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Alfa Romeo 156 & 159

Alfa Romeo 156 & 159 Published: 14th Nov 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Alfa Romeo 156 & 159
Alfa Romeo 156 & 159
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Why should I buy one?

Alfa Romeo’s answer to the 3 Series came in the delectable shape of the 156 saloon, launched just before the E46 surfaced. Exquisitely styled with great traditional attention to detail the 156 masks its Fiat Tipo (and also used in the Alfa 155) underpinnings well and possesses that essential genuine Alfa character.

What can I get?

There’s two ranges to consider. The 156 and the later 159 of 2005, which is more than just a mild facelift being a larger car all round with a resultant increase in interior space. The former is mostly powered by the trusty traditional Alfa twin cam (TwinSpark) engine that dates back to the early 1960s in 1.6,1.8 and 2-litres sizes plus a 2.5 V6 (a 3.2 for the top GTA) and a 1.9 and 2 .4 turbodiesel. Front-wheel drive but there’s also the Q4 (four-wheel drive) option for certain models. There were a couple of facelifts plus the arrival of the Sportwagon estate, which incidentally, formed the platform for the Bertone-styled Alfa GT coupé. The 159 was styled by Giugiaro and part of the facelift saw new diesel engines also found in Vauxhalls, and Saabs plus sired the beautiful looking Brera.

What are they like to drive?

The 156 was a fine drive in its day, comparing favourably with the 3 Series, but with a good dose of Italian brio making up for its Latin flaws compared to the all roundness of the BMW. You’re unlikely to be disappointed with the drive though thanks to the vivacious sparky engines that characterise Alfa. The 155bhp 2-litre TS would be our pick, not fast but lively enough but all are engaging and that includes the diesels which, with up to 200bhp on offer, will surprise you. Handling is very good and the GT is notably better, care of its specially-tuned suspension that also quelled the torque steer that was so apparent on the earlier V6-powered GTVs. Driving this Alfa evokes memories of past classics, such as the slick gearbox but be very wary of the Selespeed auto. When working it’s great with a wonderful ‘throttle blip’ on the down change but they are woefully unreliable leading to the nickname ‘Sellafield’ by the trade (best you work that one out!).

What are they like to live with?

Modern Alfas are well protected against the elements, so only neglected and accident damaged ones will display signs of the tin worm with the exception of front cross member rust. Signs of a hard and fast life will be easily evident, notably the state of the alloy wheels and interior, which isn’t of BMW standards. So long as the service history is sound, and no dash fault lights illuminate, all should be okay. Cambelt changes are a must; on the four-cylinder it was revised to 36,000 miles – before then it was double the mileage which was really too long for safety’s sake… The same recommended times still hold for the V6 and JTD but we’d change the belts sooner – along with V6 water pumps. Electrics are always a worry and ensure you are given both sets of keys, especially the ‘master’ one! Prices? You should pick a 156 up for £1000 – only the top GTA or the GTs; can command five figure sums but buy on condition rather than age or spec.

We reckon

Alfa took the fight to BMW with its lovely 156. More flawed than the 3 Series but despite its Fiat underpinnings the 156 and 159 can be regarded as a true Alfa. Just try one!

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