04 November 2013

Alfa Romeo 147 – A temptation itself

Drop dead gorgeous. You know you want to...

I HAVE previously said on Definitely Motoring, that I'm on the hunt for a change of wheels. A Ford Focus is on my shortlist. As mentioned, I'd like a bigger car that's ideally a five door hatchback. But like the Peugeot 206 and the Ford Ka, I'd like one that's also a nice looking car, fun to drive and have a dose of practicality in the mix.

I want to buy a car outright than get one on finance. Something that many of my peers tend to be doing these days. Getting a car on finance is a bad idea for me. I don't want to have a long term commitment in owning the same car. I'll probably get bored with it in a matter of time.

One car that has appealed to me is this beauty...the Alfa Romeo 147.

I believe it's the first stunning hatchback to come from the Italian company since the legendary Alfasud in the Seventies. The 147 is a beautiful car that's also attainable for many petrol heads. Owners love them for how they drive with their sharp handling, spirited performance and keen to rev engines - let's not forget its luscious looks. The interior is a thing of beauty too. The chrome door handles and the round sporting dials are neat retro touches harking back to the classic Alfas.

With the age they are, 147s are dirt cheap and you can get a decent one for a song. I looked at a few of them for sale on the Auto Trader. For example, there was a 2001 (51-plate), 1.6 Lusso for sale. A five door hatchback that came with all the bells and whistles. Metallic paint, alloy wheels, leather interior, CD player, remote central locking, cruise control, air conditioning - you name it, it had a lot of kit. With a genuine 80,000 miles, and a fully stamped up service history; with information of when the oil was topped up, timing belt was changed and when it was last serviced. So how much was this gem going for? The asking price was £800. Bargain.

Some of you will be dead against the idea of me getting an Alfa. Sure they make some gorgeous cars, but poor reliability, flaky build quality and for those with a long memory, rust are something they're notoriously known for. The issue with rust is firmly in the past - they're not like the old Alfasuds and GTV6s. They rotted right after a few jet washes.

Alfa owners may have suffered heartache from being stranded on the hard shoulder with the bonnet up. Frustrated with electric windows playing up, and with their bank balance taking a right hammering. But when it works and they drive their pride and joy. They'll be having fun with their Alfa Romeo -  to them, it's worth suffering the pain for. It's all part of the experience of Alfa ownership.

If we're going on rational grounds here, an Alfa Romeo is not recommended. Parts and servicing are not cheap compared to mainstream rivals. Going to an Alfa specialist can help keep costs down there though. I know of one in East Lancashire, that's well recommended and not too far from where I live. So that's handy.

But if I ever take the plunge of getting an Alfa, I'll tread carefully. Buying one must come with a full service history, with fewer owners and providing it's also been properly maintained - like checking the oil and the timing belts for example. I'll have to do my bit in servicing and maintaining religiously. An Alfa may well be a risky buy but sod it, I only live once. Got to make it worthwhile. That's probably the outlook in life some Alfa Romeo owners have.

I find myself in a similar situation that my father was in when he was my age. At that time, he was tempted on the prospect of buying an Alfasud. But of course with the baggage that came with one - as with most Alfas being rust and reliability, he decided to get a MK1 Golf. Sensible move in not letting his heart rule his head. He has looked back in hindsight, on what if he bought the 'Sud instead. But deep down, I don't think he'll have regretted buying the Golf.

Over my next purchase, it's all down to whether I buy a car with my heart or my head. Buy one with my head, it's easily going to be a Ford Focus - or if I'm uber sensible, a Volkswagen Golf or a Honda Civic. But if I bought one with my heart, it'll be an Alfa Romeo 147 hands down.

A Ford Focus should be just as much fun as an Alfa 147, but cheaper to own and makes more sense.

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