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What Car? says

2 out of 5 stars

For The 166 is a fine long-distance cruiser and blessed with unusual, handsome styling

Against There are reliability worries, not many 166s on the used market, and no diesel engine

Verdict The 166 makes an interesting, good-value alternative to a German executive car

Go for… 2.0 TS Turismo

Avoid… 3.0 V6 Lusso

Alfa Romeo 166 Saloon
  • 1. The transmission and suspension are prone to faults
  • 2. The engines need careful servicing – it’s best to avoid cars without a full Alfa Romeo service history
  • 3. Interior appears pretty sturdy, although some owners have reported various rattles and squeaks
  • 4. Luggage space is decent – the boot holds 490 litres
  • 5. There's enough room in the back even for three adults
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Alfa Romeo 166 Saloon full review with expert trade views

In area of the market packed with sober German rivals, the 166 always stands out, thanks to its handsome styling and sporty-sounding engines – this Italian is no shrinking violet.

Refinement is impressive, too – all the engines are quiet and sweet-natured until you push them hard, when you’ll hear a glorious rasping note. The ride is smooth yet supple, while body control is good and the precise steering has plenty of feel.

Up front, there’s plenty of space and adjustment of the driving position. In the back, there’s sufficient leg and shoulder space, even for three adults, but headroom is tight. Luggage space is decent – the boot holds 490 litres.

The main concern for anyone buying a new 166 was always the shocking residual values – the big Alfa didn't hold on to its value as well as its BMW, Audi and Mercedes rivals. However, that means bargain prices for second-hand buyers, though.

Trade view

James Ruppert

V6 has to be priced to sell, 2.0 Lusso better, face-lift '04 not worth more

James Ruppert
Used car guru

Best is the base 2.0-litre petrol. With just 150bhp, it doesn’t have a great deal of pulling power at low revs, but this isn’t noticeable once the car's up to cruising speed and this version is by far the most economical to run.

There are two V6s – a 188bhp 2.5 and a 220bhp 3.0 – but they are less impressive, especially when matched to the optional four-speed automatic gearbox, when they feel short of flexibility. And, using all that power can be too much for the front wheels to cope with.

Every model in the range has plenty of equipment, so we’d stick with entry-level Turismo trim. This gives you climate control, alloy wheels, twin front and side airbags, traction control, heated door mirrors and electric windows front and rear. Lusso models also have heated leather seats that are electrically adjustable, while V6 models get full dynamic stability control.

Trade view

James Ruppert

V6 has to be priced to sell, 2.0 Lusso better, face-lift '04 not worth more

James Ruppert
Used car guru

Stick with the 2.0-litre model for the lowest running costs: it returns an official 29.1mpg average economy and has a group 15 insurance rating. Choose the 2.5 V6 and fuel economy drops to 23.7mpg, while its insurance rating is one group higher. The 3.0 V6 is thirstier still, with a 22.6mpg official average, and sits in group 17 for insurance.

Labour rates are reasonably high, too, although cheaper than those of its key German rivals. On average, you can cut your bills by about 25% if you visit an independent Alfa specialist rather than a franchised dealership.

The very last 166s will still have some of the original three-year manufacturer’s warranty remaining, and it may be worth paying a bit more for these newer models to get this extra peace of mind.

Trade view

James Ruppert

V6 has to be priced to sell, 2.0 Lusso better, face-lift '04 not worth more

James Ruppert
Used car guru

Given Alfa Romeo’s reputation for mediocre reliability – the marque has performed poorly in What Car?’s reliability surveys – should potential 166 buyers be worried? Possibly: the transmission is prone to faults, and knocking over bumps and uneven tyre wear are signs of possible problems with the suspension. The engines need careful servicing, too – it’s best to avoid cars without a full Alfa Romeo service history and those which don’t appear to have been well looked after.

Early cars built between 1999 and March 2001 were recalled to check for problems with the power-assisted steering, while 166s built between May and September 2004 were recalled over possible fuel leaks; check that the model you’re interested in made the necessary visits to the dealer.

The 166’s interior appears pretty sturdy, although some owners have reported various rattles and squeaks. We’ve also heard of occasional glitches from the climate control system.

Trade view

James Ruppert

V6 has to be priced to sell, 2.0 Lusso better, face-lift '04 not worth more

James Ruppert
Used car guru
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