It may look like a suave evolution of Alfa Romeo’s venerable 156, but the 159, which will début at the Geneva Motor Show, will be bigger, offer better equipment and four-wheel drive models. Could the 159 make major inroads in the compact market?

It may look like a suave evolution of Alfa Romeo's venerable 156, but the 159, which will début at the Geneva Motor Show, will be bigger, offer better equipment and four-wheel drive models. Could the 159 make major inroads in the compact market?


The replacement for Alfa Romeo's 1998 European Car of the Year and 1999 South African Car of the Year will be built on the platform that the Milanese marque would have shared with Saab under the now defunct Fiat-GM co-operation agreement.


The 159 is 4 660 mm long, 1 828 mm wide, 1 417 mm high and has a 2 700-mm wheelbase. It will be significantly bigger than the model it replaces (the newcomer was expected to reach right-hand drive markets by about February, sources said) and offer better interior and boot space.



Penned by Giorgetto Giugiaro in collaboration with the Alfa Romeo Styling Centre, the 159 has a Brera-like trapezoid-shaped front end and a distinctive shoulder line that spans the waist of the car and broadens towards the rear pillar. The rear has similarities with that of the Alfa Romeo GT and its horizontal design, underlined by a chromed double exhaust tailpipe on the more powerful versions, is topped off by a small spoiler. The elongated rear lights, divided by the slit of the boot, include cylindrical shapes derived from the styling of the front headlights.


The interior of the Alfa Romeo 159 is dominated by a revised driving position and the facia and wrapround centre console are turned ergonomically towards the driver. The speedometer, rev counter and other instruments, all strictly analogue, are circular - of course. The console, which is raised as if stretching towards the facia, "has a sporty gearlever with short, precise movements, and an armrest that incorporates a large insulated storage compartment", an Alfa Romeo spokesman said.



In terms of safety, the 159 has eight airbags (including special bags to protect the knees and side 'bags, new restraint systems (pretensioners on the belt clasps, and decreasing load limiters on the belts), and anti-whiplash front seats that are said to bring the head-restraint nearer to the occupants' necks in the event of a rear impact.


The petrol engine range uses General Motors' blocks and Alfa Romeo's own cylinder heads with direct injection and continuously-variable inlet and exhaust cam timing. The lineup will include three new JTS engines with continuous dual variable valve timing (inlet and exhaust) - 119 kW 1,9 litre and 138 kW 2,2 four cylinders and 194 kW 3,2-litre 24-valve V6.



Diesel engines will include a choice of 112-kW 1,9 litre 16V four- and 149-KW 2,4-litre five-cylinder JTD units. The range's engines will be mated with new mechanical gearboxes, automatic transmissions or a robotised Selespeed system, all with six ratios.


According to the V6 and the 2,4 JTD will be available with a Q4 four-wheel-drive system, which features a Torsen C centre differential splits torque constantly and dynamically between the four wheels. The normal torque split is 43 per cent to the front and 57 per cent to the rear, however.