From a distance, and from the right angle (of which there are many on the Giugiaro-designed Alfa 159) this week's Shed looks like a cracker. It's a good spec and it has a good paint/upholstery combo. The MOT certificate lasts to the end of next April and is completely clean. Unfortunately the same cannot be said about the bodywork. In parts, principally but not restricted to the bootlid which looks like a discarded sweet wrapper, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the students at a metalwork evening class have been gleefully using it to practice their year-one peening skills.
Shed used to be a dab hand with the old flap peener. Mrs Shed confiscated his specialist tools after she misunderstood what he was talking about, but he remembers enough about the process of teasing sheet metal into sexy shapes to know that it takes some doing to get a panel into the sort of the state you're looking at here.
How do you suppose they got it to look like that? In fairness, both of the Mk2 MX-5s owned by Shed had their bootlids ruined by him forgetting to lie down the bottles of Scruttocks Old Dirigible Ale he'd bunged in there. You could understand one dent, maybe even two, but how so many? Could it have been the result of a single event, and if so, what? Rammed from behind by a forklift carrying an extremely random collection of hard plastic toys? Or just beaten with a blunt instrument? And talking of flaps, which we were a minute ago, why is the fuel flap slightly ajar?
We'll probably never know. The vendor, perhaps wisely, opts not to speculate on any of this. What we do know is that the 159 was on sale between 2005 and 2011, and that it was the successor to the 156 and the precursor to the current Giulia. Many of those who have driven both the 156 and the 159 would be hard pressed to agree that the 159 represented an improvement over its predecessor in the handling department. There was nothing particularly bad about the 159, but in terms of general handling and especially steering it had big boots to fill.
The 156 was a kind of eureka moment for Alfa. Sure, it had significant quality issues – Shed remembers having to step through a large loop of unattached door seal, skip-rope style, in order to access the driver's seat of the UK press car – but as a pure driving proposition it was Alfa's Ford Focus, a properly joyous thing to rampage around in with the 2.5 V6 installed or, of course, the epic 250hp 3.2 in the now horribly expensive GTA.
Alfa was in a sink or swim situation in the 2000s. Folk wanted durable but dull diesels rather than tuneful but thirsty petrols. For the last year of their lives the diesel 159s got a new 2.0 unit with 170hp and 266lb ft at 1,750rpm, but our 2006 example has the more powerful of the two 1.9 diesels that were available at the time, the 150hp lump with 236lb ft at 2,000rpm and 16 valves (there was an 8-valve version with 120hp/207lb ft). The 150hp unit gave it a 0-62mph time that nearly dropped into single figures, a top speed of 130mph and combined fuel consumption of 47.1mpg. Again, none of this dry stuff really heats the blood, but in its defence the 159 did move Alfa's quality game on quite a bit, if not the emotional game.
Body panels aside, this £1,499 example seems to have lasted the course reasonably well. The vendor tells us that this one a top-spec Turismo. Shed reckons he might be wrong on both counts. He thinks it's a Lusso. They came with leather, not cloth, and they had this type of alloy wheel.
Before you rush to your keyboard to express outrage at the price, please first rush to the classified ads to swig a bitter spoonful of reality. Used car values have rocketed of late. With bodywork like this our Shed would probably have been well under a grand only a year or so ago. Moderate mileage petrol 159s of around the 2009 vintage are now going for £3k and more. Shed found no shortage of 60-70,000 mile 159s for more than £7,000, and even a few everyday-engined ones at over £8,000.
In those classified ads for 159s you'll find quite a few with rust nibbling away in odd places like the leading edge of the bonnet. Diesel ECUs pack up and nifty features such as cruise control and, er, windscreen wipers conk out. Brakes can be troublesome and expensive to mend. Wonky tracking will cause premature tyre wear. Turbos run dry and blow up, as can power steering pumps. If the water pump seizes it will most likely take out the timing belt as well as its own belt. That could happen quite early on in a 159's life at around 40,000 miles, so you'd want to check the paperwork on this 110,000-miler to see what's been replaced and what hasn't. Belts and pumps should be changed every four years or 40,000 miles at the outside. Shed has been wearing the same belt and pumps for the last 47 years so don't get anywhere near his feet on a hot day.
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