159? Looks like a facelifted 156?
If that were true it would be the worst facelift since Burt Reynolds' went Asian last year. Actaully it's not unattractive, it's just that the 156 was so gorgeous. And it's not a facelift anyway, the '9' signifies that it sits on a new platform.
The Sportwagon has a whiff of 'lifestyle' about it. Presumably it's useless as an estate car.
If space is a priority you'd be better off in a Honda Accord Tourer: its 626/1707 litres seats up/seats down numbers makes the Alfa's 445/1235 boot seem about as commodious as a termite's suitcase. But the Audi A4 isn't much better and of the Alfa's premium rivals only the 3-series and Jaguar X-type offer anything resembling a true estate car experience.
Has cabin quality improved? The 156 always felt a bit cheap.
It's taken a quantum leap. Sturdy yet soft-touch plastics cover most surfaces, everything you come into contact with feels like it should last the life of the car. The emotional Alfa experience remains intact though: the hooded dials, angled centre console and brushed aluminium trim are constant reminders that this car has soul.
So how does it drive?
Pretty well considering the gargantuan 1730kg kerbweight. All that mass takes its toll on agility and sprinting prowess but the steering has that typically Alfa alertness to it. But what happened to the engine noise? Proper Alfa V6s always sounded glorious but the switch to GM units a couple of years ago seems to have killed that magic. The ride quality isn't great either.
What's the saloon like?
Mechanically, exactly the same, but it chops 0.2sec from the Sportwagon's 7.2sec 0-62mph time and probably draws a few more admiring glances too. The Brera coupe also uses the same platform but the 159 is better to drive.
What other engines are there?
If it's petrol you're after and money's tight, there's a 160bhp 1.9 or a slightly peppier 2.2 version with an extra 25bhp. But the JTD diesels (148bhp 1.9 and 200bhp 2.4) are so good that we'd recommend you go for one of those. Neither exactly screams to the redline like Alfas of old, but they're fast, frugal and reasonably refined.
Striking looks, better to drive than any Alfa in recent memory and chock full of charm, the 159 Sportwagon makes a stylish lifestyle machine - and a poor estate car.