Magazine article Management Today

Beauty's Imperfections

Magazine article Management Today

Beauty's Imperfections

Article excerpt

I have just undertaken the world's most gruelling journey: the school run through London SW postcodes. A foreign-plated Saab nudges with hesitant purposefulness out of a tiny mews. A Mercedes wagon is triple-parked, a Transit load of weenies surges up the inside. It's driving that requires nerve and skill and patience and I wouldn't choose the Alfa Romeo 147 for the task.

The 147 is the new Alfa, competing one notch above the popular class that makes the Ford Focus the world's bestselling car. Although Alfa Romeo has made some terrible mistakes (including a joint venture with Nissan that combined the worst of Italian and the worst of Japanese characterisics in one melancholy package), you can't eradicate a natural inclination for beauty, and the 147 is a strikingly handsome car.

Especially from the front, where an expressive radiator grille exploits to the absolute maximo memories of Alfa's heritage. This famous motif was debased to a humble triangular patch in Alfa's grim years, but the 147's grille is heroically bold. I'm not enough of a car-spotter to say whether the precise source is the 1955 1900 Super Sport Zagato or the 1947 32006C (probably neither, as I've just made them up], but inherited characteristics are an explicit part of the package. The gauges are marked 'Benzina', 'Acqua', 'Giri' - enough to make me sob into my ristretto.

Moving back from the nose, bold and strong curves accumulate towards the tail in a dynamic-looking dart effect. The rear is a little bland, but the road wheels fill the arches nicely and the car has a firm stance. I drove the five-door, which includes a nice aesthetic conceit first seen on the 156 saloon: in order that thrusting Alfa types of legend may avoid the stigma of appearing to drive a family car, the rear door-handle is camouflaged in the matt black surround of the 'C' pillar. Add the counterpoint of a front door-handle in retroid chrome and, from a distance, this five-door hatch looks like a coupe. It looks very good indeed.

So why would I not want this charming, attractive car for the school run? The reason is gears. The one I tried was fitted with Alfa's optional-extra Selespeed transmission, a clutchless semiautomatic powered by enough electronics to run the Gulf War. …

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