Based on the Fiat Tipo chassis, the cars were widely praised for their handling, particularly the sharp, responsive steering. Early cars used boxer engines passed down from the old 33 in 1.3/1.4 (same engine, badge depends on market. Not sold in UK), 1.6 8 valve and 1.7 16 valve forms.
In 1996, the flagship Cloverleaf (145) and Ti (146) models were launched with the 2.0-litre Twin Spark engine already seen in the 155 sister car.1.6 and 1.8 Twin Spark engines soon followed to replace the less powerful boxers.
The 1.8-litre and 2.0-litre engine cars were equipped with 'quick-rack' steering (also seen on the 155, GTV and Spider) which improved steering responsiveness, but as a result the turning circle was compromised. This was also featured on the 1.6-litre Junior model in 1998. The sporty suspension set-up was harsher than many others in its category at the time, but this was in line with the Fiat Group's marketing of Alfa Romeo as a sporting brand and it is said to have resulted in class leading handling.
Styling themes introduced in the Alfa Romeo 164 were continued, and the lighting clusters of the 146 provided a preview of the forthcoming Alfa Romeo 166 and 156. The more conservatively styled 146 proved a bigger sales success than the edgy design of the 145 which it seems was too avant-garde for main stream sales success.
Both the 145 and 146 have a strong following, particularly in top specification Cloverleaf and Ti guises as they are seen by many as not only the last "Old School" hot hatch built by Alfa but arguably by any car company.
While the volume of 145s and 146s sold was moderately low, parts availability is good, in most cases they are still available direct from Alfa Romeo. Owners clubs can often advise on multiple sources of parts or workarounds.
Eventually in 2000 the cars were superseded by the all new 147 which was a far bigger commercial success with its acclaimed styling front end and improved quality, but many enthusiasts feel that it lost a little of the special feel and Alfa Romeo that the 145 and 146 had.