Road test / Alfa Romeo

There are things you probably expect from an Alfa Romeo, even if you have no personal experience. You expect it to look good, you'll have heard dark mutterings from enthusiasts that Alfas handle well, and you probably imagine them in red, like Ferraris. Most importantly, you expect a great engine, because that's what gives an Alfa its Cuore Sportivo - its sporting heart.

Into the range-topping Cloverleaf goes the 150bhp two-litre twin-spark straight four which, along with fab styling, forms the foundation of the current Alfa renaissance. On to that is bolted a new five-speed gearbox, while the suspension is lowered by 10mm all round, fattet rubber is fitted and the steering improved.

Around town, sufficient low-rev urge and a blacklash-free driveline make the Cloverleaf a doddle to drive, while out on the windy bits the engine reaches eagerly for 6500rpm with a pleasing mechanical fizz. Responsive and refined, it is swift and handles even better than its booted sister, the 146ti. A cracking motor car.

James May

Specifications

Alfa Romeo 145 Cloverleaf pounds 14,884.40

2.0 litre straight-four engine, 150bhp, five-speed manual gearbox. Top speed 130 mph, 0-100 kmh (62mph) 8.4 sec, average fuel consumption 34.2 mpg

Rivals

Volkswagon Golf 2.0 GTi 16v 3-door, pounds 15,575

Honda Civic. 1.6VTi 3 door, pounds 15,495

Peugeot 30C XSi 2.0 3-door, pounds 13,910

Ford Escort RS 2000, pounds 13,995

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