What's the used Alfa Romeo 156 estate like?
The Alfa Romeo 156 Sportwagon is an estate for those who need something vaguely sensible, but want to cut a dash, too; dads with young families who still hanker after their sports car-driving youth, perhaps.
It's certainly an entertaining car to drive, thanks to its range of capable, great-sounding engines, as well as wonderfully sharp steering. You do have to put up with an overly firm ride, though.
The 156 Sportwagon is also a great-looking car, but those sleek lines mean luggage space is pretty poor for an estate. The rear seats fold, but the suspension turrets eat into the load area and the narrow boot opening doesn't make life easy when loading.
The cabin is comfortable for passengers – in its day, the 156 won its class twice in What Car? comfort tests – and most models have climate control, electric windows, six airbags and a leather-trimmed steering wheel.
Advice for buyers
What should I look for in a used Alfa Romeo 156 estate?
Alfa Romeo have a reputation for being less than reliable, and the 156 Sportwagon does nothing to dispel this. Data from Warranty Direct shows that plenty of 156s have required repairs, with the axles and suspension the weakest points, followed by the engine and electrics.
The 156 has fared poorly in JD Power customer satisfaction surveys, too – owners awarded low scores for mechanical reliability, build quality and dealer service, while some complained of costly and numerous repairs.
Check that recall work has been carried out; two recalls involved problems with the brake pipe connector and chafing of the brake pipe on the cable bracket. V6 models were recalled over concerns of a possible risk of fire and power steering failure, while GTA models were also recalled to check for potential loosening of the front suspension and fuel leaks.
What are the most common problems with a used Alfa Romeo 156 estate?
Is a used Alfa Romeo 156 estate reliable?
What used Alfa Romeo 156 estate will I get for my budget?
How much does it cost to run a Alfa Romeo 156 estate?
Pick one of the smaller petrol engines or the diesel and bills shouldn't be too big; the 1.6 and 1.8 petrols return a reasonable 43.5mpg, while the 2.4 diesel should average 51mpg.
The 2.0 petrol is not much thirstier than the 1.8, but its sportier nature attracts a higher insurance rating. Meanwhile, the 2.5 V6 and GTA model require deep pockets.
Repair costs will be higher than for many mainstream brands, too, while problems with the Selespeed semi-automatic gearbox can be particularly troublesome to fix.
Still, the 156 doesn't hold on to its value especially well, which is good news for used car buyers.
Which used Alfa Romeo 156 estate should I buy?
Avoid the weedy 1.6-litre petrol; the 1.8 is a much better bet and produces the sporty snarl that Alfa Romeo enthusiasts expect, while the direct-injection 2.0 JTS provides more punch for not much more money.
For even more pace, there's the 192bhp 2.5 V6 and range-topping 3.2 V6 GTA. The latter is an all-out performance model, and comes with a six-speed manual or five-speed Selespeed paddleshift gearbox.
The best balance between punch and economy is the 2.4 JTD turbodiesel. It's as quick as the 1.8 petrol, but should return around 10mpg more and holds on to its value better, too.
Because every 156 is very well equipped, we'd stick with the base Turismo trim. Pick a Lusso model to gain a CD player and leather seats, or move up to Veloce if you like your Alfa a bit more butch: sports suspension, side skirts and Recaro sports seats are fitted.
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