Been to the importer's showroom today to take a look at Lancia Thesis. There was none on display, the salesman said demand is poor. Anyway, instead of leaving immediately I chose to inspect some of the cars on the floor.
Fiat Stilo - Interesting design, but the rear is kinda funky. Those tail-lights are pretty avantgarde. Inside it is roomier than the Bravo. The plastics are of better quality, and everything is chunkier. There are compartments and trays EVERYWHERE. The colour active matrix centre display on the instrument panel is cool, not to mention the large colour LCD screen of the Connect Nav+. The switchgear feels solid, but on closer inspection one can notice some budget cuts. The finish is not impeccable, and we can argue if that is to be expected in this class, but I don't see how it can make the car cost noticeably more if it is. Equipment available is extremely modern, and some items are not even available on more expensive Alfas. Stilo can be loaded with gadgets like Dualdrive servo, bi-zone climate control with AQS, radar cruise control and so on. Neat.
Alfa 147 - Exterior is fantastic, as we all probably agree, so no more about that. The interior is very impressive. In general if feels more solid than the Stilo, from doors closing thump to assembly and finish. Leather seats are great. Legroom and headroom is limited, but hey this is a compact after all. Design of the instrument panel is excellent, I like it very much. Materials are pleasant to look at and touch, and quality of plastic is on par with the competition from Germany. Maybe not quite as good as the latest offerings from VW/Audi, but it may be just due to deeper creasings. Metallized plastic on the centre console and gearlever is very good, better than I expected. I prefer the climate and stuff knobs with displays on them (like on the 156) rather than separate above, but that's just my personal liking. Boot volume is OK for a car of this class and the engine compartment is neat and clean. All in all I can't find any negative points, the car is a gem. IMO much better looking and classier than the new Golf V/Audi A3, both inside and out. Don't know how it drives though, and if realiability is on level with the Germans.
Alfa 156 - Pleasantly more roomy than the 147. When a 190cm driver gets comfy in the front, I have enough headroom and legroom in the rear. Leather is fantastic, cloth looks and feels bad and undurable, but this is probably not objective because there was another 156 with leather next to it. I just wanted to get out and get in the one with the leather. I also think the seats in my 166 are slightly more comfortable. Damn, am I spoiled or what? Instrument panel looks somewhat obsolete to me when compared to the 147. Again, the central console, knobs, buttons etc. are all excellent. Gearlever too. Computer display on the centre top is neat (similar to the Peugeot 206). Armrest is a bit obstructive.
I don't understand why didn't they put air vents from the 147 when facelifing the 156? I have never seen anything as pretty and smooth in operation as the ones in the little Alfa. They aren't as pretty in the 156 and need more power to rotate. Also, where is the damped action of the grab handles and the glovebox? These and some other small features enhance the experience and are not expensive nor difficult to employ. Interior space is very good, I wonder why so many magazine reviewers complain. I honestly don't remember it being so roomy when checking it out before I decided for the 166. Overall, it looks beautiful, but somehow not as accomplished as the 147. One gets the feeling Alfa has not put so much effort in it as it did with the 147. Granted, the car is older, but the facelift could have been more detailed. Anyway, these complaints are minor and the 2.0JTS is a very sexy car. BTW, I think the sales guy mentioned that there is no lock on the boot?!? It is hidden behind the badge on my car.
Bear in mind that these were not 156 models with the 147 front (the latest redesign).
"Dear Lord, the gods have been good to me. As an offering, I present these milk and cookies. If you wish me to eat them instead, please give me no sign whatsoever... thy bidding will be done (munch munch munch)."