new star has been born - Alfa Romeo 147. You might think AutoZine is
pro-Alfa, but when 56 juries also chose it as European Car Of The Year
2001, you have to pay extra respect to this car. If you love Alfa Romeo
156, read this: 147 is not only cheaper than 156 but it is also the
(Golf etc.) hatchback to be derived directly from a D-segment (Mondeo
sedan. Fiat group’s accountants would have preferred the 147 to be
on Fiat Punto, however, their boss (Fiat CEO) Paolo Cantarella turned
down and insisted it should be derived from the highly-praised, if
expensive, 156 saloon. Thanks a lot, Cantarella. Car enthusiasts will
his wisdom in the next few years.
of 156 gives
the little hatchback an unrivalled chassis and suspensions. Think about
it, which hatchback has a rigid chassis derived from a 3-series-beater
? Don’t tell me Mercedes C-class Sports Coupe ! it is far from
unlike Alfra 147. How many hatchbacks ride on front double-wishbones
? Civic is no longer so. As for chassis, no matter for
reason or for handling reason, Alfa decided the 147 should be smaller
the 156, so 50 mm was eliminated from the wheelbase while the tail was
replaced by a lift gate. Undoubtedly, that result in considerably less
rear leg room and 100 litre reduction of luggage space.
smaller dimensions doesn’t mean lighter, because extra strengthening is
required to deal with the lost of rigidity in tail gate. Moreover, to
it cheaper to build than 156 it employs conventional steel lower links
for rear suspensions instead of aluminium (accounts for 4kg) and steel
seat frames instead of magnesium. As a result, the 147 weighs just 10
less than the 156. In other words, at 1250 kg (for the flagship version
2.0 TS Selespeed) it is some 100 kg in excess of class average.
the cockpit is wonderfully packaged to deliver a real expensive feel.
owner will be jealous about the build quality as well as styling of the
cabin: Volkswagen’s style soft-touch plastic, damped-feel switches and
grab handles, stylish gauges and air vents, best steering wheel,
center console which houses a sophisticated trip computer, sat-nav and
voice-phone. Leather seats looks attractive and sits supportive.
this must be the best interior design I have ever seen in a hatchback.
What’s more, all the switches, controls and glovebox feel really solid
and could last for a life, a thing hardly imagine for an Italian car
Alfa Romeo. Well done !
lack of rear
leg room and by lesser extent the rear shoulder room. Bearing in mind
wheelbase is just 2546mm, it is unsurprising the baby Alfa is not
to be a family car like Ford Focus but it is obviously a niche personal
car like Audi A3 and BMW 3-compact.
wise, 147 has been improved in various aspects from its donor. While
design is carried over, it has revised bushings, spring and damper
to deliver tauter controlled yet slightly smoother ride, the latter
thanks to 10 mm increase in ride height hence more suspension travel.
the steering department, steering effort is lowered by 10% via using a
revised servo pump. Of course, the reduction of 49mm wheelbase will
benefit handling agility.
hatchbacks can match
its capable handling - Ford Focus (our previous handling champion)
Compare with Focus, the 147 rides on firmer suspensions so that it is
too comfortable on bumpy B-roads. However, it feels tauter, better
and more agile to steer. Steering is very quick (2.2 turns from right
left) and accurate, delivering the same sharpness as 156 but with
eliminated. However, you can still pick a few hot hatches more fun to
for instance, Peugeot 306 GTi-6. Unlike the Peugeot, the new Alfa
eliminates lift-off oversteering in pursuit of a fluent and
of handling. Therefore it won’t be as involving to drive as older
of hot hatches but it’s a trend agreed by all car engineers - see the
Peugeot 206GTi and you’ll know.
around - the famous 1.6 and 2.0 twin-spark. They are perhaps the only
that may link back to the outgoing 145 and 146. Entering the new
the Super Fire twin spark series has been revised a little bit to cope
with new emission regulation. The 2.0 unit gets smaller inlet valves
is added with variable intake manifold. Although power and torque
(now 150 hp and 133 lbft instead of 155 hp and 138 lbft) there is
any lost of punch can be felt. It is still revvy, smooth and flexible,
and makes the most beautiful engine note among all 4-pots.
carrying some 1250 kg of weight you can only expect 9 seconds for 0-60
although subjectively it feels quicker.
launch, the 2.0 is only available with Selespeed gearbox. This second
has improved shift smoothness in auto mode but is still no match for a
regular manual gearbox. Upshift is slow and jerky in various
such as part-throttle or in traffic at low gears. It still needs
before being another strong element of the car. My advice: wait for the
is perhaps the styling - it wins our Styling Of The Year 2001. Ice on
cake must be the beautiful-yet-unique V-shape grille. It might be the
of the 6C 2500 Villa d’Este of 1949, but Alfa studio succeeded to
it into a modern hatch is hardly imaginable by anyone. Like the
the exterior design deliver a strong sense of Latin emotion which makes
it far more desirable than any prestige German opponents.
bringing us the most desirable hatch in the world.