Alfa Romeo 147 | Shed of the Week

Stylish, award-winning Italian hatch seeks willing skinflint

By Tony Middlehurst / Friday, 14 July 2023 / Loading comments

Shed likes the odd game of snooker, and it’s a very odd game that they play on the village table which is housed in a Nissen hut on the edge of the old airfield. One of Shed’s regular adversaries there is the postmistress’s husband. They have good competitive games, and as you would expect Shed jumps on his misses every chance he gets. Of course, Shed’s big dream is to get a maximum 147 break, an ambition that may yet be realised in a different way with this week’s shed.

The 147 was Alfa Romeo’s rival for the Golf and Focus. It won the European Car of the Year award in 2001, but let’s not hold that against it. This one here was built shortly after the well-received 2004 refresh which gave the car softer two-tone cabins, better instrumentation and a more chiselled front end with Brera-style headlamps and bigger rear lights.

147 build quality inside and out was very good, and not just by stereotypical Alfa standards either, but the body was very sensitive to colour. Wishy-washy ‘executive’ hues like silver were supposed to let it compete with its rivals, but Alfas have always been about the passion, and as Shed will tell you after a quick browse through the Bravissimo lingerie catalogue there’s nothing like a splash of bright red to get your bloods going.

This 147 is a Lusso with a sunroof. It’s a five-door but the hidden handles do a very good job of disguising the rear openings. The engine is a Twin Spark 1.6, the smaller of the two TS options, which means a not lofty 118hp at a fizzy 6,200rpm and 108lb ft at 4,200rpm. That translates into a low 10-second 0-62mph time and a top whack of 121mph. The old 147 bugbear of porous engine blocks was sorted on the phase two cars so you should have no worries there. 

As you’d expect from something so closely related to the 156, the 147’s steering was super-fast if also a bit super-light. The ’04 refresh brought lighter weight generally, plus more electronic driver aids and new damper settings to smooth out some of the old car’s nobbliness. 

The 1.6 only weighed 1,200kg or thereabouts so it always felt light on its feet even with less than 120hp to play with. You just had to be prepared to stir the stick a bit, just like Shed when he does his famous baize-ripping Massé shot on the village table. Flat out on a twisty road you would probably go slightly faster in a 1.6 Focus but your heart wouldn’t be beating as fast or as healthily as it would be in the Alfa. 

There wasn’t much room in the back but the front seats were as comfy as they looked. 147 suspension was never other than firm so UK-owned examples tended to develop clonks in their old age and the engines sometimes liked a drop of oil, but other than that there’s not a lot to fret over.

The 247hp 3.2-litre GTA version is of course the 147 to have but you’ll be doing well to find one of them for under £7k now, and lower-mile examples wear £20k+ price tags. Our shed is £1,790. For that you’re getting a bright-looking 77,000-mile 147 with a great MOT history and a fresh, advisory-free certificate to take you through to next June. 

For some reason British car journos felt obliged to damn the 147 with faint praise and two-and-a-half star ratings, but if you read between the lines you’ll realise that many of them were covering their backsides in expectation of the inevitable Alfa degradation. That didn’t really happen with the post-refresh cars, whose review-depressed prices now look usefully low to skinflints like Shed. Maybe to you too. 

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