The 159 is the only one among the three that qualifies as eye candy
Steer as you like, ride in comfort

IF YOU think that from the front the 159 saloon looks suspiciously like a Brera coupe, you're not wrong.

The two Alfa Romeo models have an almost identical front-end treatment. This similarity extends to the interior, where the 159's dashboard and centre console look like direct transplants from the smaller car.

However, that's not such a bad thing because some styling cues are also reminiscent of the more exotic F430 (Alfa Romeo and Ferrari belong to the Fiat group) - like the trio of centre air vents and the way the speedo and tacho needles rest at the six o'clock position.

But perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the 159 is its remarkable driveability. The ergonomics are commendable - it is actually possible to get a perfect driving position with the four-way adjustable steering wheel and exquisitely designed leather seats.

So is the ease of operation - light pedals and smooth gear changes combine with a well-weighted steering.

For now, only a six-speed manual gearbox is available, mated either to a 2.2-litre inline four-cylinder direct injection engine driving the front wheels, or a 260 hp 3.2-litre V6 with all-wheel drive.

Unlike the rorty-sounding Twin Spark units of old, the 2.2 JTS gets somewhat whiny when pushed. It also requires time to get up to speed, but when it does the 159 is delightful.

The steering is accurate, the handling taut, and although the suspension is firm, the ride comfort is good, with its ability to pad and insulate against low-speed bumps.

The 159 is a replacement for the 156, but it is substantially larger. The boot is wide and deep, although rear-seat accommodation is only adequate. Maybe most of the bulk has gone into that long smooth snout. But even if it looks a bit nose-heavy, it still exudes more machismo than the 156's smaller, more feminine form.

A new six-speed Selespeed clutchless manual transmission will arrive later next month. Costing $5,000 more than the 2.2-litre manual, it will be available in standard or luxury trim.

Authorised distributor EuroAutomobile considers the 159 a direct competitor to the Audi A4 and the BMW 320i and has priced it accordingly. Not everyone will agree with that, but one thing is sure - the 159 is the only one among the three that qualifies as eye candy.

SPECS

Alfa Romeo 159 JTS

Engine: 2,198cc

Gearbox: 6-speed manual transmission

Max power: 185 hp @ 6,500 rpm

Max torque: 230 Nm @ 4,500 rpm

0-100 kmh: 8.8 secs

Top speed: 222 kmh

Price: $118,800 (with COE)

Distributor: EuroAutomobile

Tel: 6566 2200