1999 Alfa Romeo 156 Twin Spark 2.0 16v petrol from UK and Ireland
Frustrating, hateful, fun and wonderful all at the same time!
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.
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
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.