Alfa Romeo 159 2.2 JTS
The Alfa Romeo has a look that promises excitement of all kinds - from its long, low bonnet, to its sheet metal stretched tight from one big wheel arch to the other. The interior gives the same impression, with the centre console and deep-set instrument cluster delivering a driver-focused setup.
It’s almost a pity, then, that its 136kW 2.2 litre petrol engine doesn’t seem to do this car any justice. It could do with a lot more low down torque, because it feels less than enthusiastic off the line. The gearshift action of the 6-speed manual is equally disappointing, requiring a lot of effort to get through the gears. Alfa has a legacy of reliability issues, and the 159 lives up to that, sadly. In two different test cars, the 159 dished up ABS and EBD faults.
As a driver’s car though, the 159 does deliver. Once it’s up to speed, it starts pulling itself together – for starters, the gearshift feels more slick, and becomes more precise. That engine, initially as enthusiastic as a sloth with a meth problem, gets more involving the faster you go. It’s always a comfortable ride, and when you get cracking, the chassis tightens up and composes itself marvellously. This is a fantastically involving car to drive, provided the conditions are right.
The 159 has its merits, but the boot is small, the 2.2 is underpowered, and then there are the worrying electronics failure experienced on two different test drives. But there’s not a car of similar age and spec that looks as good and rewards you as much for driving it properly as the Alfa Romeo 159.