I suspect that had the Nissan Cherry never existed and the ARNA had arrived looking exactly as it did, but as an in-house Alfa design, it would have probably been accepted without question. The boxy styling isn't far removed from any other Alfa at the time but the Nissan connection just wasn't palatable to the Alfisti (and still isn't to some now!)
Many people still think it's a Cherry with an Alfa badge but it's actually about 95% Alfa Romeo and shares less with it's Japanese counterpart than you might imagine. Even the components that are the same as the N12 Cherry are Italian made and Marked 'Alfa Romeo'. In fact, ironically, the Nissan version (the Cherry Europe) is actually a hastily re-badged Alfa! Even the Chassis plate on The Cherry Europe Says Alfa Romeo SpA rather than Nissan. This model was originally only ever meant to be an Alfa and it wasn't originally intended for their to be a Nissan version.
As a car, it's not bad at all. It's quick and nimble (especially in Ti or GTi form) and sounds lovely. In fact prior to it's launch and immeadiately after it received much praise from the motoring press. History has not been kind to it though and over the years the notion of the project being a bad idea (which it undoubtedly was) has become confused with the idea that the ARNA was a bad car. It wasn't really, and certainly no worse than anything else Alfa built back then. Where the real problem lay was in Alfa Romeo not understanding their buyers and the brand loyalty they had. In the same way that 1980's Nissan buyers wouldn't have dreamed of owning a car built by Italians, the average Alfa buyer didn't want a car that looked exactly the same as a Nissan.
As for the question of wether it's cool... we'll it IS an interesting car and in practice not a bad one. Whether people like it or not, it is a proper Alfa Romeo and I think it may even have been the last model to be built prior to Fiat taking over. But cool? Even though I like the car I think it unlikely!