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Hidden Heroes: Alfa Romeo 147 2.0 Twin Spark

Published 06 December 2019

Launched in 2001 and voted European Car of the Year 2002, the Alfa Romeo 147 was a particularly stylish and fun-to-drive hatchback that built on the success of the larger 156 to help the Italian firm grow its presence in critical family and fleet markets. 

It came at a time when Alfa was on a roll, with the build quality and dynamics of its cars matching their handsome looks, while keen pricing made the 147 a viable alternative to mainstream hatches such as the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra as well as more obvious rivals such as the Audi A3.

The bulk of sales went to the 1.6 Twin Spark - with 120bhp, it was livelier than most 1.6s on the market at the time and it was keenly priced, too. Fleet buyers, meanwhile, contented themselves with the JTD diesels, which were admirable enough performers while still enjoying the 147’s fabulous looks.

But until the GTA arrived in 2002, there was no real performance model in the range. But there was a sleeper…

Alfa _romeo _147_5-door _9_4

The 2.0 Twin Spark was only available in luxury ‘Lusso’ trim and came with Alfa’s fiery 2.0-litre four-pot, with 150bhp. Hardly out-and-out performance car figures, but it was the rev-hungry power delivery and stable way in which the car put its power down that gave it most appeal. 

With a manual gearbox, the 2.0TS could accelerate from 0-60mph in 8.6 seconds, which was rapid enough for most, but it was the in-gear acceleration, coupled to a raspy exhaust note that only an Italian car could properly muster that made it really stand out. Put simply, there was no way you could be bored at the wheel of one.

Today, it’s a relatively rare car. First of all, it was never the volume seller in the 147 range and that meant it wasn’t that easy to find when new. Of the 3,000 or so 147s left on the UK’s roads, there are less than 200 taxed and registered at the time of writing. 

They’ve also become rare due to two common problems - floor and sill corrosion, which also affects the 156, and cambelt failure on the 2.0 engine. It’s a known weak point and belt changes every 36,000 miles are essential to keep it running properly. Then there was the optional Selespeed semi-auto gearbox which has a habit of blowing up. Buy a manual, seriously. There’ll be more of them disappear before collectors catch on.

Our advice is to beat the rush. You can still get a good one for under a grand, though they’re increasingly difficult to find. If you do, you’ll get an everyday modern classic that’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face every time you drive it.

Comments

   on 8 December 2019

Well written article on a great little car. True drivers choice.

   on 8 December 2019

Had a 1.6 lusso, always lusted after the 2 litre though! Great car even if a bit fragile and the dealers were woeful.

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