The renaissance of Alfa Romeo continues at Turin with the world debut of the lower-medium 147. The three-door hatchback will replace the 145 when it goes on sale in October. A five-door hatchback will replace the 146 in March 2001.
The 147 inherits many styling traits from the lower-luxury 156. Both cars were designed by Walter de' Silva, now design chief at Seat.
As with the 156, the door handle of the 147 five-door is hidden in the base of the C-pillar. The rakish side view is almost coupe-like, while the rear is typical of the style introduced on the 156 and medium-luxury 166.
The grille refers back to classic Alfas such as the 6C 250 Villa d'Este of 1949 and, to a lesser extent, the Giulia.
The 147 is based on a shortened version of the 156 platform. It has wishbone suspension up front and MacPherson struts at the rear. The wheelbase has been reduced by 50mm, from 2595mm to 2545mm.
The engine lineup for the new car has been revamped. All the gasoline engines will be Twin Spark 16-valve units but the 1.4-liter, 103hp engine has been dropped. It is replaced as the entry-level engine by a 1.6-liter unit detuned to produce 105hp. The 1.6-liter with 120hp is unchanged. The 1.8-liter is replaced as the top-of-the-range gasoline engine by a 2.0-liter, 150hp unit - this time offered with the option of a Formula 1-style Selespeed gear-change system operated by buttons on the steering wheel. The 1.9-liter common-rail JTD diesel gets a variable geometry turbine, raising its output from 105hp to 110hp.
Buyers will not receive deliveries of 2.0-liter Twin Spark manual gearbox versions or 1.9-liter JTD models until next spring.
The 147 will be a more sophisticated than the 145/146 it replaces. It features antilock brakes, electronic brake distribution and Alfa's new stability control system called vehicle dynamic control.
The 147 will come with six airbags as standard. The automatic air conditioning will be a two-zone system. The navigation system will include voice recognition control - a first for an Italian car and also the first in the world to recognize the Italian language.