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?
With such low numbers built this was always going to be an exclusive car. Around 400 were sold into the UK market and now there are fewer than 300 remaining on the roads, so it’s certainly a rarity if you come across one!
That fine Italian styling is just another reason we love Alfas so much, and this is no exception. 17 inch alloys, twin tailpipes, bonnet vents, bucket seats and a dash layout that would make Enzo Ferrari envious, all ensure that people notice you!
Price When New
Around £22k in 2002. Slightly more expensive than its rivals but still manageable for many.
We all know Alfas can go wrong so it’s definitely worth locating an independent Alfa specialist if you can. The V6 is a tough engine though and can take some punishment. Keep an eye on the cambelt as it will need to be changed at shorter intervals than most, and depending on how you drive, front tyre changes may become costly! Average MPG is not great at 23, so keep that in mind if you’re going to be racking up the miles.
There is plenty of love for the GTA and you’ll find owner forums and fan pages online, usually clubbed together with the 156 GTA from the same era. Fortunately there are some valuable communities out there so you’ll have somewhere to turn if you ever need any advice… or just want to show off your car!
Time to Buy?
The 147 GTA has done all the depreciating it’s going to do and prices have been steadily rising over the last couple of years. You can expect to pay between £7,500 and £10,000 nowadays, with some pristine examples being sold for over £10k.
In 2003 Richard Hammond was hypnotised on Top Gear and forgot how to drive a 147 GTA! Check out the video:
It’s a sensational little car with more power than it knows what to do with, and you’ll have the time of your life driving it. Very limited numbers were produced so it’s likely these will become more and more sought after as the years go by. If you buy one and keep it in top condition you could very well have a true future classic on your hands.