Ah, the 166, 164, 155, 75, 159, 147, 33..... All of these are numbers that actually relate to models of Alfa Romeo. I love Alfas, in one form or the other they stir something deep down in me. No, not my loins but a certain flutter in the heart, my knees go weak and my head goes light. The feeling is somewhat similar to being in love I suppose, or the feeling you would have if either Eva Longoria or Mila Jovovich just passed you by and flirted at you. But somehow these were cars that were designated mere numerals and this fact somehow does not dilute the Alfa Romeo passion in most of us. Even if we cannot bring ourselves to rush out and buy one.
But things are getting better, Alfa Romeo is going back to the good ol' days of the 1960s and 1970s where they named most of their cars. Its not like it has been an Alfa habit to either name or number their cars. While we are aware that some of the classics like the 8c 2600 models from the 1930s or the Tipo 33 models were basically model numbers. But somehow cars with names seem more magnificent. Imagine the words 'Alfa Romeo Brera' rolling off the tip of your tongue or 'Alfa Romeo Giulietta'. Say it with an Italian accent and it sounds spectacular. Another non-Alfa example that makes the most sense in proving this argument is that other Italian car company called Maserati. The word 'Quattroporte' sounds exotic but all it means is 'four doors' yet it sounds like something epic. Yet if it were an American or an English manufacture, I strongly state that if Alfa named their cars 'Rufus', 'Chuck', 'Blair' or 'Mortimer' things would be so different, and really horrific.
And maybe this is why Alfa is going back to using names for their latest models. The Brera was the first of the newly named Alfas and this was followed by the MiTO and now the new Giulietta, which is the Alfa 147 replacement. The Giulietta looks fresh in a retro sort of way and looks like no other hatchback in the market. Much like the the newly launched smaller MiTO model and also the Giulietta predecessor, the 147 when it was first launched. Which brings me to the 147, the last Alfa I had driven.
The 147 was indeed a worthy Alfa due to the fact that it had pretty nice engines, 1.6liters right up to the GTA with that 3.2liter engine which must have been a real beast to drive. The metallic grey 147 (much like the picture) I drove had a 1.6 liter twin spark and a 5 speed manual transmission. It was a pre-facelift model without the 159 style tweaks. While it is a front wheel drive, it still could make me feel good after driving it. Maybe its the badge on the steering wheel. Or the fact that during sharp corners it responded in a dutiful, predictable way with the steering giving good if not great feedback from the road. If you were to really fling it into a corner it may not be the final word in precision due to some front wheel scrabbling when you're exiting the corner but that does add to the drama and fun. But while most front drivers also do that, when you add a sonorous twin spark sound to the picture it gets even better that usual. Not biblical or epic like but good enough for the average Joe. While the sound is pretty muted from inside the cabin and I wished for something louder, not many in-line 4 cylinders sound like an Alfa 4 cylinder. Oh yeah, the seats were pretty good with support in the right places and none of that infamous long armed, short legged Italian driving position we've all heard of. Now don't ask me about rear legroom or rear head room or any of that sort; it's an Alfa, and I was driving it. That's all that matters.
It is a flawed gem. The reason I say this is because the ride was decent, the handling predictable, steering precise with some feel to it and the engine good to listen to when you want it to sing. The interior needs help. The gearshift felt like a Datsun 120y. It was loose and slightly vague. I dont know whether the one I tried had a tired gear change and the owner didn't fix it or whether it was a natural 147 character flaw. Also parts of the armrest felt like melted sticky plastic, most probably melted due to the hot, humid South East Asian weather. The gearshift I can live with, as we humans tend to get used to something (even something bad) after a while. I actually got used to the gearshift after awhile. And maybe I could live with the slightly sticky plastic. Heck, whatever I complained was actually forgotten when I started the car and drove off. Condemning the 147 for the details above would be like kicking out a certain beauty queen from a swimsuit competition instead of a competition that required her to speak English. This is because the main points of enjoying an Alfa are the soul, character and a sense of occasion it has that is built around its engine, chassis and heritage; and not marred by wonky gearshifts or bad plastic. So in conclusion, the Alfa 147 is a flawed gem that should be remembered by all. Of course, if this were something Korean, Chinese or Malaysian, we might simply call it rubbish. Now aren't Alfa Romeos great?