Alfa Romeo's five-door 146 introduced Italian flair and elegant, flowing lines to a family car market, that had previously expected only practicality. As the direct successor to the company's 33 range, the 146 was further evidence of Alfa's rebirth as a maker of sensible yet, still characterful cars.
The 146 first appeared in May 1995, offering buyers a wide choice of four-cylinder engines. These were initially the traditional 'boxer' style, carried over from the 33. Later, powerful 'Twin Spark' units arrived; offering better refinement and performance.
For the used buyer, any of these cars makes an interesting and sensible buy, particularly when you consider the vastly improved quality and reliability compared to older Alfa products.
The 146 arrived to a considerable build up of interest. Many buyers who loved the 145's looks, but needed a five-door car had eagerly awaited the new arrival.
Though mechanically identical to the 145, the styling of this new family car was, like the supposed tastes of its targeted buyers, a little more conservative. Engines and model names were identical to the 145, initially, with only 1.6 and 16-valve1.7-litre 'boxer' engines available.
At the start of 1996, however, Alfa released what many consider to be the definitive version, the 146ti, which gained the 2.0-litre, 16-valve Twin Spark engine from the bigger 155 executive saloon. (Incidentally, 145s with this engine are called 'Cloverleaf').
In March 1997, the old 1.6 and 1.7-litre 'boxer' engines, whose origins could be traced to the Alfasud of the early '70s, were at last, laid to rest. Their 1.6 and 1.8-litre replacements featured Alfa's trademark system of two sparkplugs for each of the four cylinders. Both these 16-valve units are closely related to the bigger 2.0-litre engines, which remained unchanged in the ti flagship.
The last round of 146 changes came in May 1999 when the car received a new nose section and slight equipment revisions. The 146 was replaced by the all-new 147 early in 2000.