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Alfa Romeo 156 2005 review

Under the bonnet is Alfa's new 2.4-litre, five-cylinder turbo diesel engine, one of two versions the company is testing.

Under the bonnet is Alfa's new 2.4-litre, five-cylinder turbo diesel engine, one of two versions the company is testing. These engines will be used in the next generation 147 and 156's replacement, the 159, which will be launched in June next year.

The benefits of the new diesel engine are high for both the driver and the environment but Alfa admits it will be a difficult car to promote to its existing customers.

Not because of any shortcomings but simply because Alfa's Australian buyers have not been exposed to a diesel car before. In Europe diesels make up 76 per cent of Alfa's sales.

The 156 was first launched with a diesel engine back in 1997. So it is lucky for Alfa that sister company FIAT has come up with the new diesel engines that offer high performance, low fuel economy and almost negligible emissions.

This second generation group of engines continue to operate on the common rail system but with one difference. The number of injectors have been increased.

The result is more efficient fuel burns in the combustion chamber which leads to less noise, lowers emissions and more power. The new engine produces 129kW of power at 4000rpm and 385Nm of torque at 2000rpm. The Garrett turbo charger allows high torque delivery at low revs with 90 per cent of maximum torque available between 1750 and 3500rpm.

Alfa spokesman Edward Rowe says the 156 JTD can travel 1200km (city driving) on one 63-litre tank of diesel – better efficiency than the 1000km of the Prius.

While this distance could not be covered in the test car, working on averages, this claimed figure is not far off the mark.

Alfa claims 8.8L/100km in urban driving but our test revealed more in the realms of high fives or low sixes.

It is only at the initial start-up that the 156 JTD hints at its diesel underpinnings. When cruising it is remarkably quiet. There is no need to rev the engine out to gain the maximum benefit of the torque curve.

Once on the move there is no need to change gears to overtake. Go up a hill and it is easy to slip back into a feeling of being in an auto until the engine finally reminds you at idle rpm in sixth gear doing 50km/h that it is time to drop back a gear. At 110km/h, the tacho barely registers 2000rpm.

The gear lever is light and while it has a long throw, it requires no effort and the clutch has a pleasant early pick-up.

It also does not have the bone-shaking stiff suspension of its fellow high-performance stablemates, although it can be sharp over some irregularities. It handles nicely with a neat turn-in and holds its line through corners. Inside, the two-tone leather (cream and brown) is sleek and elegant. The seats are firm but comfortable but the absence of cup holders was unusual.

The 156 is still plagued by Alfa's small stereo dials, and while steering wheel controls take care of the volume it is still necessary to use the unit to change stations.

The 156 comes with plenty of standard safety additions including: engine immobiliser, ABS, Anti-Slip Regulation traction control, driver, passenger, side and window airbags, electronic brakeforce distribution, fire prevention system and vehicle dynamic control. Other standard features include remote central locking, cruise control, dual-zone climate control air conditioning system, power windows, front and rear centre armrests, CD with six speakers, steering mounted radio controls with height and reach adjustment.

Pricing guides

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Range and Specs

JTS 2.0L, PULP, 5 SP MAN $3,100 – 5,390 2005 Alfa Romeo 156 2005 JTS Pricing and Specs
JTS Selespeed 2.0L, PULP, 5 SP $3,600 – 5,830 2005 Alfa Romeo 156 2005 JTS Selespeed Pricing and Specs
JTS Selespeed Ti 2.0L, PULP, 5 SP $3,700 – 5,940 2005 Alfa Romeo 156 2005 JTS Selespeed Ti Pricing and Specs
JTS Ti 2.0L, PULP, 5 SP MAN $3,500 – 5,610 2005 Alfa Romeo 156 2005 JTS Ti Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide


Lowest price, based on third party pricing data

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