Advantages Looks, performance, that engine sound
Disadvantages No traction control, M.P.G. interior build quality, rear seats
Now I've always been a huge fan of Alfa's and defended them when many an older member of my family has done the teeth sucking and called them dodgy, unreliable rust traps. But I've always argued that the ones they refer to are the ones back in the 60's and 70's when they did break down and rust the first time they drove through a puddle.
Fact is that the design guys at Alfa live and work in northern Italy where the climate is much more favourable to being an Alfa owner than it is here back in Blighty. But now they do think more about their customers who aren't blessed with the sun 300 days a year and the rust worries of yesteryear are behind them.
Not being a fan of saloon cars I didn't look at the 156 and 166, both a lot of car for not much money mind, and the smaller hatchback Alfa's didn't have much appeal as I'm a coupe man, so this left me with one obvious choice; the GTV.The GTV for me is one of the best looking Alfa's and while considering which version I should have adorning the drive way I found the first of many surprises that this car was to deliver; the insurance.
The first GTV's were produced in 1996 and continued until 98 when it got the ever popular 'face lift' and you can tell if it's a late 97 or newer 98 as they had colour coded side skirts and bumpers, chromed (silver plastic) surround grill and teardrop alloys. With the interior the centre console is aluminium grey as are the speedo and rev counter surrounds and you get kick plates down the sill with 'Alfa Romeo' in sliver plastic with a black background.
In 1999 the 6-speed box was introduced and offered with 17" telephone dials alloys and some were fitted with the rear spoiler (avoid the rear spoiler ones, it realty is a 'spoiler' and does spoil the look of the car).
2001 saw the release of the special edition GTV cup which was linked to the racing series in Italy, these where only available in red and had a numbered plaque on the dash. Very limited and the most collectable and of course the most expensive, saying that I've never seen one for sale.
2003 saw the phase 3 version which had the 3.2 V6 and a new nose job but this was the last and production ended this year (2005) to make way for the new GT.
Ok what to look for if you want one of these;
As I've said there aren't any real rust worries these days but the paint seems a bit thin so do have a good look round the bonnet and headlamp holes (I'll explain later) and the wheel arches too for stone chips as this car seems susceptible to them.
Do of course all the usual checks for outstanding finance, insurance claims and crash damage but as to the condition of most GTV's all you need to do is have a good look round them. Not many (if indeed any?) are going to be ex-company cars and if you find a one owner one there's a good chance they will have looked after it, but a word of warning; do check them thoroughly as they may have been getting rid of it due to problems mounting up, check everything works.
The other thing which isn't allowed in this car are passengers in the back, well not unless you happen to know two limbless dwarfs?
The car is a 2+2 which is a manufactures way of saying you can have a coupe with four seats, yeah right! Ok there are four seats but the rear two are for storage purposes only.
With my drivers seat adjusted to where I wanted it (I'm 5'11) the passenger seat behind mine had just about enough leg room to squeeze a fag paper between, not a good car if you've got kids. And if you do manage to bend your child's limbs to fit into the space from years of practice by playing Tetris, then little Timmy won't be able to see much anyway. The rear windows are a tiny triangle that offers the same view of the planet that a World War 2 pill box does, so only a car for two really. The front seats are a different matter though.
All of the V6 GTV's come clad in leather and the front seats are Momo's, a company more used to making racing seats but they have done a good job of these road ones. They do lack lumber support though and in hard cornering you find yourself bracing on the steering wheel to stop nutting your passenger.
Each of the seats has the Alfa logo carved into the back rests which is a nice visual touch and made me come to the conclusion that this is where the budget for the interior was spent.
Not electric but normal 6 way adjustment with, as I discovered after two minutes of swearing and sweat, fixed headrests. No I didn't read the handbook, that would have just been the sensible thing to do.
Make sure that the cow skin is in good nick and that the seat adjusts ok for you, I'll give you a tip here, getting in and out of the GTV can be somewhat of an art form (or a phenomenon if you get in the back seats).
To get in you sort of have to fall in while you push your left leg under the steering wheel as the floor pan is raised near the seat and then drops away closer to the pedals, getting out isn't dignified either. You need to curl up and turn outwards, find the pavement with your right leg and then drag your left one out, but then with the cars I've owned I've yet to find a sports car that is easy to get in and out of.
Once in you'll need to close the door and the handle just seems too far forward and the doors feel just about the same weight as a 16th century portcullis. Once you get the door to move and slam it shut, trust me everybody slams the doors on this car, you realise why the handle is that far forward, your arm would have snapped off if it was further back.
The radio sound was quite poor too but in all honesty I didn't have it on unless I was sat in the daily traffic jams to work, once you've got some open road switch it off and just listen to that engine, stunning sound.
Back to the outside and the boot space with cars of this nature are always tiny, this has just 5.5 cubic feet but this is down to just 3.8 with the space saver spare wheel in there. There was an option of a tyre kit which is a tube of sealant and a little electric compressor which plugged into the cigar lighter as a 'get you home'. But most owners will have gone for the spare tyre route as that actually more likely to get you home and possibly cheaper than the compressor. I found that if it's just the two of you (high chance if you own one of these) that you can just about get a weeks worth of shopping in the boot but the French breadsticks will need to go on the rear seats, sorry, storage space.
Looking round you'll see little detailed touches that looks like the designers really thought about how this car should look. I love the way they have done away with conventional outer door handles to give it a cleaner profile and keep the swooping line from the bonnet to the rear.
The rear lights are nicely done in the form of one complete thin strip across the rear which again really flows but the front lights? Well I'm still divided as to what to think of them. Part of me can see that they were trying to keep the flowing lines of the bonnet and in doing so they forgot that headlamps, mama mia! we forgota abouta delights! They are a legal requirement so they just drilled holes in the hood so you could see where you were going at night.
But no doubt the real reason was that they wanted to make the front different from anything else out there again adding to the exclusivity.
The ride is mid to hard but the main thing I've found with it is if you start to push it into the bends it won't do anything else but under steer.
This I feel is down to it being front wheel drive and the front suspension has to cope with a lot, 220bhp, the steering and the bumps in the road. Sometimes when you are trying to transfer that much power to the road and steer it seems to overcome the front dampers and you end up feeling that you're fighting with it.
You do get some torque steer but not as much as I had originally expected. And if it's raining and fancy a Schumacher start you'll just get wheel spin, very skittish, this car would be a lot easier to live with if they had fitted traction control. Still quick in the dry though; 0-60 in 6.5 seconds and if you had a private test track (where else officer?) it will get you to 155mph at the top end.
That aside slow the pace down and drive it in the way the Highway Code suggests, you'll wonder what all the fuss is about, feels smooth and relaxed.
Another point on suspension if you're looking at one of these, take it over some rough ground and listen at the rear for knocks and clonks. They have a problem where the bolts wear through the bushes at mounting points and the bushes will need to be replaced. This was more of a problem on the 2.0 GTV's as the 3.0 had beefier parts fitted but it still needs checking on the test drive. And if you do go over rough ground watch the nose, quite a few times I scraped the front bumper on speed bumps.
The steering feels light but has a lack of road feel and then we come to the turning circle, this is bad due to the front wheel drive layout and big suspension. Forget turning it round in the street, best to just carry on into the countryside and find a big space to turn around in and go back. It's a real struggle in car parks and dead end streets.
The gearboxes are slick and long, really need to move the lever far between gears and the clutch is nice a light even on a big engine like this. On the test drive check that the clutch is
OK as this again is another expensive job and I would think that they will wear out quicker than smaller engine cars as they have a lot of power to deal with. No major problems with the gearboxes though.
But saying all that if you are a true petrosexual you want one of these for the engine sound alone (it's why I got one).
That engine I think is one of the best orally sounding engines ever made and it's great if you want to upset the environmentals too who think that cars should sound like sparrows tweeting, cows mooing and squirrel farts. Hey and just wait to see their faces when you tell them about the fuel consumption.
The books and guides say 21-25 to the gallon, nah, did a quick sum with mine once an even if I drove as if Miss Daisy herself was in the car the best I could get was 17. Give it some welly with a lead foot inside, slap the air con on and you can get it as low as 8, great sounding engine but you do pay for it.
In fact while owning mine I discovered a new game, hunt the lowest priced petrol station as every time I went to fill up it was like I was out on the lash with Oliver Reed and I was paying. 70 litre fuel tank will cost you £50-60 to fill depending on what you pay and for that you'll get 350-400 miles if you're easy with it.
With all the bad points about this car I still recommend it, I love it because that engine is just so good and the looks, that in itself are worth paying for, it really does cancel the faults out.
It even looks good under the bonnet and that is something that only the Italians seem to be able to do, a good looking engine.
This car is all about design details and when it comes to looking good they always get it right. You be noticing little touches for a month after you've bought one, like the washers are infused with the wiper arms so they didn't spoil the bonnet with two black blobs. And the way the wipers drop an inch when not in use so they are hidden under the bonnet line from the outside. The rear badge that slides to the left to expose the boot key lock, pure style.
Of course things went wrong with mine; it's still an Alfa after all. The heater panel lights did a Christmas tree impression but once I'd figured out the sequence of hitting the dash like a game of Simon I could get them all on. The trim fells off and the air con packed up, needed to be re-gassed and it had an oil leak too, more the fault of the grease monkey who not worked out that the sump plug needed to be tight rather than a fault.
When this car is right and you have a fast A road to yourself it's one of the best driving experiences in the world.
But then this is how I would describe being an Alfa owner, no actually thinking on Richard Ashcroft put it better; it's a bitter sweet symphony.
Thanks for reading.
Attention, this is the first review from this author
Instead of giving a negative rating, consider:
Help this member by giving your advice
Report fraud (for example plagiarism) or other issue with the review to the Ciao support team
Add your comment
FULMEN batteries are manufactured by EXIDE and this battery is equivalent to EXIDE EB740 FORMULA range Starting power: 680A Polarity: + on the...
FULMEN batteries are manufactured by EXIDE and this battery is equivalent to EXIDE EA770 FORMULA XTREME range Starting power: 760A Polarity: + on...
Manufacturer: First Line
amazon marketplace homeimprovement
Availability: Usually dispatched within 1-2 business days