road test
The driver's view

The way this car handles brings out the boy racer in you, even if you mean only to drive at 29mph to the supermarket. The engine makes a throaty roar at anything above crawling speed; the leather-trimmed steering wheel is small and sculpted to the hands; the gear change is light and easy: everything conspires to make you drive faster than you meant to. The car grips the road well and the power steering feels sure and precise; firm, contoured seats hold you comfortably in place through fast bends. In short, I had fun, though my passengers were not so sure. Typical front seat comment: "This is making me feel sick." Everyone agreed the seats were good, though the six-footer in the back felt his head close to the roof. The boot is bigger than you would think: I got three suitcases in. I would happily borrow it again for a long, winding A-road drive, but my passengers would take the train.

Richard Preston

The expert's view

This car is one of the great remakes of our time. Version one was a big disappointment, an Alfa Romeo that failed to do what an Alfa should - which is to look good and be a hoot to drive. Version two is a different prospect altogether. It now has good looks, achieved by bulging out the wheel arches, lowering the suspension and tidying the details. The engine remains the same, with its two spark plugs per cylinder (only the 2.0 version gets Alfa's all-new, 16-valve motor with vibration-smoothing balancer shafts), but the suspension is greatly improved. If you went for the 2.0, you would get quicker responding steering that makes for a car that is almost balletic in its agility. The 1.8 cannot quite match this bigger- engined car for sheer exuberance, but it is still the sort of car that is hard not to drive with gusto once you are out on the open road.

John Simister

BMW 316i, pounds 15,595 More rewarding handling than the Alfa. Rather an ordinary engine, though.

Nissan Primera 2.0 SRi, pounds 13,995 Crisp handling and sportified looks but the image remains unenticing.

Renault Laguna RTI 2.0S 16V, pounds 14,810 Lacks the fizz of Alfa's latest 155s but is a more capable car overall.

Saab 900 2.0i five-door, pounds 14,495 Cheap for such an upmarket image - although lowish equipment levels show why. Not a sporty car but shares the Alfa's strong individualistic streak.

Alfa Romeo 155 1.8 Twin Spark, pounds 14,140

Engine: 1773cc, four cylinders, 126bhp at 6,000rpm. Five-speed gearbox, front-wheel drive. Top speed 124 mph, 0-60 in 10.1 seconds. Fuel consumption 28-33mpg.

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