests (front & rear)
Head Rests (front & rear)
Heated Front Seats
Heated Front Seats
Height Adjustable Drivers Seat
Height Adjustable Drivers Seat
Height Adjustable Seat Belts
Height Adjustable Seat Belts
Pollen Filter
Pollen Filter
Remote Boot Release
Remote Boot Release
Remote Petrol Cap Release
Remote Petrol Cap Release
Split rear seats
Split rear seats
Sports Front Seats
Sports Front Seats
Time Clock
Time Clock
General Features
Colour Coded Bumpers
Colour Coded Bumpers
Colour Coded Mirrors
Colour Coded Mirrors
Digital Odometer
Digital Odometer
Headlamp Wash
Headlamp Wash
Heated Rear Window
Heated Rear Window
Rear Wash Wipe
Rear Wash Wipe
Tinted Windows
Tinted Windows
Luxury Features
Air Conditioning
Air Conditioning
Cigarette Lighter
Cigarette Lighter
Climate Control
Climate Control
Courtesy Light Delay
Courtesy Light Delay
Cruise Control
Cruise Control
Electric Mirrors
Electric Mirrors
Electric Windows (front & rear)
Electric Windows (front & rear)
Electric Windows front
Electric Windows front
Heated Mirrors
Heated Mirrors
Leather Steering Wheel
Leather Steering Wheel
Leather Upholstery
Leather Upholstery
Radio Cass Remote
Radio Cass Remote
Radio CD Player
Radio CD Player
Trip Computer
Trip Computer
Trip Counter
Trip Counter

 They really have gone to town and the 147 is lacking for little in the posh hatch stakes. All this does make it slightly portly on the scales which blunts the acceleration a little, but I guess that's the price you pay in modern cars. The V6 GTA may look like overkill for a medium hatch,  but its probably the only way to instil massive performance into the car and keep the level of equipment that buyers demand. (hence the VR6 Golf)

 

The engine is a beauty, it always has been. It barks out 150 pounding donkeys in a predictable and easy to understand fashion. 

Famous Twin spark

Lively engine for a small car.

It revs happily and furiously to seven thousand and beyond. It likes to rev and feeds on lots of throttle and revs. That is not to say it is devoid of mid range and low end, its not it just prefers to supply its power in linear fashion in direct relation to the angle of the rev counter needle. In keeping with Euro emissions rules the Twin spark is ever more docile around tick-over, and need a bit of a boot to get moving. 

service interval 12000 insurance group 15 safety smog Band (D)
Engine BHP CC Fuel Inj.
16 Valve DOHC 150 1970 Yes
Cyl Camshafts Valves/cyl Compressor
4 Double 4 None
Top Speed 0 to 60 BHP per Tonne
129mph 9.3seconds 121
MPG@Urban MPG@Cruise MPG@Speed Fuel Type
23.3mpg 40.4mpg 31.7mpg Unleaded
Kerb Weight Tow Weight Length Width Height
1250kg 1300kg 417cm 173cm 144cm
Boot Seats/up Boot Seats/Down Seats
280 Litres 1030 Litres 5

Allied to the Jewel of an engine is a sweet unobtrusive gearbox, which changes swiftly and with little effort across its very narrow gate. The clutch is also light and easy almost to Audi standards,  though the pedals as is Alfas way are close together and small  more suitable to size 7 Gucchis than size 11 Doc Martins.  

 Of course if that is too much effort for you there is always the Selespeed option. 

 

Steer/Susp/Tech Features
Alloy Wheels
Alloy Wheels
Catalytic Converter
Catalytic Converter
Disc Brakes Front & Rear
Disc Brakes Front & Rear
External Temperature Gauge Fitted
External Temperature Gauge Fitted
Front Fog lamps fitted
Front Fog lamps fitted
Halogen Head Lights
Halogen Head Lights
Height Adjustable Headlight Aim
Height Adjustable Headlight Aim
Independent Suspension
Independent Suspension
Intermittent Wash Wipe
Intermittent Wash Wipe
Power Assisted Steering
Power Assisted Steering
Rev Counter
Rev Counter

Okay so it looks fab and goes pretty well, but how does it drive?

It drives fantastic mate honest!  

Its not a let down, its not almost good, its not entertaining but limited, its just plain old great. Forget track tales of  the GTA being out handled by the RS Focus or Mini Cooper.

Concentrate on whether its on road behaviour takes you  too the point and beyond, where all common sense has long since disintegrated . The smaller 4 cylinder twin spark is more nimble than the GTA can ever hope to be, and on the road you are rewarded with a gloriously rewarding drive, that returns driver input in buckets but is still tame enough for the wife to go shopping.

The Alfa rides firmly but not uncomfortably, slicing through corners with little hint of roll. The excessive under steer of some previous models has been dialled out making it feel more balanced like the SUDS and Sprints of legend.

The steering remains lithe and lively though many may find it a touch heavy compared to many a new hatch at parking speeds. Its response is razor sharp and allows you to skip thru bend with a flick of the wrists. Feed back is excellent for this class of front wheel drive car  

Grip is excellent as the wide tyre generate lots of stuck down force on to even our crappy road surfaces. Tighten the steering line or accelerate through a bend and it feels like the tyres try and grip more with the steering just giving a light tug to your hands to remind you what your foot is up to. 

At the end of the day the front driving chassis will be over come by under steer but it will have to be pushed a long way before it gently gives up, and the tyres squeal their disapproval, giving you plenty of warning that you are pushing it a little to far and should back off a little touch.  Get the front end starting to go, and gently ease off the gas and feel the nose tighten its line again, perfect for the road. 

Alloys very neat indeed

 

This is one oh so desirable car, and at risk not just from thieves , but from being T boned by gob smacked admirers.

Hence the well specified Safety and Security features fitted as standard.  Add this to the Infamous Red Key system and the only surprise is that the insurance barons ask such a high group 15 rating. 

Safety/Security Features
Alarm
Alarm
Antilock Braking System
Antilock Braking System
Engine Immobiliser
Engine Immobiliser
Front Side Air Bags
Front Side Air Bags
Front Twin Airbags
Front Twin Airbags
High level brake Light
High level brake Light
Locking Fuel Cap
Locking Fuel Cap
Pre Tensioned front Seat Belts
Pre Tensioned front Seat Belts
Remote Central Locking
Remote Central Locking
Side Impact Protection
Side Impact Protection
Visible Identification Number
Visible Identification Number

 

Dash harks back to older Alfas

Neat if slightly fiddly extra controls

 

 

 

Lack of rattles, is now standard.

For once a worthy winner

 This really is a car which take the Alfa name to new heights, Stunning adventurous looks, solid engineering, a bucket load of design flair, some neat heritage touches, and interesting slightly untamed engines.

Its almost as if Alfa set out to build a deliberately provocative car, saying here have a look at this, look what we can do!, look what we dare do!

Its has thrown down the gauntlet in the medium hatch sector, hatches do not just have to be boring bland eco boxes with  range topping sports models to add some Pizzazz. The whole range can be exciting. Yes the Golf GTI Turbo is fun but frankly the rest of the range is slumbering in in its blandness. Here the whole range sets your pulse racing.

And yet it carries the hatchbacks practical appeal as well as any other car, and better than many. It has five decent seats (as long as I am not the one in the middle rear) sensibly sized boot, good head room and wheel at each corner ease of parking. It is a more than adequate everyday car, but it has soul, it has heart , it would be a joy to use. 

Alfa have done a fantastic job on this car,  it stands out with lovely styling, in a sea of mutts.  But Alfa have also restrained themselves in other areas like the interior and its none the worse for that. Most of the  interior is fashionably unfashionable in a classic sort of way and I suspect will remain so for a long time yet. 

This is a fantastic hatch and deserves a look see from every one buying in this sector. Your head may say Golf or A3 but believe me your heart will skip to the 147 beat. 

 

Chrome highlights a tasteful bare minimum

Not quite 156 standards!

Sweet Five speeder.

Spyder overtones in the lights

 

Front end done 
JUST SO!

Strong looking wheel arches

V necked rear glass 
adds visual interest to the rear 

 Stunning split rear lights
Give bug eyed look too the rear.

Worst angle.

Graphics Circa 1985 Atari

 


 

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UK Car Road Test Alfa Romeo 147 2.0 TS Lusso 2002

UK Car Road Test Keywords: Hatchback sports147 2.0 TS Lusso