Use car buying guide: Alfa Romeo 156

Alfa Romeo 156

156 GTA Evolutionary: Around £4000, extreme cars will hone their GTA with new Eibach Kit suspension and a bit more power

Alpha 156 is a secondhand Starlet with a terrible reputation for reliability. We're walking through a minefield of potential property

The beautiful Alpha 156 was 21 this year. Around 6000 remain - a surprisingly large number for a given model and survived the 2009 scrapyard massacre and, starting in 2015, the demonization of older diesels. The third attacker is, of course, corrosion; a more subtle enemy who sees rust sneak up unnoticed until, one day, you get into your car and your foot plunges through the bottom.

The model was very popular with Alfistis but the German-buying crowd was never won over. Alpha's reputation for inaccuracy hung over 156 like a cloud. Barring a few bright spots (one owner gleefully reported 12,000 accident-free miles in his Selespeed and car), it was well deserved.

Again and again, reliability studies have taken the model to the basement. Warranty companies grieve the high cost of repairs. After a couple of years pick up tab For prematurely broken cambelts and tensioners on Twin SPARK Alpha engines cut component replacement intervals in half, to 36 miles. He did the same with diesels. Reminds me? Better not to go there.

So the fourth assault is 156. The good news is that examples that have survived their reliability issues can be good enough. In any case, if trouble should repeat itself, well, with prices starting at just £500 for the dodgy 2.4 JTD and around £1200 for the neater car, you haven't lost your shirt.

The 156 was launched in 1998 in 1.8 and 2.0 liter twin sparks (there are two spark plugs per cylinder) and 2.5 V6 and forms. A year later, the rugged but spirited 2.4 JTD and petrol arrived.

The optional Selespeed and automatic versions of the 2.0 TC had a change of button on the steering wheel, which was cool. The 2.5 V6 was available with a four-speed automatic called the Q-system, which featured a traditional automatic plus an h-pattern manual change. Three so-called sport packages brought an extra kit, but sport 1, with low profile tires and sport suspension, was the most cost effective.

The arrival of the 1.6 TS in 2000 triggers a range-wide cut price. A facelift two years later introduced a mixture of desirable standard and optional features, including a Bose audio system and bi-xenon headlights, while the Selespeed and buttons were replaced with paddles. More importantly, however, the impressive 2.0 TC has been replaced by a new (and less impressive) 2,0 L. The direct injection engine, the 2.4 JTD and got more power and the mighty 3.2 V6 on the GTA landed. With 247bhp on tap, this version should have rocked the trees, but it was a diamond with a flaw and today is one of the few used cars that is worth a premium when skillfully altered and reordered.

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Since the final facelift in 2003, the 156 nose has been restyled to match the new generation Alfas and the excellent 1,9td engine has arrived. And then, in 2005, the game was over. Today, 1.9 td, 2.0 ts and 3.2 gta are available for purchase, but make sure you check out those floorpans.

How to get one in your garage

Expert opinion

Jamie Porter, Alpha Seminar: “The 156 was a superb car and people forgot it was pretty advanced. The OTS 2.0 engine was direct injection, while the 2.4 JTD was the first common-rail passenger car with a diesel engine. My favorites are the 2.0 liter twin SPARK, 1.9 td and 3.2 GTA. The rest can be forgotten. The 2.0 OTC was unreliable and had emissions issues, the 2.4 JTD was too heavy and not very fuel efficient, and the 1.6 and 1.8 Tcc didn't stick very well. On the 2.5 V6 and not very fast, but it was thirsty and the car itself was too soft. Today, rust is the biggest problem. Platform rates are the worst, so always potential buy on the ramp and fumble underneath.”

Buyer beware...

■ Engines: for gasoline, the roller and water pump should be changed at 36 miles. On GTA, the sound of friction could be roller fouling on the camera cover. Lack of power or poor idling can be an air mass meter that lasts about 000 miles. On diesels, cambelts need to be changed at 70000k miles. A seized water pump bearing will take out the roller, destroying the engine. A stuck EGR valve can be a problem on 60 TDS. Check for smoke oil. Check the sump, the JTD is not cracked.

■ Gearbox: feel for the wear of the synchronizers and listen for the wear of the bearings in the gearbox is the end of the matter. High biting point on the pedal plus the heavy action of a worn clutch. On diesels, the clang as you let go of the clutch could be the dual mass flywheel.

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■ Suspension: the creak comes from behind the panel you can wear the upper arm ends. We check the rear suspension, the rear arm bushes and the rear radius of the bushes arm for wear. Uneven tire wear (extra of everything) will likely be a geometry issue or wear in the upper control arms.

■ Body: rust overshadows everything else; floorpans suffer worse. Check the front and rear subframes. Expect repairs after an accident, but make sure they are not a source of more rust.

■ Interior: at startup, check that the three warning lights - engine, ABS and airbag - come on. If the rear windows do not work, I suspect the absence.

Also worth knowing

Suspension creaks overwhelmed 156. Killed bushes are often to blame. Replacing them with polyurethane items such as those sold by the powerflex series will not only cure the problem but also tighten up the handling. Make sure they are properly installed and then lubricate the zones at intervals to keep corrosion at bay.

How much to spend

£250-£999: mixed mostly JTDs, some in well maintained condition.

£1000-£2999: some 2.0 Shh but mostly OTC versions, including a 2003-reg OTC Lusso with 69,000 km and a full service history for $1995.

£3000-£4999: tidier cars, including a 1998 Reg 2.5 V6 with 47,000 miles, full service history and a belt change for $4995.

£5000-£17,000: Won start here among the cheapest in 2002-Reg with 104 miles for $000. Others include a 5950-Reg with 2002 miles, full service history for $80000.

We found

Alfa Romeo 156 2.0 TS Veloce, 2002/51 Reg, 74 km, £000: what appears to be a round 156 with reasonable mileage and, surprisingly, only one previous owner. Shame on the service history is only partial, but body and interior how to describe as 'excellent' is the main thing.

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