I agree with the previous chap, I also traded my 156 after 10 months, due poor reliability and build quality issues, that could not be resolved to my satisfaction. My vehicle was a 2001 2.5 V6 model purchased new in Sydney (Australia). This should not happen in this day and age, initially I thought it was only my particular vehicle, but after some research I discovered, this is common amongst Alfas. I too was fooled by 156 good looks, and sleek sales people at Alfa.
I'm happy to say I traded the 156 for a Lexus IS300, which I've owned since November 2001, and after 68,000kms no one problem.
Most Alfa-owners' stories are pitted with loves and hates. I've been through them all... And a list as long as a loo roll of bits (some very major) that have gone wrong. I've now bought 6th Alfas (my latest is a 156 Sportwagon) and I've never ceased to be unimpressed with the reliability of the marque and the shocking after sales service - it's really a disgrace. But yet I keep buying them. Why? For people like me it's a heart thing. The styling of these cars is just exquisite. They are a car you just love to be seen in - even if people think you are nuts to buy one. You stand out from the crowd and get bucket loads of fun from them. Simply put, however, you don't buy an Alfa if reliability is anywhere near top of your list. After 6 Alfas, 4 from new, I'm nearly convinced that unreliability is a design decision. Only by luck do you get one that's reliable, not the other way round. But they're GREAT!
Yeah, it's interesting. I bought a 156 Lusso, silver and red leather. I kind of thought the suspension was a bit firm, but the engine noise was great. But it also felt...fragile, you know? Not like a 3-series - less stunning, but rock-solid. Anyway, one day, the engine management light kept coming on and they didn't know what it was, so I thought, 'I am NOT getting into this' and got my money back. I completely agree with the chap who said that 'it always needed things doing to it'. Life's too short to have a dull car, but life's too short to be frustrated by not being able to go anywhere! An Alfa Romeo with Honda build quality and reliability - now you're talking!!! :)
Alfas do have a spine tingling x-factor, but the ownership overall is so disappointing that this becomes an irrelevancy. They are just not practical as everyday transport, and the daft niggles mar the experience when the car is actually driving OK. You could forgive it anything if the dealers were reliable, honest and fairly priced, but the joy of a perfectly running Alfa (??!) is overshadowed by the dread of the next visit to the incompetent robbing dealers.
Owning an Alfa is like dating a highly strung supermodel. When she's on form, nothing is better and the experience is amazing, but most days are off days and you would rather have anyone else.
To be a true petrolhead, you do need to experience an Alfa. You will remember it fondly and forget about wanting to set fire to it every other day. You forget the hours waiting for the work to be finished, spending heavily and then driving away as the dealer closes and having the same problem again. Along with another random fault. Then a leak. Then a dash light on again. Then the radio giving up. Etc. Etc.
You forget. You buy another one. Then you remember!
If you have one, enjoy it. You'll reminisce in years to come when the pain has gone. You'll get all misty eyed about it when you're old, chubby and driving an MPV. You'll crave the emotions of joy and rage, when you're in your Honda. I don't understand why, but you will!
It's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all..
If you're thinking of buying one, imagine what you will do when it breaks again, the parts can't be sourced from Italy for another week, the after market warranty excludes this problem (80% of the time) and you need to get to work.
Know what you are getting into, and if you can deal with it, buy it and love it.
You'll cry with both joy and sorrow.
I sold my 156 and bought a Nissan; compared to the Nissan, the Alfa was extremely reliable...
BMW 3 series need money spent on them, they just don't leave you by the side of the road. They are particularly patient, They will store up all their demons until you put them in the shop, then you get a list and it's never cheap. Years ago I went through two 318is coupes then a 325i convertible before heading to much more financially mundane asian stables. I'm not capable (financially or mentally) of dealing with Alfa's love hate struggle that is ownership.