THERE may be better-built, more reliable cars than Alfa Romeos, but when it comes to looks, there's little to touch the Italian glamour star.
From the 147 right up to the iconic Spider, they all have matinee idol magnetism by the bucketload.
That is why people bought them, even when they had that poor reputation, the car could make you feel like a million dollars.
Having previously driven the petrol variant of the Spider, I was looking forward to trying the diesel-powered soft top.
Diesel in a flagship sports car? Well yes, the stunning tourer is also an oil-burner, enough to make the purists choke on their petrol fumes.
But it does work. The Spider now offers drop-dead good looks, superb performance and fantastic economy.
Derived from Giorgetto Giugiaro's award-winning Brera design, the new Spider was developed by Pininfarina in collaboration with Alfa Romeo Centro Stile and it picked up the Cabrio of the Year award at the 2006 Geneva Motorshow.
Sadly, opportunities to get the top down were limited thanks to the great British weather, but when we did it proved as exhilarating as any drop top, with a transparent wind break installed between the roll-over bars reducing air turbulence during high speed driving.
Occupants are well protected from the elements, but in late winter/early spring it always pays to wrap up warm.
The unit itself folds away in only 25 seconds and still leaves a generous 200 litres of boot space.
The interior has that typically unique Alfa look with rotary controls trimmed with aluminium set in a large brushed aluminium fascia. The controls all feel well made these days and are all logically placed and easy to use.
The two occupants are seated in comfortable electrically adjustable seats, but vision is limited, particularly at junctions. I found I had to position the car at a specific angle to see what was coming the other way.
Rear vision is also limited by the small window in the canvas roof.
It's not all good news though. I found the diesel unit quite noisy, but if you can live with that, the benefits are apparent. The 200bhp unit delivers plenty of pace with the 0-60 sprint taking just 8.8 seconds and a top speed of 141mph.
The advantage of the diesel means that this power, or torque, is available throughout most the rev range, so overtaking on motorways is simply a doddle.
Diesel also means economy so when it is mated with a six-speed gearbox, you have sports car performance with city car economy, with an average consumption of 41.5mpg claimed.
The five cylinder MultiJet engine complies with Euro 4 emissions limits and incorporates a DPF (diesel particulate trap) that eliminates fine dust
The Spider shares the same platform as the Brera with double wishbone system at the front and multilink rear configuration but in common with many convertibles it does not feel that stable on corners.
The ride is firm but not uncomfortable while the power steering is speed-sensitive with a rack requiring just 2.25 turns lock-to-lock, a huge improvement on previous models.
The Spider is lavishly equipped with both passive and active safety features, with up to six airbags, seatbelt pre-tensioners and a fire prevention system.
It also features electronic braking, traction control and stability systems fitted as standard. ABS anti-lock braking is combined with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution over all four wheels, and a switchable Vehicle Dynamic Control unit enhances cornering stability.
The Spider offers one generous level of standard equipment across the model range, including automatic Dual Zone climate control, cruise control, 'Follow-Me-Home' headlights, rear parking sensors, a multi-function display and trip computer, fog lights, 17' spoked alloy wheels and an RDS 6-speaker stereo radio with CD player.
Four versions of the Spider are available with a choice of two petrol powerplants: a 2.2 litre 185 bhp 4-cylinder unit, and a 3.2 litre 260 bhp V6, together with the 2.4 turbodiesel.
Alfa Romeo Spider 2.4 JTD
Mechanical: 200bhp, 2,387cc, 5-cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 6-spd manual transmission
Max speed: 140 mph
0-62mph: 8.1 secs
Combined mpg: 41.5
Insurance group: 17
CO2 emissions: 179g/km
BiK rating: 23%
Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles; 3 years paint; 8yrs anti-rust