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ALFA'S BIG BREAK (some text hidden)
BY ANDY ENRIGHT
Introductionword count: 105
Few thought that Alfa Romeo could follow on from the success of the mould-breaking 156 saloon. The 166 executive saloon was a nice try, but it never threatened the class establishment. With the 147 hatch, however, the company scored its biggest hit to date, scooping the European Car of The Year award in 2000 and signing up thousands of converts to the Alfa way of doing things. The Italian marque has been on an upward curve ever since. As a used purchase the 147 is no different to the 156 - it's no Toyota Corolla as far as reliability goes but it's certainly class competitive.
Modelsword count: 16
Models Covered: (3/5dr [1.6, 2.0, 3.2 petrol, 1.9JTD diesel - Twin Spark, Lusso, Turismo, Selespeed, GTA])
Historyword count: 311
The fickle hand of fate must be attached to a brain that loves modern Alfas. The 156 only scooped the1998 Car of the Year title due to the last-minute elk-induced mishaps of Mercedes' more innovative little A-class and the 147 had a similar shoo-in when the pre-event favourite Ford Mondeos supplied to the judging panel were suspected of having non-standard suspension parts. Still, a win's a win whatever way you look at it, and nobody begrudged Alfa their second victory in two years. At the November 2000 launch of the 147, customers could either choose a 1.6-litre manual or a 2.0-litre Selespeed gearboxed model in three-door form with Turismo or Lusso trim. Great car as it was, this choice frustrated the keen driver who wanted the control of a manual gearbox with the added poke of the 150bhp 2.0-litre engine. They didn't have to wait too long. In June of the same year Alfa expanded the 147 range by offering not only the manual gearbox with the 2.0-litre car but also five-door models across the range. These five door cars borrowed the 156's trick of concealing the rear doors by hiding the door handles in the window frame surround and proved very popular with family-oriented buyers who didn't want to sacrifice style for a modicum of practicality. Early 2003 saw the introduction of two very different 147 variants, a 247bhp GTA ripsnorter and the 115bhp JTD diesel sipper which was closely followed by a punchier 140bhp JTD 16v version. An entry-level TS model was introduced in early 2004 powered by a 105bhp version of the 1.6-litre petrol engine. The facelifted cars emerged in early 2005. They're distinguishable by their pointier front headlamps, their reshaped bumpers and their larger rear light clusters. More salient was the JTD 16v engine's increase from 140bhp to 150bhp and some comfort-orientated tweaks to the suspension settings.
What You Getword count: 324
Those who had been gravitating towards an Audi A3, Volkswagen Golf GTi, BMW Compact or Renaultsport Clio 172 should take time out to run the rule over a used 147. If you put a premium on value for money, the 147 appears to hold all of the aces. Bearing in mind the pricing, it delivers a knockout punch at the opening bell to all of the aforementioned rivals. If they expect the 147 to fall down in the area of quality, they're likely to be similarly snookered. Fact is that since the 156 was launched at the end of 1997, Alfa's understanding of how to screw together a decent quality car had come on leaps and bounds. Anybody exiting a Mercedes E-class and then entering the 166 executive saloon could attest to this. The 147 takes took foundation and reinforced it further. Sit inside the car and the memories of Italianate driving positions that we grew up with in Alfasuds and Giuliettas are banished forever. Seat, pedals, steering wheel, gearstick and mirrors all appear to be positioned around an anthropomorphic figure of a human being rather than a gibbon (as was the case with the 145). The rest of the interior has other such considerate touches too. Alfa hasn't forgotten its heritage and has built upon the inherent romantic appeal of Italian cars. Whereas the 156 brought back the classic cowled fascia dials, the 147 went a step further by squeezing in two additional dials, evocatively labelled 'benzina' and 'aqua'. The tachometer bears the legend 'giri' making you feel if not like Nuvolari, then at least distantly following in his wheeltracks. It's not all dewy-eyed nostalgia, however. Elsewhere in the relentlessly well-finished cabin are some determinedly high-tech touches. Six airbags come as standard, as does dual-zone climate controlled air conditioning. State-of-the-art multiplex wiring made possible the option of a full-screen voice activated satellite navigation system with an inbuilt Bose stereo and GSM telephone system.
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Category: Compact Family Cars
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