Thanks everyone for your comments to this post, i’m glad people found it a useful and interesting review.
I have now owned the 159 for 2 years which is the same amount of time I owned my GT Blackline, so I thought it might be a good idea to do a comparison over the 2 years and 30,000 miles or so of ownership between the two.
Over the 2 years the GT’s JTD engine seemed to loosen up a heck of a lot, it felt like it got more responsive over time which was quite a strange phenomenon but one I’ve heard mentioned a fair bit on the GT forum. The Alfa mechanic who fixed her when the water pump seized and destroyed the engine asked me if she had been remapped (she hadn’t) because she felt so much nippier through the gears then newer models he’d driven. The same thing, to a slightly lesser extent, can be said about the 159. In my original review I spoke about the 159 “bogging down” and needing work to get her going versus the much more eager GT, this happens less now and certainly in 3rd and 4th the engine pulls really well through the rev range, country road driving between 3rd and 4th gear is now almost as exciting as in the GT. It could be that I’ve just got used to the way of driving the 159 of course but over time I have become much more satisfied with the way the engine delivers the power and the willingness to accelerate from low speed.
The lowered suspension, 19” rims and overall stiffness of the car still mean that the 159 turns into corners fantastically well, my journey home from work is all about twisty country roads and the 159 is an absolute delight around tight bends, I will soon need new shocks and springs I think as the ever increasing number of pot holes on our British roads are not absorbed with the same finesse as when the car was younger but all things wear out eventually. As advised elsewhere on AO I set the front tyre pressure to 40psi instead of the advised 38psi and found that the problem of torque steer reduced. Steering is still great, the small valve a the bottom of the PAS reservoir perished at 28k which lead to the steering making a horrendous racket, all sorted in 40mins on warranty at the dealer, more on that later but the steering is as direct and firm as the day i bought her.
Behind the wheel
The one thing I really miss the most about the GT is those seats, they really are the best and comfiest seats of any car I’ve had, especially the Alfatex ones I had in my very first GT. The ones in the 159 just aren’t as good, the movable front squab is just annoying and serves just to provide a little slot for lots of fluff and coins to gather; and I don’t really see the point but then I don’t have particularly long legs, those that do might find it useful. The bucket seats in the Ti hold you well in the corners but on long journeys I can’t seem to get the right lumbar and lower-back support and my wife always says that the seats are uncomfortable over a couple of hours journey and unlike absolutely everything else about the car, I find this hard to defend. The dash, trim, switchgear all still look great, nothing has faded or fallen off, when freshly valeted the interior looks like brand new. To the seat’s credit, the leather is holding better than on the GT, it still has a nice matt finish, hasn’t gone too shiny in the usual areas and has required very little attention so far, with some TLC and leather wipes I am sure they would come up like new too. I still find all the “mod-cons” like the chromatic mirror, auto-wipers and auto-lights really useful. One thing which would be useful and I believe only exists in series 1 159s is an in-cockpit boot/trunk switch. This was really useful in the GT when picking people up, the ability to open the boot remotely so they could put their bags in and at places like the hand car-wash when they need to clean inside the boot lid, a simple button is far more elegant then trying to come up with a suitable charades-gesture for “push the badge” whilst mouthing “push..the badge… the ba…dge”. Knowing Alfa the wiring for this is probably still on the loom, somewhere.
Blue and Me is ok for handsfree phone, I have learned that you have to talk a little like her for her to understand you every time and when you get this it works spot-on every time. Gets some weird looks when you have passengers though. Blue and Me for music connectivity has been disappointing for me, when it works it is great but for seemingly no reason, I get “no media found” and nothing other than connecting another USB device and re-indexing or disconnecting the battery forces the B&M system to find the iPod it was playing perfectly on the journey into work. I can’t be bothered with either when it’s such a regular occurrence so I’ve had to sacrifice using this functionality on a regular basis which is annoying. My aftermarket Alfa iPod connector in my GT was basic but did the job, I miss that.
I washed the 159 yesterday whilst it was sunny then drove into town, I counted at least 10 looks and half of those lead to a backwards glance as I drove by. It’s still a stunning car and in Ti spec, freshly washed on a sunny day it’s beauty in metal form. However, that EU-friendly water-based paint is as much a pain, in black, on the 159 as it was on the GT for stone-chips. They keep me awake at night.
I could quote mpg figures but in real terms, 1 week of driving, and I don’t drive to be frugal, costs £55 per week in diesel and that gets me 360 miles more or less, pretty much consistently. I tried using £55 of Shell V-Power to see if I got anything different, no detectable change in performance and 355 miles covered so probably slightly more economical (as the extra expense per litre means less litres in the tank) but not worth the slight change of route to get to a Shell garage for me really. It would be unfair to compare how far 50 quids worth of diesel in the GT got me thanks to the government and the fuel prices but I reckon consumption is still about the same 35-37mpg.
The 159 has had pretty much everything in the back of it, from an old mattress to a room’s worth of laminate flooring, 4 people’s skiing gear, including 1 set of skis (I got to use the “ski hatch” for it’s actual purpose which was brilliant), everyone’s suitcases and room to spare. With the seats down the 159 just swallows everything and even with the seats up the capacity is still excellent. Having 4 doors is just so much easier to live with, I don’t think I’ll ever go back to only having 3 doors for an everyday car. Well until i get a Vantage anyway..
Lack of cup-holders is the only slight nag, especially as there is only one but I would much rather have only 1, discrete cup-holder than some of the hideous plastic moulded things my wife has in her Peugeot.
With the GT I only ever had one problem but that was pretty catastrophic when the water pump seized, this seems to be a very common issue with GTs as the related post on the GT forum testifies. With the 159 it’s been smaller but more frequent problems, in addition to the battery issue I have since had the small valve at the bottom of the power-steering reservoir perish which caused air to get into the system and make a real racket when turning, also the left indicator stalk stopped working which meant that anything other than physical movement of the stalk (indicators and mainbeam/flash) stopped working and that meant no control over the lights, no control over the menu functions and no control over the dashboard dimmer. Luckily the default setting for the lights is always-on rather than always-off so I was able to drive in the dark but it also means the lights were permanently on, not such an issue as the problem occurred over the winter though. All issues resolved quickly and efficiently on warranty, can’t praise the service of Mangoletsi enough on this, every single time I have been in it’s been without an appointment and they have whisked her in and fixed her whilst I waited. No complaints at all but i'm concerned about post-warranty niggles.
Tyres…. I reported after 3 months that 9500 miles on the Contisports had hardly had an impact but after 15,000 they were shot on the inside edge on the fronts and I got 20,000 out of the backs. The inner-edge tyre wear eats the tyres, changing the tracking doesn’t seem to make much difference, increasing tyre-pressure doesn’t either, I think it’s just a trait of the car to be honest. As such, I don’t currently pay £235 a corner for Contisports, I get Acceleras and they do 15,000 miles too for half the price. There are many posts about the pros and cons of this on AO. On the GT I was getting 25,000 miles from Pirelli P-Zeros which were much cheaper per tyre and there were many alternatives although i found the P-Zeros to be the best all-rounder. If you are getting a 159 TI on the 19s be aware that tyre choice is limited as the tyre size is quite a rare one and top brands are expensive.
2 years on I don’t regret swapping the GT for the 159, every time I see a GT I love the looks of it and I reminisce about those seats, the feel of the coupe interior and the power delivery but I don’t yearn to be back in it. The 159 is a fabulous car and I love it warts and all. I only wish I could have both, that would be perfection. My only worry now is what to replace her with, I’m hoping to hold out for the Guilia in 2014 and to be honest the 159 is not a bad place to wait..