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Used Alfa Romeo 156 review: 1999-2002

The 156 has a powerful stance emphasised by its muscular shoulders and bold front and rear treatments. The 156's heartbeat came from a 2.0-litre double overhead camshaft four-cylinder engine with twin spark plugs and four valves per cylinder or a 2.5-litre double overhead camshaft V6.

With the 2.0-litre engine the 156 would reach 216km/h if pressed, having reached 100km/h in about 8.5 seconds, while the V6 would sprint to 100km/h in 7.3 seconds and had a top speed of 230km/h.

Those who chose the twin-spark four could pick between a five-speed manual gearbox and a five-speed auto; those who opted for the V6 could have either a six-speed manual or five-speed auto. An automated shift manual gearbox, Selespeed, could also be ordered for even more fun on the run.

Final drive was through the front wheels, which was a disappointing departure from tradition for some Alfa enthusiasts, who treasured the wonderfully exhilarating handling of earlier rear-wheel drive cars like the 105 GTVs. But anyone who was able to get over the disappointment found the 156's handling was just as thrilling as older Alfas despite front-wheel drive.

Double-wishbone suspension was employed at the front with an independent MacPherson Strut layout at the rear. It had a balance and precision that made it a joy to drive on the open road. Brakes were disc all round overlaid with ABS and electronic brake distribution.

Entry to the Italian club came via the Twin Spark Sedan, which had airconditioning, ABS, dual airbags, adjustable steering wheel, power windows and mirrors, immobiliser, velour trim and carpets, power steering and a host of other features.

You could also choose the 156 Sport, which added power Recaro seats, sports trim, instruments and carbon fibre dash trim.

If you stepped up to the V6 you got alloy wheels in place of the steel wheels on the Twin Spark, as well as the V6 engine and the option of the six-speed gearbox. Perched atop the range was the Monza, which was available as a Twin Spark or V6, and added leather trim to the package.

IN THE SHOP

The latest generation of Alfas seems less prone to niggly problems than some predecessors. There were issues with poor radio reception on early cars, but that was about the extent of the dramas.

Most 156s are owned by people prepared to lavish affection on them and ensure they are well serviced. Even so, check for a service record and make sure no corners have been cut. Generally, the 156 seems to remain rattle-free, but the quality of interior fittings suggests they might suffer in the long term.

CRUNCH TIME

Agile handling and powerful ABS-equipped brakes give the 156 a great primary safety package, while dual airbags provide good crash protection when a collision is unavoidable. Standard side-front airbags added to the secondary protection from 2000.

OWNERS' VIEWS

Carol Sainsbery says her 2.5 V6 manual looks stylish, has a user-friendly cabin with comfortable seats, and is a dream car to drive.

Rick FitzGerald says his 2001 Monza has been a great car. He loves the engine, the Momo leather interior, the gearshift and the handling but he's not so keen on the front-wheel drive and the aircon, which struggles on hot days.

ALFA ROMEO 156 99-02

Smooth powerful engine
Slick manual gearshift
Excellent road holding
Classic Italian styling
Check for service record
Well-equipped interior

RATING

16/20 Good-looking sports sedan goes and handles well and stands out from the crowd

 

Pricing

Year Price From Price To
2002 $2,860 $12,870
2001 $3,740 $7,150
2000 $3,740 $7,150
1999 $3,740 $6,930

View all Alfa Romeo 156 pricing and specifications

Pricing guides

$5,335
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$3,740
Highest Price
$6,930

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
2.0 Selespeed Twin Spark 2.0L, PULP, 5 SP AUTO $4,070 – 5,940 1999 Alfa Romeo 156 1999 2.0 Selespeed Twin Spark Pricing and Specs
2.0 Twin Spark 2.0L, PULP, 5 SP MAN $3,740 – 5,500 1999 Alfa Romeo 156 1999 2.0 Twin Spark Pricing and Specs
V6 24V 2.5L, PULP, 4 SP AUTO $4,730 – 6,930 1999 Alfa Romeo 156 1999 V6 24V Pricing and Specs
Graham Smith
Contributing Journalist

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