Used Alfa Romeo 147 review: 2001-2005
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Italian cars have long been high on style and performance, but they have also always come with lingering doubts about their build quality and reliability. The current crop of models, like the Alfa Romeo 147, promise the same tantalising mix of looks and speed, and the claim that the bad old days are now well and truly buried in the past.
But are they really any better than those old models that caused their owners so much heartache?
Alfa Romeo is a long established, well-respected sports car manufacturer with a proud racing history dating back almost 100 years. Today, it's part of the Fiat empire, along with the other great Italian brands like Ferrari, Maserati, Lancia, and Fiat.
The 147 was part of a new thrust of models designed to breathe new energy into the brand. It was an attractive, flamboyantly styled small hatch with a choice of three and five-door body styles.
There could be no mistaking the 147 with the bold 'Quadrifoglio' badge atop a grille that was instantly recognisable as an Alfa signature.
While pretty by hatch standards the 147 came with a few compromises. It had a high waistline, thick pillars, a large centre headrest and a smallish rear window, all of which restricted the driver's vision and made the cabin somewhat dark and gloomy.
Inside, it boasted heavily contoured, supportive front seats. Those in the rear, however, found themselves a little cramped, and luggage space was limited. The interior appointments tended to be fiddly more than practical, but looked good.
With large alloy wheels filling out the wheel arches located at each corner the 147 had a bold presence that spelt 'fun at the wheel'.
There was a choice of two engines, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder 'Twin Spark' engine and a 3.2-litre V6.
At its peak the 2.0-litre four was putting out 110 kW and 181 Nm, enough to make it a fun drive without being sizzling. Buyers of the 2.0-litre could have the standard five-speed manual gearbox, or the semi-auto clutchless sequential shift Selespeed five- speed transmission.
The V6 GTA, with 184 kW and 400 Nm, was a real excitement machine. Transmission choices with this engine were a six-speed manual or a six-speed Selespeed gearbox.
IN THE SHOP
Alfas are generally sound, but they can be frustrating with niggling little problems. Look for oil leaks around the engine and transmission, also inspect for coolant leaks.
Brake wear can be an issue, expect to replace pads and rotors more regularly than on other cars. The cam belt on the 2.0-litre must be replaced every 60,000 km or three years, ignore it and there's a good chance it would break and cause major internal damage to the engine.
It's perhaps best to dodge the Selespeed transmission; it can give trouble, and can be expensive to repair, and it's not that pleasant to drive anyway. Look for signs of being driven hard and walk away if it appears a car has been abused or even used in motorsport events.
Regular service is important with the 147, so check for a reliable service record.
IN A CRASH
The 147 was quite well equipped with safety gear from the beginning. Even the 2001 models had electronic stability control and dual front, side and curtain airbags standard. Despite this impressive array of safety equipment the 147 only rated three stars under the NCAP testing regime.
UNDER THE PUMP
The 147's fuel consumption can be closely linked to the way it is driven. If driven conservatively it will sip fuel at the relatively economical rate of around 8.0 L/100 km, but driven enthusiastically it will guzzle as much as 11 L/100 km.
Tammy McLeod bought her 2004 147 last year as a Christmas present to herself and adores it. The moment she sat in it she knew she had to have it. It had 43,000 km on the clock, the paint wasn't too bad, and she reckons it was a bit of a bargain at $17,000. She loves its fast and immediate response when she plants her right foot. She also loves the handling. Tammy now considers herself an Alfa aficionado.
- Stylish looks
- Five-door practicality
- Restricted visibility
- Spirited engines
- Responsive chassis
- Agile handling
- Poor resale
THE BOTTOM LINE
Good looking and great driving, but the dark cloud of unreliability still hangs over the brand.
|Year||Price From||Price To|
Range and Specs
|Selespeed||2.0L, PULP, 5 SP||$2,640 – 4,070||2001 Alfa Romeo 147 2001 Selespeed Pricing and Specs|
|2.0 Twin Spark||2.0L, PULP, 5 SP MAN||$2,200 – 3,410||2001 Alfa Romeo 147 2001 2.0 Twin Spark Pricing and Specs|
Lowest price, based on third party pricing data