Merely 15 months since the Alfa Romeo 156's previous facelift, Fiat Auto SA has introduced Giorgetto Giugiaro's fresh interpretation of Walter de'Silva's gorgeous design. Is it a stunner?

Merely 15 months after the Alfa Romeo 156's previous facelift, Fiat Auto SA has introduced Giorgetto Giugiaro's fresh interpretation of Walter de'Silva's gorgeous design.


When a facelifted version of Alfa Romeo's head-turning compact saloon was launched in September 2002, it had a redesigned interior, improved safety features, some under-the-skin revisions, but only subtle cosmetic tweaks. At the time, some motoring enthusiasts felt it was just as well that the classically-retro (iconic?) looks of the 156 remained largely unaltered.


However, the latest changes to the range are primarily cosmetic and positions the range within a series of models sporting Alfa Romeo's so-called family look (which started with the 147 and was recently seen on the facelifted GTV and Spider). Will this look satisfy the said enthusiasts, most of whom are raving alfisti?


Here's how the legendary Giugiaro motivated the new changes: "The grille is bigger and reshaped and the headlights feature round chrome-plated parts on a black background and are joined by a single glass lip. The lower part of the bumper is narrower than on the previous version to increase the sporty, aggressive feel.


"These were the key aims of Alfa Romeo's restyling brief, apart from full respect for distinctive brand features. All the horizontal lines at the front converge on the grille at an angle to increase the sense of potency," he added.


At the rear, the taillights have been slightly reworked so that their lower part is emphasised by two "slight side-whiskers" and the upper part by a motif that frames the Alfa logo.


Inside, the facia is now offered with a selection of three colours: black on beige, black on grey, dark grey on light grey (tone on tone matches). The upper part of the facia features a multifunction display, while the lower part contains a built-in radio and automatic dual zone climate control system.


The trims vary according to version and specification level... The new 2,0 Veloce model now features Alfatex cloth on the seats and door panel trim. On leather-trimmed models, the seat and under-facia trim colours are now colour-matched (black, grey or beige).


The range's engine line-up still comprises: the petrol-driven 110 kW 2,0 Twin Spark (in Veloce, Lusso and Selespeed versions), the 2,0 Twin Spark Veloce Sportwagon and the 141 kW 2,5-litre V6 24v units (Sedan and Sportwagon).


Alfa Romeo has further adopted new colour-naming references and customers can choose a colour for their car from a palate of fourteen shades. Alfa Red, Carrara White and Kyalami Black are non-metallic and metallics include: Siena Red, Stresa Green, Taormina Blue, Capri Blue, Daytona Blue, Luce di Amalfi Grey, Le Castellet Blue, Gonzaga Grey, Vesuvio Grey, Lipari Grey and Jarama Black.


In terms of passive safety, the range is now fitted - as standard on all versions - with window bags that drop down along the windows in the case of side impact to safeguard the heads of front and rear occupants. Isofix attachments to the left and right of the rear seat also secure child seats.


The 156 and Sportwagon are offered with a 36-month/60 000 km maintenance plan and 36-month/100 000 km dealer warranty (three years on paintwork and five years on anti-perforation). And according to Fiat Auto SA spokesperson Rella Guiricich, the 2,4-litre JTD turbodiesel will be added to the lineup in July.


Prices for the 156 range (old prices in brackets):


2,0 Twin Spark Veloce R218 000 (R224 500)

2,0 Sportwagon Veloce R228 000 (n/a)

2,0 Twin Spark Lusso R230 000 (R235 000)

2,0 Selespeed R246 000 (R234 500)

2,5 V6 R266 000 (R261 500)

2,5 V6 Sportwagon R276 000 (R271 500)

3,2 V6 GTA Sportwagon R389 000 (R389 000)