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Buying an Alfa 156 is one of the best decisions I've made in a long time! Fair enough, I'm only about a month into it, but so far everything I've been told about the superb Alfa driving experience is true. I bought my 156 from a car supermarket, and still feel like I've got a hell of a deal when I look at how much car I've got for not much money. It's just over 2 years old, and regularly elicits amazed comments from friends when I give them lifts and they find out how much the car cost. The interior, while not by any means the height of luxury, is still way more impressive than practically any other car in its class, with sumptuous grey leather, and the often mentioned classic sports styling of the dash, which only improves at night when the dials light up! My Lusso came with a Radio/CD front loader, electric windows all-round, electric mirrors, alloys, aircon/climate control and central locking most of which I think is standard??
And I have to admit that it was this car's beautiful looks that attracted me in the first place. Having worked up from a 205 GTi through a golf to a 328i, I thought I was a commited BMW driver after enjoying my own car and those of friends and workmates, and after ditching the company Beemer (taxed out of practicality) I was single mindedly looking to buy one privately. Having seriously considered several options, I saw a metallic silver/green 156 2.0TS on 51 plate purely by chance, and was impressed with how it looked. I was even more impressed when I sat inside, and couldn't believe that this almost new car with 15k on he clock was for sale for under 9 grand. After a test drive I was hooked, and bought the car there and then.
The drive is pure class. With a redline at 7,000rpm, you can really push this car into some exciting places, and although yes, it can waver under 3,000rpm, once you're off the 2.0 twin spark engine will pleasantly surprise you time and time again, whether it's accelerating through the gears to reach cruising speed, or overtaking in 5th when you're already at 80-85mph, the 165 bhp comes into its own. And that engine note just makes you smile so much that I rarely use the radio any more. On the subject of the 156 being slow off the mark from the lights, after persevering, I've found just the right biting point at which to deploy the gas so I get a smooth and speedy take-off without slipping the clutch or revving like a boy racer, so this is no longer a problem.
Around town, the ride can be a little bumpy, but this is an Alfa, not a 7 series, and rather than uncomfortable, feels pert and sporty, and with those leather seats, extremely comfy. My one niggle in this area is that speed bumps and high-angled driveways must be taken with extreme caution, as the front of the car can 'dip' if you're going too fast, and I've caught the front skirt a couple of times, but this is just a matter of getting into the habit.
Other niggles are the steering wheel position that obscures the top of the speedo (I'm 6' 3"), the central locking remote, which always arms/disarms the alarm, but only opens the doors when it feels like it meaning I sometimes have to revert to using the key. I also get some scary looking emmissions when the car's cold, although a local Alfa specialist has told me this is a mixture of steam and condensation and is nothing to worry about. Also, after 1,000 miles I found I needed to top up with a litre of oil, although this seems to be just what you have to do with Alfas - regular maintenance is the difference between life and death for these engines!
Having read reviews on this and other sites, it seems like a lot of the above is pretty much par for the course with a 156, and to be honest it hasn't detracted from the driving or owning experience.
I have read some unfortunate stories about the 156 (unhelpfully after I bought mine...), but all I can say is that it is the most exciting and rewarding car I have ever owned. I often find myself, taking it out on pointless journeys purely for the drive (which doesn't help fuel economy - I'm getting about 350 to the tank), and giving it the odd look back over my shoulder after parking it up. All I can offer is that you should look out for the pitfalls described in these reviews, and make sure you buy a good one, then look after it.
As I said, it's early days days for me, and I haven't experienced the Alfa dealer community yet, but so far so good. Was I seduced by looks? Possibly. Am I convinced by the performance? Absolutely!!
Nice review and I agree entirely! On the central locking problem, I understand that if you grease or WD40 the little "knob" which goes up and down, it cures it. Have a look at the forums on www.alfaowner.com for more info.
Whether your engine uses oil seems to be a matter of luck! It's very common, though not a big issue. My 2.0 TS Veloce had a replacement engine and uses hardly any.
Anyway, these are great drivers' cars and they're not nearly so ubiquitous as a Beemer!
drewboy 21.05.2004 00:59
so jealous, would love an alfa! nice review, welcome to ciao. drew