1999 Alfa Romeo 156 Twin Spark 2.0 16v petrol from UK and Ireland


Frustrating, hateful, fun and wonderful all at the same time!


Tappet noise.

Driveshaft bearing failed.

Air leak caused lumpy idle.

Interior light came on at random.

Central locking works when it feels like it.

Fuel gauge packed up.

Rev counter illumination packed up.

Air con became noisy.

General Comments:

I really want to like this car! For starters it looks drop dead gorgeous inside and out. The engine is the best four cylinder unit on the planet bar none, and it goes like a rocket. It handles superbly and sounds orgasmic!

All this is offset by a reliability record and dealer service that quite frankly defies belief in this day and age. I really hoped Alfa had got their act together after the years of bad press, but sadly it is not the case.

I didn't expect the car to have Germanic reliability, and I was prepared to accept the odd silly problem. Latin temparement and all that. However, I went through the service records recently, and there has been a fault on average every four weeks I have had the car. This is bad enough, but if I hear the words "we'll need to order the parts from Italy" from one more dealer, I am going to punch somebody's lights out! It's made worse by the fact that they usually come after the workshop has taken the car apart and rendered it undriveable, as well as after having it in their workshop for several days.

The car is on a lease deal, so I have no choice but to use the dealer network for all servicing and repairs. I'm sure the use of a good independent would improve matters, but the fact still remains that the car is criminally unreliable.

However, it is a testament to the quality of the driving experience that, when it is all working properly, and that wonderful 2.0 Twin Spark engine is fizzing away under the bonnet, or when I polish up the red paintwork and look at its gorgeous lines, I fall instantly in love again.

It's a car that imparts extreme emotions on the driver. One minute it is pure, unadulterated love and a high that lasts for days. Then something packs up for the umpteeth time and I feel hatred so deep that I just want to set fire to it by the side of the road, and catch the bus home.

Frustrating! Wonderful! Horrible. Oh, I don't know.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No

Review Date: 8th December, 2001

10th Dec 2001, 05:54

I entirely agree with this amusing review of the 156! In my opinion, when something goes wrong with the car and you can avoid taking it to a dealer for repair, then don't give the dealer the opportunity to drive you insane! The dashboard on mine needs replacing because the fuse-box lid has snapped off and now won't fit back on. But I'd rather live with the wires hanging out than let Alfa UK get their hands of it. Their service is appalling which, as you say, is a great shame when the car is so beautiful and the engine such a delight.

1999 Alfa Romeo 156 Selespeed 2.0 from UK and Ireland


Style with performance. I love it


Nothing has gone wrong yet, but I have only owned this car for nine days.

The car has covered 43,000 miles and still looks like new.

I am surprised at the lack of reach for the accelerator pedal. I am only 5ft 11 tall and with the seat as far back as it will go I still have to bend my right knee to get my foot onto the accelerator pedal, although there is ample space behind the pedal which is wasted.

General Comments:

The performance of the car is more than adequate for my needs. It seems very light and responsive, eager to jump forward and will still cruise at 30mph in 5th gear without protest. I had previously read about the "Alfa Growl" when describing the engine sound under acceleration, and I now know exactly what it means. What a wonderful sound!

The car is Alfa red with a sports kit and high level rear spoiler. I would not have chosen the spoiler but it was already on the car and I have grown to like it. It seems to finish off the style nicely without being crude or 'boy racer'.

Roadholding is very positive. I shall not be pushing the car to its limits to test its ability, but it certainly transmits confidence to the driver with no perceptible body roll and a comfortable but firm suspension.

The interior has black cloth Recaro sports seats. They are supportive and comfortable, however I would have preferred an adjustable lumbar support. The instrument dashboard with the hooded gauges and dials is a throwback to earlier days, and is a joy to behold. There may be no real need for red back-lights and separate fuel, temperature and clock, but it looks great. Is any more reason needed?

The Selespeed sequential gearbox takes a little while to get used to, but it's worth the wait and the learning is fun.

The car has an ordinary dry clutch plate fitted, but no pedal for manual changes. The electronic button sensors on the steering wheel, and the `tiptronic` style gear stick respond to the drivers signal to change up or down, and a hydraulic pump actuates the clutch for you, smoothly (provided you level off on the accelerator first) and efficiently. It's a real joy to use. I just hope nothing goes wrong with it!!!

Having not looked at Alfa Romeo cars before, I can only say that the Alfa 156 seduced me. I had my Vauxhall Carlton for 6 years, and it is still going strong after 145,000 miles and 9 years old. I hope the Alfa lasts this long.

I look forward to making a journey in this car as it is such fun to drive and definitely a head turner.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 30th October, 2001

6th Jul 2002, 12:43

I have a car of a similar age to this with the same interior. The Recaro seats DO have lumbar support adjustment mechanism - the knob for this is quite low down on the left of the drivers seat. The passenger seats don't have one. I wonder if your seats are swapped around?