Buy­ing Guide

Alfa Romeo 156

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Contents - WORDS Chris Ran­dall PHOTOGRAPHY Magic Car Pics

Alfa Romeo is no stranger when it comes to mak­ing char­ac­ter­ful sport­ing sa­loons, and in the late 1990s it de­cided to chal­lenge the lead­ers in the mid-rank­ing ex­ec­u­tive sec­tor.

Its an­swer to the dom­i­nance of the BMW 3- Se­ries and Mercedes-Benz C-Class was the 156 range.

Ar­riv­ing on Bri­tish shores in February 1998, the new Alfa ap­peared less clin­i­cal than the Ger­man al­ter­na­tives, treat­ing

buyers to a dash of cur­va­ceous Latin style and a range of punchy en­gines. Among the petrol mo­tors at launch were lively 2.0-litre Twin Spark and 2.5-litre V6 units, while those that sought more fru­gal own­er­ship could opt for a torquey JTD diesel that ar­rived in sum­mer 1999.

Nu­mer­ous changes and in­tro­duc­tions fol­lowed, in­clud­ing the ar­rival of the ‘Sport­wagon’ es­tate and the racy GTA, which at­tempted to put 250bhp through its front wheels... with only mod­er­ate suc­cess. That last model aside, you can now pick up a sound 156 for com­fort­ably less than £2000 and that’s a proper mod­ern clas­sic bar­gain in our book. OK, so care is needed to avoid land­ing your­self with a ne­glected ex­am­ple, and re­li­a­bil­ity foibles can prove frus­trat­ing, but the com­bi­na­tion of zesty en­gines and ag­ile han­dling (thanks, in part, to high-geared steer­ing) is a de­light when you’re in the mood for a B-road blast.

And then there’s the cabin. It might lack the ruth­lessly ef­fi­cient er­gonomics of Teu­tonic ri­vals, but by ’eck it looks good, the deeply-cowled dials evok­ing Al­fas of old while op­tional leather trim and plenty of kit en­sures it can cos­set with the best of them on long jour­neys. And you can for­get any no­tions of oddly Ital­ianate driv­ing po­si­tions; you’ll have no trou­ble getting com­fort­able here.

By all means don your sen­si­ble hat and a buy a Beemer, but you might just want to try a 156 first.

GTA seats are unique to that model, so make sure they’re in ex­cel­lent nick, like th­ese.

3.2-litre GTA V6 tops a very sporty range.

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