Used car buying guide: Alfa Romeo 159 Sportwagon
More than a pretty face, the 159 Sportwagon has Alfa’s trademark style and swagger but a dash of practicality too. We tell you all you need to know
Seven years since it left the new car price lists, an Alfa Romeo 159 Sportwagon of 2006-2011 still looks a proper eyeful.
There’s a saloon but, with its sleek styling, the Sportwagon estate is the pick. Diesel versions dominate the classifieds; no bad thing considering the current demand for used oil-burners. If you’re looking for something sporty and a little off the beaten track, a diesel Sportwagon should do nicely.
Available in 1.9, 2.0 and thumping 2.4-litre capacities, the diesels are powerful and economical. They have their fair share of issues, including sticking EGR valves and weak water pump bearings, which, when they seize, can cause the cambelt to break. Generally, though, they’re reliable, as the number of high-mileage 159s for sale in the classifieds testifies.
The few petrols out there tend to be of the 2.2 JTS variety. Beware timing issues caused by the cam chain stretching. There’s a 1.9 version too, replaced in 2007 by the cleaner 1.8 MPi, aimed at company car drivers.
This being Autocar, we should be pointing you in the direction of the range-topping 256bhp 3.2 V6 JTS Q4. It can crack 0-62mph in 7.0sec and is available with four-wheel drive only. One dealer is asking £5990 for his “very, very rare” one-owner 107,000- mile 2007-reg example. The model has a rewarding rear-wheel bias but is horribly thirsty and bested in virtually every respect by the smaller and lighter 197bhp 1.75 TBi that packs 236lb ft at just 1400rpm.
Smooth and refined, this engine is well worth combing the classifieds for. The only question mark concerns its 21,000-mile service intervals; great for keeping contract hire costs down but not so good for such a hard-working engine. Should you find one, evidence of intermediate oil changes would be nice to see.
Alfa 159 trims range from Turismo and Turismo Sport, through Elegante and Lusso, to sporty Ti. Lusso (leather, cruise control, climate control and parking sensors) is the one you’re most likely to come across. Tis (automatic headlights, Brembo brakes, 19in alloy wheels) were popular too. One private seller is asking a relatively stiff £5200 for his fine-looking 89,000-mile one- owner 1.9 JTDM Ti in Rosso red with full service history (new timing belt at 57,000 miles). Full service history and few previous keepers is, in fact, a feature of many 159s, so settle for nothing less.
The standard gearbox is a six-speed manual but there’s also the optional Q-Tronic automatic on the 2.4 JTDM and the 3.2 V6. Also with six speeds, it offers a choice of Winter and Sport modes. Check they work.The back seats split and fold 60/40. Look out for cars with the optional compartment dividers, chromed steel floor rails and even a pull-out loading platform. Generally speaking, the interiors are tough but expect high-mileage cars to have worn bolsters on the sides of the driver’s seat.
Bag a cherished 1.9 JTDM Lusso from a good home, while stocks last.
How to get one in your garage:
An expert’s view, Julian Milne, Alfa Aid: “The Alfa Romeo 159 Sportwagon is a great car to look at, to drive and to own but it has its problems. The front subframe corrodes badly. On the 2.4 diesel, it’s caused by the underbody insulation trapping water and, on other models, simply by poor rust protection. The 2.2 petrol has timing chain issues and the 3.2 V6 is thirsty. All the diesels need a thrashing once a week to keep their emissions systems in shape. If you can find one, the 1.75 TBi petrol is the 159 to buy. Full service history is good but you want to make sure any advisories were attended to, as well.”
ENGINE – On the 2.2 JTS, an engine warning light could signify cam chain issues. On petrol engines, the same light may mean inlet manifold flap issues. It can jam, restricting the performance to, at best, 50mph. Diesel engines suffer exhaust gas recirculation valve issues, including sticking open and delaying power until around 3000rpm. On 1.9 diesels, water pump bearings can seize, taking the cambelt with them.Alsoon the 1.9 JTDM, check for oil smoke, and beware of turbo and oil pump problems. On the 2.4 diesel, a cambelt change at 60,000 miles is good to see.
TRANSMISSION – Listen for noise in the upper gears caused by worn bearings in the gearbox end case. If you hear clunking on a diesel as you let the clutch out, it’s probably the dual mass flywheel.
SUSPENSION – Check for heavy and uneven front tyre wear on all models. It’s generally a geometry issue, felt by the car tramlining. It may also be caused by wear in the upper top wishbones. Listen for the component rattling and expect the bushes to need replacing.
BODY – Check for front subframe corrosion and for general floorpan corrosion.
INTERIOR – Check the rear windows operate. Failure is often caused by lack of use and they may only be seized.
Also worth knowing:
Is the suspension squeaky? Sometimes it’s just wear and tear in the upper top wishbones but aftermarket polyurethane bushes, which are popular with enthusiast drivers because they sharpen up the handling, may also be to blame. Having them fitted properly in the first place and then making sure they’re regularly lubricated is often the solution.
How much to spend:
£1500-£2495 – Mix of 2006-07 Turismo and Lusso 2.2 JTSs and 1.9 JTDMs with around 140,000 miles.
£2500-£3745 – Lower-mileage (around 90,000) 2007- and 2008-reg 1.9 JTDMs.
£3750-£4245 – Highish-mileage (around 110,000) 2010- and 2011-reg 1.9 JTDM Lussos.
£4250-£5495 – More 2008- and 2009-reg 1.9 and 2.4 JTDM Lussos and Tis, with 80k miles.
£5500-£6495 – Late 2010- and 2011-reg 2.0 and 2.4 JTDMs with mileages ranging from 60,000 to 90,000.
£6500-£8000 – A few 2010-reg 1.7 TBis with around 70,000 miles plus late-plate JTDMs.
One we found:
ALFA 159 1.9 JTDM LUSSO SPORTWAGON, 2008/58, 104K MILES, £3889 – Only two former keepers and full service history are this car’s standout features. These and the fact that the cambelt and water pump were replaced at the last service in March. Up to 50mpg and 0-62mph in 9.1sec.
Source: Autocar Online