As self-confessed petrolheads we’re bound by unwritten rules stating that we need to have an unhealthy infatuation with Italian sports cars. It’s just one of those things; we’re totally aware that an Italian car built with passion and adoration rather than a German car built with maturity and rationality would be a ludicrous choice to make, yet one manufacturer in particular keeps defying the odds and producing cars that people revere; Alfa Romeo.
At the turn of the century a small, sensible family hatchback started rolling off the Naples production line. It was called the 147, and was the successor to the 145 and 146 hatchbacks of the 90s. A year later it was voted European car of the year and things were starting to look up for Alfa Romeo, despite the losses they had been making in recent years. But if there’s one thing Alfa are renowned for it’s their motorsport heritage, and in 2002 they just couldn’t resist giving the 147 a kick up the backside. The 147 GTA was introduced to the world, and people could barely believe their eyes when they saw the engine they’d managed to cram under the bonnet. It was their insane 3.2 litre V6, the same one used in the 156 GTA, and just the sight of it made many an adoring fan go weak at the knees. The widened body, lowered ride and various bodywork tweaks now gave the bland 147 an unexpected presence. You knew this car meant business just by looking at it.
It gave you close to 250 bhp and a 0-60 time of just over six seconds, but it was the way it got there that was astonishing. Push the throttle and there was an assault on the senses. The front tyres were screaming at you, the exhaust was gargling away behind you, and all the while you had to deal with the inevitable torque steer that was trying to send you off into the nearest hedgerow. With all of that power going through the front tyres it was always going to have alarming understeer, but did anybody care? Of course not! All rational thought goes out the window when presented with a car like this.
It was up against the likes of the Ford Focus RS that we reviewed last month, and with the Alfa being over £2,000 more expensive when new it seems crazy that anybody would have actually chosen to buy one. Fortunately many of us are crazy, and 5,029 were sold worldwide. Most came with the six speed manual transmission, but there were just over 1000 built with Alfa’s Selespeed semi-automatic system.
So would this outrageous Italian be a sensible pick today, or is it just a disaster waiting to happen?
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