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Spider shows its lines

The first Alfa Romeo Spider since the 1960s will make its world debut at next month's Paris Motor Show.

Although Alfa has been having a hard time in recent years, the new Spider looks set to revitalise the Italian marque's image across Europe with its dramatically bold styling and impressive performance.

Powered by 2-litre 16-valve and 3-litre V6 engines, the Spider will not go on sale in the UK until late next year, but fans of its predecessor - made famous by Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate - should start saving. The V6 should be capable of 140mph and 0-60mph in under seven seconds.

No prices will be set for some time - but expect the V6 version to cost about pounds 25,000. The cheapest Spider should start at under pounds 20,000.

The striking wedge shape design is the work of one of Italy's top styling studios, Pininfarina. The front is dominated by Alfa's traditional arrowhead nose and the tiny rounded headlamps. The old Spider is one of the most fondly-remembered Alfas of recent times, and there is no doubt that most Europeans still associate the Italian firm's name with sports cars.

However, Alfa has attempted to compete against the leading manufacturers in mainstream segments of the market - and has largely failed. Sales in the UK are down to a trickle, despite the production of extremely capable saloons, such as the 164.

With the Spider, Alfas will once again be counted among the most desirable cars on the road. Even though similarly-priced new roadsters from Mercedes, BMW and Porsche will all be launched in the near future, few motoring enthusiasts will be able to ignore the fact that Alfa is back doing what it does best - building affordable, exciting sports cars with a passion.

(Photograph omitted)