The Auto Trader expert verdict:
The Alfa Romeo 159 Sportwagon is a great-looking premium estate that majors on style rather than practicality. It’s a great alternative to more conservative German rivals.
Reasons to buy:
- Sensuous design
- Luxurious cabin
- Perky performance
How good does it look?
The exterior design of the Alfa Romeo 159 Sportwagon is this car’s killer punch. From the trio of headlamps on each side of that prominent triangular grille, via the shallow window line to the sharply sloping tailgate, every aspect of the Sportwagon’s design is spot on. Rivals such as the BMW 3 Series Touring and Audi A4 Avant may be desirable, but they simply don’t have the presence of the Alfa.
What's the interior like?
The good news continues inside, with a cabin that reeks of quality while clearly being of Italian descent. Move from a Mercedes C-Class or a Volkswagen Passat and the Alfa Romeo 159 has Latin flair in abundance, though not at the expense of usability. The seats are figure-hugging and it’s easy to get comfortable.
How practical is it?
This is where the Alfa Romeo 159 Sportwagon falls down. Some would argue that this is a lifestyle estate similar to the Volvo V60, so ultimate practicality isn’t the point. We like to think that people buy estate cars to carry stuff and the 159 Sportwagon can accommodate just 405 litres with the seats up and all of 1,235 litres with them folded. Buy an Audi A4 Avant and you’ve got 490 litres at your disposal, or 1,430 litres with the seats down. The equivalent numbers for the BMW 3 Series are 460 and 1,385 litres while those for the Mercedes C-Class are 485 and 1,500 litres. So the 159 Sportwagon trails them all, and rear seat legroom is compromised too.
What's it like to drive?
The Alfa Rome0 159 Sportwagon uses a front-wheel drivetrain compared to the rear-wheel drive layout of the BMW 3 Series Touring and is very easy to pilot. It may not be as fun to drive as the 3 series, but the Alfa has sharp steering and good ride comfort, as long as it isn’t fitted with huge wheels and very low-profile tyres.
How powerful is it?
The Alfa Romeo 159 Sportwagon comes with a range of petrol and diesel units. The 197bhp 1750 petrol unit is the enthusiast’s choice, with its 146mph top speed and 7.9 second 0-62mph time. For the more ecologically-aware, the 1.9-litre JTDm diesel unit will suit. It’s plenty quick enough at 122mph and 0-62mph in 10.9 seconds, but the 2-litre diesel engine of our test car is the best all-rounder. With the most pulling power of the lot, 266lb/ft, it’s capable of 0-62mph in nine seconds and can also manage 135mph.
How much will it cost me?
While 159 Sportwagon depreciation is heavier than for key rivals, day-to-day running costs are competitive. A move to smaller, more efficient engines means CO2 emissions have been cut range-wide. The 2-litre JTDm tested here emits just 145g/km for example, which compares favourably with the 144g/km for the Audi A4 2-litre TDi. It also averages 51.4mpg, while the 1.9-litre JTDm ECO stretches this to 53.3mpg.
How reliable is it?
The Alfa Romeo 159 Sportwagon is light years ahead of its predecessors for reliability and build quality, but problems still crop up. Interior trim creaks and rattles aren’t unusual, while steering racks have proved weak. Uneven tyre wear and sticky clutch pedals have also proved to be a common failing on the 159. In short, reliability and dealer service have sometimes been below what you might expect in this segment, but things are improving.
How safe is it?
The 159 Sportwagon is a premium car, so Alfa Romeo has had to fill it with just about every piece of safety kit it can. By doing so, the car has secured a top five-star EuroNCAP rating. Fitted as standard to all models are front, side and curtain airbags along with one for the driver’s knees. Throw in electronic stability programme plus anti-whiplash head restraints and you’ve got one safe car.
How much equipment do I get?
As a premium car, the 159 Sportwagon doesn’t come loaded with all the kit you could ever imagine, but it does have more than most cars in the segment. There are two trim levels offered; Turismo and Lusso. All 159 Sportwagons come with electric windows all round, dual-zone climate control, cruise control and 16-inch alloy wheels. Trading up to Lusso trim adds leather trim, rear parking sensors, 17-inch alloys and upgraded interior trim details.
It’s great value, good to drive and less obvious than the German rivals that most buyers choose instead. Albeit a bit less practical.