Alfa Romeo 147 2006 review
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The Italian brand is known in Australia for style, spicy engines and in the past rust and the occasional breakdown.
Alfa Romeo has come a long way. It has dramatically improved its quality and is now introducing diesels to its Australian cars.
Diesel may be new for Alfa Romeos sold in Australia, but 76 per cent of Alfas sold globally are diesels.
Diesel Alfa sales are not just limited to the cheapest car in the range, the 147. Ninety per cent of sexy Alfa GT coupes sold around the world are diesels.
Better fuel economy is the main driver for diesel in Europe, because diesel is cheaper than petrol in most European countries.
Even so, the torquey characteristics of new turbo diesels are adding to their appeal.
Alfa Romeo's first diesel in Australia is the 147 JTD five-door hatch at $39,990. That represents a $2500 premium over the same car with a 2.0-litre petrol engine.
The 147 JTD runs a 1.9-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel with high-pressure direct injection (common rail).
It generates the same amount of power as the petrol engine, a total of 110kW when the engine spins to 4000 revs.
The big difference is in torque. The diesel pumps out 305Nm compared with the petrol's total of 181Nm.
All of this torque is on tap from just 2000 revs, very low in the rev range.
Turbo diesels such as the JTD engine of the 147 are perfectly suited to automatic gearboxes, so it's a pity the 147 JTD is available only with a manual gearbox.
No automatic is available from the Italian factory because automatic demand in Europe is limited. The manual, designed for the diesel engine, is a six-speed.
Alfa Romeo's fuel-economy figures claim the 147 JTD sips only 5.9 litres/100km of combined city and highway driving.
That compares with factory figures of 8.9 litres/100km for the petrol 147 model.
Apart from its engine and 17-inch alloy wheels, the 147 JTD is essentially the same as the rest in the 147 range, which starts with the 2.0-litre manual three-door at $35,990.
ON THE ROAD
Sitting at the traffic lights rattling away is not the Alfa Romeo experience that we expect.
Even worse is pulling away and shooting out enough soot to make pedestrians look a lot like 19th-century chimney sweeps.
We tested two 147 diesels and they both blew smoke — one more than the other.
Alfa Romeo says both test cars were early build models with the old fuel-injection calibration — which is why they smoked so much.
We briefly tested a third car, which didn't show signs of blowing smoke, but didn't have it for long enough to conclude the soot problem has been completely fixed.
What we did notice in all three test cars was the terrible rattle at idle.
It shakes like a diesel of old, is nowhere near as smooth as a diesel in a Peugeot 307 or Volkswagen Golf, and we can feel the vibration through the steering wheel and the body of the car at idle.
Then there is noise. When the engine spins up it sounds quite good, but rattles away like a delivery van before about 2000 revs.
But the pay-off for putting up with this is the engine's great performance.
If you like a rush of torque off the line and can put up with the rough and noisy idle, you will really enjoy playing with this engine.
It is unlike any other Alfa that we have driven before.
Past Alfas were known for their lusty, free-revving petrol engines with a delicious sound.
This diesel comes on song at 2000 revs, then drops off at about 4000 revs.
Alfa says the diesel is actually quicker than its V6-powered GT coupe, and we have no reason to doubt it.
Thanks to a high gear ratio, the 147 JTD rolls along at 1800 revs at 100km/h in sixth gear.
So how about fuel consumption? We used an average of 7.1 litres/100km, well down on what the car is capable of.
The average ran as low as 6.6 litres after some highway driving.
The fuel-injection tuning issue that Alfa identified may have affected the figures, so they are not conclusive.
Even so, we have to question how much you will save when you have to pay the extra $2500 for the JTD, then pay an average 10 cents a litre more for diesel at the bowser.
With diesel or petrol power, the 147 is a lot of fun on curving roads with good road-holding and comfort.
The high level of standard equipment, including the supportive leather seats, is very good. When it comes to style, the Alfa comes out on top.
The unique nose with the Alfa shield grille is not for everyone, but customers love it.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Diesel engine has tremendous torque but is too rough and noisy for a prestige car.
Range and Specs
|2.0 Twin Spark||2.0L, PULP, 5 SP MAN||$2,600 – 4,510||2006 Alfa Romeo 147 2006 2.0 Twin Spark Pricing and Specs|
|GTA||3.2L, PULP, 6 SP MAN||$4,500 – 7,260||2006 Alfa Romeo 147 2006 GTA Pricing and Specs|
|GTA Selespeed||3.2L, PULP, 6 SP||$5,000 – 7,700||2006 Alfa Romeo 147 2006 GTA Selespeed Pricing and Specs|
|JTD||1.9L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN||$2,800 – 4,840||2006 Alfa Romeo 147 2006 JTD Pricing and Specs|
Lowest price, based on third party pricing data