Well there are 55k miles on the clock now and it still sits on my drive. I got a Mk 5 Golf tdi lease car for work in the last few months and have put 12k miles on that, but we kept the Alfa as my wife's car. The Golf is sensible. It's just so very, very sensible. 50mpg, reliable, strong and completely soulless. It is cheaper to run, but its like being married to an up-tight accountant, I feel hopelessly trapped in a world of lifeless, grey, fiscal prudence (my wife isn't an accountant by the way).
I know I said I wasn't passionate about Alfa Romeo, but now I 'understand' and I'm trying to justify a long journey in the 156 tomorrow, and the day after. Its not as comfy, it's a bit 'flaky' compared to the Golf, but that engine and that steering, arggghh it's a proper car...
Now, its late, I'm all alone and I'm about to look at pictures of a GTA...
It's called Alfa virus. At first you (we) don't seem to like the car, have worries about how reliable it'll prove to be in the long run etc. Then, you (we) start comparisons with perfect (soulless...) Golf's, Focus', Astra's, Mazda 3's and Corolla's of this world and you (we) are always happy getting back to the flaky, squeacky 156 (147). Finally, you (we) just find yourself choosing the longest way to work... The Alfa virus- ermm lovely, really.
Original poster here again. Just thought I'd update. I sold my 156 the other day. Mixed feelings I suppose. I got it absolutely gleaming for potential buyers and it looked gorgeous as ever. But I felt quite relieved when it went, it never felt as solid as it should. Having got used to a Mk5 VW Golf and the Volvo V70 which replaced it, the 156's ride is so busy and fidgety, it felt like the speedo was seriously under-reading (sat-nav told me it wasn't). Hitting potholes would make me wince. And the suspension never felt as rugged as other cars I have owned. Steering remained fabulously sharp though. The engine was great in many ways, but I have to say that modern diesel engines like the Volvo's (D5) seem to make normally aspirated 2 litre lumps like the Alfa's a bit superfluous. More torque, quicker in real terms and 40mpg plus. The Alfa may have screamed to 6000 revs sonorously, but the gearbox didn't really snick through the ratios quickly enough to keep the power focused and on the boil.
What I gained in exterior beautiful styling I lost in interior design. It all looked nice, but the touches of clever design that make the Volvo very easy to live with are missing in the Alfa. You can put up with it easily enough, but I confess I was unaccustomed to the calm brilliance of the Volvo's driver environment on a recent 350 mile journey. Its not 100% fair to compare two different classes of car of course, but second hand prices even this out somewhat.
I loved my Alfa, but whilst the file of service bills looked impressive and reassuring, I couldn't help wonder what else I could have spent the thousands of pounds it cost to fuel and maintain it over 65k miles on. Depreciation was painful too.
I had some epic and memorable journeys in it, East Kent to the West Wales coast in under 4 hours on Xmas Eve '04, and a wonderful hour long deserted back-road blast after being diverted off our main planned route by roadworks in Herefordshire... Everyone should own an Alfa, they're just that special and cool. Just make sure you're prepared for the demands placed upon you as the owner. And mine was a reliable one...
Lovely informative report and a very well balanced view. I have had several Alfas and gone through the love and pain. I now drive something more reassuring and sensible, but still admire the Alfa brand. I suppose it comes with age, but I value the reliability and solidity over the the soul stirring now...!
Interestingly, with your running costs over 65k miles, you could probably have run both a decent "hot" turbo diesel and a classic Alfasud.
Covers both bases!