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Alfa Romeo has launched the 2011 Alfa Romeo 159 1750 TBi in Australia, offering a new entry-level vehicle that is improved in practically every way.

Replacing the 2.2-litre JTS engine, the 1.75-litre TBi is lighter and more compact than its predecessor.

Power is up to 147kW (from 136kW) while torque increases an enormous 90Nm over the old model’s 230Nm. At 320Nm, the 1750 TBi’s torque is just 2Nm shy of the top-of-the-range 3.2-litre V6, and is available from as low as 1400rpm.

As a result, the 159’s 0-100km/h acceleration time is dramatically improved – slashed by more than a second from 8.9secs to 7.7secs.

Despite the performance gains, the new engine also offers superior fuel economy and reduced emissions. Combined cycle fuel consumption is down from 9.4 litres/100km to 8.1 litres/100km. CO2 emissions drop from 221g/km to 189g/km.

Alfa Romeo says the engine efficiency gains are courtesy of direct injection, a turbocharger, two continuously variable valve timing units and a “scavenging control system”.

Alfa says the scavenging technology constantly monitors and optimises engine operating parameters like the fuel dosage, position of the variable valve timing units, ignition advance and ignition timing.

Like the superseded 2.2 JTS, the new engine is be pared with a six-speed manual transmission and is available in two model variants: the standard 159 1750 TBi and the sports-focused 159 Ti 1750 TBi.

The entry-level model features electronic stability control, seven airbags, ABS with brake assist, hill-hold, rear parking sensors, cruise control, automatic headlights and wipers, fog lights, dual-zone climate control, handcrafted Italian leather, Blue&me telematics system and voice-activate Bluetooth.

The Ti model scores 20mm lower suspension, which leads to sharper turn-in response and reduced body roll, 19in alloy wheels with 235/40 R19 low profile tyres and bright red Brembo brakes.

Outside, the Ti gets a revised body kit and aluminium door mirrors, while in the cabin the leather sports seats are heated and stitched in red. The black and red theme is continued throughout the interior, and the dashboard is trimmed with darkened burnished aluminium.

The updated 2011 Alfa Romeo 159 is in showrooms now, with the 159 1750 TBi starting at $49,990 (down $1000 over the old model) and the 159 Ti 1750 TBi priced from $54,480 (down $1510).