My GTA

- Long term test - 1 year/18,000 km -

Introduction Day to day experiences Summary Faults Costs Technical data

Introduction

Mileage at the beginning (24.3.2006) 45,500 km
Mileage at the end (24.3.2007) 63,100 km
Total test mileage 17,600 km

After one year of 147 GTA ownership it is possible to analyze some pros and con's of owning a GTA. Therefore I have written a long term test report for Alfa 147 GTA after one year and 18,000 km.

Introduction Day to day experiences Summary Faults Costs Technical data

Day to day experiences

Many people have strong prejudices against an Alfa. Most of the scepticism seems to be geared towards quality and durability of an Alfa Romeo. Based on experiences during the first year of ownership those prejudices seem to be highly exaggerated.

Handling characteristics

The good handling characteristics are definitely one of the strong points of the GTA. However there is also some bad news on the handling front.

The good news first. The steering is sharp and the steering feel is very good. On GTA it is very enjoyable to drive on reasonably narrow and winding tarmac roads and also on wider roads as long as the surface of the road is in good condition.

When the road conditions deteriorate things change for the worse. Things get worse because the heavy V6-engine and pretty low ground clearance combined with damping which can't handle bad road conditions don't make a very good combination. In Finland we have a lot of roads which have broken surface because of ground frost and you have to be very careful on these conditions so that the car doesn't bottom out.

Many GTA drivers seem to agree that the bad quality of damping is its major weakness on the handling front. It seems to be a popular to upgrade the suspension with a good quality coilovers. It is said that this upgrade will remove most of the unwanted handling traits of the GTA. I have also ordered a set of coilovers made by Eibach for my GTA. I will report back later on how they affect the handling characteristics of the car.

The Finnish roads have a lot of grooves in them and the GTA with its 225 mm wide tyres does squirm a bit in these conditions.

Despite the flaws mentioned the GTA has good handling characteristics on most circumstances. Even in the harsh Finnish winter conditions the car has felt safe and secure. One of the things that have an effect on this is the VDC electronic stability program which is very helpful in the winter.

Performance

The engine is the heart of the car and the heart of the GTA is pulsating and growling very nicely. The 3.2 liter V6-engine is a member of Alfa's traditional V6-engine family. When you put a 250 horsepower V6 in the engine bay of a car which is the size of a Golf it means that the car can really go. Based on my experiences I can safely say that the performance of the car is perfectly adequate. The quoted 0-100 km/h sprint takes 6.3 seconds.

The heart. Compared to most modern cars the engine bay of the GTA looks much nicer.

Like most modern cars the GTA is cursed with excessive weight and the car weighs 1,360 kg without a driver. This is approximately same as a Golf R32 or Focus ST but still it would be nice to have a lighter car. Taking away 200-300 kg from the weight would improve both the agility and the performance of the car.

Besides giving the car ample performance the engine also makes very very nice sounds. The sounds are so enjoyable that sometimes you just want to push the gas pedal just to hear those lovely notes coming from the engine.

Interior

Most of the car owner's time is spent in the interior of the car. Luckily the interior of the GTA is so sensuous that you don't mind spending a lot of time inside the car. Compared to for example most Japanese or German cars the interior of the GTA is a lot more exclusive place to be. Many owners of the so called premium brand cars might think that the interior of their car is much superior to the GTA but in my opinion they are badly mistaken. I'd much rather spend my time in the GTA than in most other so called quality cars which are so boring that I couldn't stand it. The car has to have soul to raise some kind of emotions and in that sense the interior of the GTA is cracking.

The instument cluster of the GTA.

The suface of the dashboard has strange looking dimples on it. After a while you get used to it and it starts to look nice and individual.

The leather seats of the car have a retro style finish. At least for the tall and skinny type the seats offer good lateral support and you can make long journeys on the car without getting very tired.

Based on the reputation of the Italian cars you would expect that many things would have gone wrong in one year but this has not been the case. Everything on the interior is still working as they are supposed to work.

The seating position is good and there is enough space in the front.. Compared to other cars in the same class the rear seat space is smaller in 147. The boot is also slightly smaller than in the competition but these space issues are probably not a priority for most of the GTA buyers.

There is enough space in the rear for a child and smaller adults but for the taller types there not enough space.

Equipment

The basic equipment level on the GTA is pretty good and my car also has a handy list of options. Two-zone automatic air-conditioning, 17" wheels and cruise control are among the standard equipment. More accurate details of the equipment level on my car can be found on the My GTA -page.

One of the most useful options so far has been the navigator system which can be very helpful when trying to find new addresses,

Winter and GTA

Alfa has coped well on the Finnish winter conditions. The car has started faultlessly even in the coldest mornings when the temperature has been close to minus 30 deg Celsius. The car has also been very warm inside during the winter. It seems like the big engine has enough surplus heat to warm the interior also.

GTA has started faultlessly even in the midst of snow banks.

Because of the low ground clearance you have to be careful in places where there is a lot of hard packed snow.

Faults

No major faults have appeared during the first year.

The engine underguard was broken already when I bought the car. This is something that seems to be typical on modern Alfa's. The low ground clearance combined with a heavy V6-engine is the major factor in causing these underguard damages. Unfortunately here in Finland there are lot of roads which are in a bad condition and therefore bottoming out is something you have to watch out.

A typical winter problem for Alfa's seems to be the squealing coming from the power steering during cold weather start up's. This same problem is troubling my GTA also. This problem is most likely due to the oil in the power steering which is not suitable for the Finnish winter conditions.

The lights of the car seem to be prone to faults since during the first year the right side main beam, the number plate light and the right side light (twice) have all gone dark. Also the attachment of the left side turning light has been broken.

All the faults of the car are listed on the list of faults.

Costs

The fuel consumption of Alfa's vee-six is slightly higher than on some competitors. My average consumption so far has been around 12 l/100 km. The lowest consumption figures between fill ups have been slightly below 10 l/100 km. This has been while driving only long distance. The city driving increases the consumption considerably.

I've used only 98 octane petrol even though the user manual states that 95 octane would be adequate. The fuel costs have been approx. 2,500 euros during the first year and 18,000 km. I was aware of how much the fuel consumption would be when I bought the car so no surprises here. Despite of that I would like to see slightly lower fuel consumption figures.

The consumption figures shown on the trip computer are normally approx. 0.5 liters lower than actual consumption.

The Finnish Alfa importer Delta-Auto has a reputation as being very expensive. Luckily it is possible to source parts and have the car serviced in other places. This makes it possible to save quite a lot on the service costs compared to Delta-Auto. My GTA had cam belts changed at the 60,000 km service. I purchased necessary parts from Germany and had the work done on an independent garage. This way the total costs of the cam belt change were 550 euros whereas the prices on Delta-Auto would have been double that amount.

The service interval of the car is 15,000 km and during the test period there was one scheduled service (60,000 km) which was done at the same time as the cam belt change. The price of that service was less than 200 euros. The oil was changed to Selenia Racing 10W-60 during the service and I have not experienced any loss of oil during the first three thousand kilometers after the service.

Since no major faults have occurred the costs of using the car have been reasonable except for the fuel costs. More accurate summary of the costs during the year can be found on the separate table.

Introduction Day to day experiences Summary Faults Costs Technical data

Summary

The name Alfa Romeo might spring many negative things into the minds of many prejudiced people. However if you are willing to overcome your prejudices you will get a motoring experiences which people driving more normal cars can't even dream of.

Based on the experiences of one year the GTA has been a joy to drive and the glorious sound of its engine is a pleasure to listen to. Its interior is an excellent place to spend time and the whole car is classy and also individual and other motorists in Finland don't have a clue what kind of car a GTA is. More surprisingly the GTA has also been a quality item and a reliable companion and also its abilities during harsh Finnish winter have been very good.

On the downside the car has high fuel consumption and the low ground clearance/weak damping can cause some issues. Luckily the damping problems should be resolved with a set of coilovers.

It might be a good thing that the pub stories scare away many people from buying an Alfa Romeo - this means that only those who can truly appreciate the qualities of this wonderful car will be able to enjoy its potential.

Pro's:
- Engine (performance and sound)
- Interior
- Handling (with reservations)
- Style and individuality
Con's:
- Ground clearance
- Damping
- Fuel consumption
- Weight

Introduction Day to day experiences Summary Faults Costs Technical data

List of faults

A complete list of faults is as follows:

Time Fault Note
03/2006 Broken engine underguard The engine underguard was already broken when I bought the car. It broke even more during the summer 2006. New aluminium underguard was installed in November 2006.
03/2006 Broken attachment of the left side turning light The left side turning light assembly was loose when I bought the car. This was repaired at the 60,000 km service.
04/2006 Motor control management failure -message This warning appeared after driving the car outside after it had spent a night on a garage. The outside temperature was slightly below zero degrees Celsius. The warning has not appeared afterwards.
07/2006 The right side light went dark Fixed in Nov 2006.
11/2006 The right side light went dark Fixed in Jan 2007.
02/2007 The squealing during cold temperature start ups The car makes a little squeek when starting cold from temperatures ranging from zero to minus ten degrees Celcius. When it gets even colder the squealing also lasts longer. The reason for the squealing is most likely the oil in the power steering which is not suitable for i Finnish winter conditions. The fault has not been repaired in Apr 2007.
02/2007 The number plate light went dark Not fixed in Apr 2007.
02/2007 The peeling of the paint on the front licence plate holder The paint on the front license plate holder was peeling from the screw holes left unused after removing the German license plates. As a fix I removed the license plate holder from the front bumber and attached the license plate directly to the bumber.
02/2007 Disjointing of the wind deflector on top of the rear window The wind deflector on top of the rear window had small crack on it when I bought the car. The crack became much bigger after a person closed the boot lid with too much force in minus 20 deg C. Not fixed in Apr 2007.
03/2007 The right side main beam went dark Not fixed in Apr 2007.

Introduction Day to day experiences Summary Faults Costs Technical data

Costs

The service and other costs during the first year are calculated on the table below. The purchase of summer tyres and wheels and the electric engine heater and interior heater plus the costs related to rust proofing are not in the table since they were considered as part of the purchasing costs of the car.

Costs        
Fuel:        
Fuel (98E) 12.0 l/100 km 1.25 eur/l 2,640 eur  
Total fuel costs     2,640 eur 15.0 cnt/km
         
Service and repair:        
Aluminium engine guard and installation     180 eur  
60,000 km service     180 eur  
Oil fill ups between services 1.75 l 12 eur/l 21 eur  
Cam belt change     550 eur  
Total service and repair costs     931 eur 5.3 cnt/km
         
Tyres:        
Winter tyres Nokian Hakkapeliitta 4 225/45-17     810 eur  
Total tyre costs     810 eur 4.6 cnt/km
         
Insurance and taxes:        
Motor insurance (Tapiola 70% bonus)     215 eur  
Collision damage insurance (Tapiola 70% bonus)     550 eur  
Vehicle tax     128 eur  
Total insurance and taxes     893 eur 5.1 cnt/km
Total costs     5,274 eur 30.0 cnt/km

Introduction Day to day experiences Summary Faults Costs Technical data

Technical data

   

The technical data of the car can be found on the Technical data -page.

 

Experiences - blog