The Ti badge is back. Short for Turismo Internazionale, it’s name that’s been used on some of Alfas famous sporting models in the past and now it’s landed on a new version of Alfa’s 159 sports saloon as Alfa takes another swipe at the big German brands dominating the compact executive market.
So where does the Ti slot into the range?
Think of the Ti badge as Alfa’s answer to Audi’s sporty S-Line models and BMW’s M-Sport (but definitely not M) cars. It’s a trim option, not a full blown performance derivative, but it is the sportiest 159 you can get, there being no GTA version. M-Sport and S-Line cars often find homes with business users not allowed an enormous amount of freedom in their car choice but who still want to feel like they’ve got something a cut above your average rep mobile. The Ti costs £750 more than the current Lusso range topper.
So it’s just one model?
No, you can have the S-Line in either four-door saloon or five-door Sportwagen forms and with either a 185bhp 2.2-litre petrol (£23,400, 0-62mph in 8.8sec), 260bhp 3.2-litre V6 fuelled by the same stuff (£29,200, 7sec), or a 2.4-litre five pot JTD diesel with 210bhp that does 62mph in 8.2sec and costs £25,400. The Sportwagen body carries an £1100 premium in each case.
The small petrol is front-drive only, the V6 four-wheel drive only and the diesel can be had in either configuration. But bear in mind that the 159 isn’t a light car before ticking the box for those rear driveshafts on the diesel and adding an 60kg.
So what do I get for my money?
One mean-looking 159, that’s what. The TI gets a unique body kit, lowered sports suspension, tasty multispoke 19-inch alloy wheels, red Brembo brake callipers all-round, plus chrome effect door mirrors and exhaust finisher. All of which make the already chiseled 159 look even more handsome.
Inside there are electrically adjustable and heated leather front sports seats, tweaked dials, smatterings of aluminium and a leather-clad sports steering wheel and gear knob. But even without that extra kit, this would still be a great place to spend time thanks to sturdy materials and that sexy bank of instruments facing the driver. Looking at the quality of modern Alfa cabins, it’s hard to believe that just a few years ago they were so far behind the competition. Our only gripe is that cabin space isn’t huge.
What’s it like to drive?
Good, but not good enough to satisfy those coming out of a BMW 3-series. The steering is nicely weighted and suitably pointy but not great at communicating and the ride, which is firm at all times, can be a little unsettled. But it can still be fun and the five-pot diesel’s distinctively gruff tones make it more interesting than the four-cylinder alternatives rivals offer at this price point.
The JTD has 210bhp here but it never feels much quicker than a 40bhp less powerful BMW 320d on the road, a car that actually manages to hit 62mph 0.3sec ahead of the Alfa. The BMW is is also likely to turn in fuel consumption figures 10mpg better than the 41.5mpg Alfa claims for the Ti JTD (even the monster power 286bhp 335d does 42.2mpg).
But next year the 159 will receive some major revisions including new engines while at the same time some serious re-engineering will result in an average 40kg weight loss on each car, which should result in better performance, better economy and a more agile chassis.
But the thought of giving an Alfa dealer £25k terrifies me...
We’re not surprised but Alfa’s UK arm recently underwent a major clean-up operation, getting rid of many of the useless old dealers and introducing a routine of carrying out pre-delivery inspections for the first time.
Visually, the 159 Ti ticks every box as well as any Audi A4. It looks sensational, comes well equipped and you won’t pass 10 each morning on the way to work. On the downside, it’s not as satisfying to drive as some cars in its class, but while it’s not as capable as some rivals it does have value firmly on its side. Even the cheapest, slowest diesel-powered M-Sport 3-series, the 318d, costs £27,080 and has neither the performance or equipment of the £1500 cheaper 159 Ti although it is massively more economical. An Alfa has always been a heart over head option; the Ti just makes it harder for the head to remain in charge. Three out of five for now, but don’t be surprised if that becomes four post-facelift.