A history lesson…
After winning the European Car of the Year title in 1998, the little Alfa Romeo 147 was always destined to be a sure-fire sales success within the continent. The stylish hatchback looked the part, and with a monstrous 3.2-litre V6 GTA version as its top-of-the-range model, the 147 became known as something as a handful. The petrol engined models never really worked, as the 2.0-litre option was too thirsty, while the 1.6 never really had enough power to get you to work.
The most popular choice was the diesel, and thanks to this engine, Alfa continued to make the 147 until 2010, after a mid-life facelift kept it looking fresh in 2005. Now, you can buy used 147s for absolute bargain prices – thanks mainly to Alfa’s poor residual characteristic.
Above all, though, the 147 was a good looking car. It’s this beauty and visual impact that kept the 147 a car worth buying – even if its technical ability was somewhat overshadowed by its competitors.
Bang for your buck
Thankfully, Alfa Romeo managed to sort out the electrics on this car, meaning you could buy a 147 and be pretty confident in the fact that they were put together properly. And once you do get going, you’re in for a treat. Lovely dials from a Ferrari
are seen in pre-facelift models, and every motor gets traction control – to keep you from sliding off into a tree – and the usual basic bits of tech we’ve come to expect; airbags, ABS and CD player.
If you like your Alfa with a bit of garnish, get yourself a Lusso 147, but watch out for the ‘Selespeed’ gearbox options, as they come with a ‘box that is anything but a manual. The 3.2-litre V6 GTA versions come with four-wheel-drive, and more torque-steer than you can hope to control.
What you’ll pay
This is where the 147 really comes into its stride, as a used car with a 1.6-litre engine in TS guise can be had for around £5,500 on a 05 plate, which, for a beautiful Italian hatchback, isn’t bad at all. Obviously, the higher the spec, the higher the price, but even the mad-dog GTA version is going for cheap these days, just be careful you don’t financially cripple yourself, as the insurance prices will be on the high side.
The JTD diesels are a fantastic buy, as they provide you with lots of lovely torque and very respectable MPG figures. The 1.9-litre diesel has either 115bhp or 150bhp – depending what model you choose – and will keep you entertained on even the most boring ride to work.
What to check
Before buying any Alfa Romeo 147, you need to check the service history and the state of the electrics. If it’s a Selespeed model, make sure the clutch is in good working order, as they can cost a fortune to replace. Along with the usual visual checks for paint damage or alloy kerbing, just always bear in mind that it is an Alfa, and they can go wrong if they haven’t been treated well.
Because the 147 has only just gone out of production, parts are easy to come by. Clutch assemblies are around £140, front and rear brake-pads are about £50 per set and replacement headlamps are around £175. Just remember that the dealer’s aren’t famed for their helpfulness, so always check for cheaper prices elsewhere first.
How it drives
The 147 has always been a great handling little hatch. Even if the GTA version ruined its reputation – thanks to its inability to control its own power – it still remains one of the most enjoyable chassis to drive. Geared to a younger audience, the 147 will you get excited in any trim level or engine size. It encompasses everything that is right about Alfa Romeo; when it’s brilliant, there’s nothing better.
The engines make a rewarding sound, the interior is just a treat to the eyes and when you see it parked outside your home, you’ll know you’ve picked a proper Italian beauty. The manual 147’s are probably the ones to pick, as you feel like you’re involved in the driving, but if you want to just sit back and cruise, the Selespeed has an automatic option, so you can just relax.