Alfa Romeo 145/6: Modern Classics?

Updated: 6 days ago

Two decades after it left the Pomigliano production line, the Alfa Romeo 145 is gaining new attention as an affordable modern classic. Its main assets are its distinctive exterior design and the fact it's been the last Alfa Romeo equipped with the flat-four engines that were initially designed for the legendary Alfasud.



Work on Project "930" started sometime in 1990, just as a restyled version of the successful 33 hit the showrooms. This was a stopgap measure, as the aging car wasn't going to be competitive for much longer.

The highly individual shape that characterizes the 145 originated from the American designer Chris Bangle as a four-door hatch proposal for a Lancia Delta replacement!

In a 2013 interview, the legendary designer recalled how his model suddenly "became an Alfa" the moment Fiat Group's design guru, the Architect Mario Maioli, saw it and exclaimed: "Looks like an Alfa."

The lusty 1.3, 1.5, and 1.7 liters flat-four engines ultimately found their way into the new 145's bonnet only because Fiat couldn't yet produce enough suitable engines in time for the new model's release.

The Alfa Romeo design team then redesigned its front end and introduced the side swage line that had become a fixture of Alfa Romeos since it first appeared on the 164.

During development, the 145 lost its rear doors, leaving room for a more traditionally-styled sister model, the 146, to take the role of a straight 33 replacement.

The Alfasud first and the 33 later were designed around their charismatic flat-four engines, which allowed a low scuttle and bonnet line. But those were to be phased out on the 145, as economies of scale within the Fiat group dictated the use of the Fiat Tipo platform and transversely-mounted inline-four cylinder engines.

The new models weighed around 200 Kg more than the outgoing 33, blunting performance and increasing the boxer's already legendary thirst for unleaded.

The lusty 1.3, 1.5, and 1.7 liters flat-four engines ultimately found their way into the new 145's bonnet only because Fiat couldn't yet produce enough suitable engines in time for the new model's release. Given the boxers were a stopgap measure, no development money was spent on them, a decision that particularly penalized the 1.3 and 1.6 versions.

The new models weighed around 200 Kg more than the outgoing 33, blunting performance and increasing the boxer's already legendary thirst for unleaded.

1995 saw the debut of the 145 Quadrifoglio Verde, equipped with the new 2.0 liters 16v Twin Spark four-cylinder engine, first seen on the GTV and rated at 150HP.

By then, the writing was on the wall for the classic Alfa Romeo boxer power units, whose gruff, engaging rumble raised a generation of Alfisti.

The rev-happy nature of the new inline-four, together with stiffer suspension and a quicker steering rack, transformed the 145 in a proper hot hatchback, warmly received by the enthusiasts.

By then, the writing was on the wall for the classic Alfa Romeo boxer power units, whose gruff, engaging rumble raised a generation of Alfisti. The last boxers left the Pomigliano factory during 1996, and by January of '97, the 145 and its sister 146 were all equipped with Twin Spark inline-four 16v engines.

The 145 and 146 sold close to half a million units, well below the 33's results but still arguably a success by Alfa Romeo standards

Sentimentalisms aside, the new TS engines transformed the 145 and 146 and relaunched their fortunes on the market. Particularly successful proved to be the "junior" trim level, which paired the sporty look and uprated chassis of the 2 liters models with the smaller 1.4 liters engine.

The design of the 145 and 146 sisters proved to be right the first time, needing no intervention until the very end of their production run in 1999, when new bumpers, grille, and color&trim details helped to bridge the gap until the arrival of the 147 in late 2000.

The 145 and 146 sold close to half a million units, well below the 33's results but still arguably a success by Alfa Romeo standards, especially given the more competitive environment of the 1990s.

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