What's the used Alfa Romeo 146 hatchback like?
This is a classic 'Marmite' car - you either love it or loathe it. Although the Alfa Romeo 146 is a five-door hatchback, it has been designed to look like a mini-saloon, and as a result, its styling is certainly far less attractive than that of its three-door 145 sister.
Inside, it's not too pleasant, either. The cutaway dashboard is blunt, the stalk controls fiddly and the driving position set rather high.
Where the 146 does score over the 145 is that it offers more storage space and more room for your rear passengers. As a result, it's far more effective as a small family car.
Sadly, like its smaller sister, the 146 has a poor turning circle and a lumpy ride. But, on the plus side, every model in the range has an energetic and raspy Twin Spark 16-valve engine, as well as a positive gearchange.
Advice for buyers
What should I look for in a used Alfa Romeo 146 hatchback?
The good news is that the galvanised bodywork keeps rust to a minimum. But, beware of examples that have a history of intermittent faults – the electrics can be suspect. Avoid cars with electrical gremlins that the seller tells you they just 'put up with'. The interior build quality is poor, too, so you can expect irritating rattles.
Check the car has a good service history, and make sure you're aware of the cambelt change intervals. If you gamble on a car that has little or no service history, you may well end up making frequent trips to the local garage.
Watch for smoky engines and listen carefully to the suspension. If you hear the odd groan or creaking as you drive, you can be sure a suspension repair – and a hefty bill – is just around the corner.
To cut a long story short, if you're after bulletproof mechanicals, look elsewhere. The 145 never scored particularly well in Warranty Direct's reliability surveys, and Alfa Romeo was well down the list in a recent JD Power customer satisfaction survey.
What are the most common problems with a used Alfa Romeo 146 hatchback?
Is a used Alfa Romeo 146 hatchback reliable?
What used Alfa Romeo 146 hatchback will I get for my budget?
How much does it cost to run a Alfa Romeo 146 hatchback?
The Alfa Romeo 146 is certainly affordable to buy: if you're canny, you can pick up a decent 1998 1.8 TS for around the £1000 mark.
However, cheap as they are up fornt, they're actually quite pricey to insure, particularly if you go for the 2.0-litre engine
A 1.8-litre will return about 32mpg if you are light-footed on the throttle pedal, but the throaty engine will probably prove too tempting, so a more realistic average consumption figure is 27mpg.
Service intervals are every 12,000 miles, which is reasonable, and cambelt changes are required every 60,000 miles. Don't expect repair bills to be low, though, especially if you have the work carried out at a franchised dealer.
The most vulnerable part of the car are the suspension bushes, and you can expect to have to replace them at some stage as an owner.
Which used Alfa Romeo 146 hatchback should I buy?
Go for post-1999 models: these more recent versions have improved engines and chassis which made the 146 a much better car. They also benefitted from a facelift that brought a body-coloured radiator grille and bumpers, and air-con as standard.
The smart choice is the 1.8 TS. It provides plenty of excitement, and you can be confident of a sale when you come to pass it on. This model also benefits from quicker steering than the basic models, and that makes for a more rewarding drive.
If outright performance is your thing, there's always the 2.0-litre Cloverleaf hot hatch, which was the flagship of the range, but there's no real point in spending the extra on it. Some used Alfa Romeo specialists have low-milers with healthy histories, but you will pay a premium for one, and there is no guarantee you'll get a trouble-free car.
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