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Alfa Romeo 159 Type 939 (2005-2012): Review, Specs, Problems

Introduced in 2005 at the Geneva Motor Show, the Alfa Romeo 159 wanted to become the alternative to the evergreen German trio made of Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

It replaced the 156 and was underpinned by the GM/Fiat Premium architecture, the same used by the Brera and Spider. 240,000 units were built until production ended in 2011.

The sedan's design came out as a collabo between Giorgetto Giugiaro and Centro Stile Alfa Romeo.


Pros & Cons
Strong Points

Pros


Strong Points
  • attractive exterior
  • fun to drive
  • quality cabin
  • strong diesels

Recommended Versions
Strong Points

Cons


Weak Points
  • below-par comfort in the rear
  • limited practicality
  • numerous mechanical problems
  • poor reliability record
  • high servicing costs

Stay Away From
  • avoid the automatic gearbox
  • the petrol engines are not an option when the diesels are that good
Strong Points

Attention


Known Problems & Recalls
  • a recall took place in 2007. It addressed aftermarket roof bars that could cause the roof rails to break
  • also in 2007, a call-in was issued on a potential loss of vehicle control due to oil leaks, followed by another campaign triggered by brake failure
  • 2009 came with another recall, this time caused by a likely reduction of braking assistance due to a faulty vacuum pump
  • some owners experienced engine management faults that forced them to replace the camshaft drive chain
  • there have been EGR valve issues with the 2.2-liter diesel engine
  • the water pump's bearings are also known to snap
  • the inlet manifold cylinder flaps tend to jam, resulting in a loss of engine power

Car Details
Powertrain

Four engine options were available, split into several diesels and petrol units. In the diesel department, you got either a 1.9-liter, 2.0-liter or a 2.4-liter mill (the latter had five cylinders).

In the petrol camp, Alfa offered an entry-level 1.8-liter engine, followed by a 2.2-liter four-cyl powerplant and the range-topping 3.2-liter V6 unit. All versions were FWD, but the V6 came in AWD flavor.

In 2009, Alfa introduced a new 1.75-liter engine followed by a 2.0-liter JTDM unit.

Transmission options included six-speed manual, six-speed auto, six-speed sequential and automatic gearboxes.


Handling

The Alfa 159 was fun to drive thanks to the precise steering and punchy engines, especially the diesels. Despite being a nicely balanced, sporty car, comfort was a thing it mastered. Also, the six-speed manual is as crisp as they come.

However, body roll is a steady presence, and the suspension does tend to send loud thuds inside the cabin when passion over larger bumps.


Safety

Euro NCAP tested the Alfa Romeo 159 in 2006, and the sedan came out with five stars. However, despite full adult occupant protection levels, it only scored four stars for child security and just one for pedestrian protection.

Every Alfa Romeo 159 came with driver and passenger frontal airbags, side body airbags and side head airbags, ABS and ESP.

Comfort

With limited interior space, the Alfa 159 isn't going to win comfort contests, especially when it comes to those sitting in the back, as headroom and legroom could have definitely been better.

Those in front will get an improved treatment from the seats via good lateral and lumbar support, but again, a bit fatigue-inducing on longer trips.

Thanks to the 159's sleek body, noise levels stay hushed even at higher speeds, although the diesels managed to send their clatter inside the cabin when the throttle goes towards the floor.


Quality

The 159's reliability scores are not impressive to say at least, but when it comes to material and build quality, the Italians exceeded expectations.

Cabin materials are top shelf in high-spec guise, and there's a decent assembly synergy around the cockpit - rattles and shakes are a sighting.

Older models might show accentuated signs of wear and tear, so keep an eye on cabin appearance when buying used.


Practicality

Besides faint comfort credentials on the back seat, Alfa Romeo's 159 also lacks storage spaces around the cabin - there are no cupholders, and the door pockets have the storing capacity of envelopes, while the relatively small boot (405 liters) does nothing to improve the sedan's practicality offerings.

Furthermore, the boot's loading lip sits high, making loading and unloading a harder task than it should be.


Infotainment

Every Alfa Romeo 159 features a CD player, but amenities like stereo controls on the steering wheel, satellite navigation, and Bluetooth are only offered by the higher trim levels (Elegante and above).

Efficiency

If frugality is a must, then go for the 1.9 JTDm ECO diesel, as it returns 54.3 mpg. The TBi turbo petrol is good for 34.9 mpg, while the 3.2-liter V6 will barely offer a fuel consumption rating of 25.7 mpg.


Equipment

Even in standard spec, the Alfa Romeo 159 offers decent amenities. The range is split into the Turismo, Turismo Sport, Elegante, Lusso and TI as per August 2009.

Equipment bits vary from front and rear electric windows, dual-zone climate control, CD player and cruise control on entry-level Turismo versions to 19-inch alloys, Brembo brakes, sports seats, parking sensors and Bluetooth on the Elegante, Lusso and TI (Turismo Internazionale) variants.


Acquisition

Plagued by various mechanical issues, the Alfa Romeo 159 isn't for those looking for reliability. Sure, it handles like a charm and looks even better, but if you're poised on getting one, our advice is to look for the 148-horsepower 1.9-litre diesel.

As an alternative, go for the 2.2-liter diesel, but if the ownership budget allows, you could also have a peek at the V6, but remember this is the thirstiest choice in the range.

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Tudor Rus
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