What's the used Alfa Romeo 166 saloon like?
In an area of the market packed with sober German rivals, the Alfa Romeo 166 always stood 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, but the 166 doesn't handle as well as a BMW 5 Series.
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 but no more than that.
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 5 Series, Audi A6 and Mercedes E-Class rivals. However, that means bargain prices for second-hand buyers.
Advice for buyers
What should I look for in a used Alfa Romeo 166 saloon?
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 gearbox 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 Alfa Romeo 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.
What are the most common problems with a used Alfa Romeo 166 saloon?
Is a used Alfa Romeo 166 saloon reliable?
What used Alfa Romeo 166 saloon will I get for my budget?
How much does it cost to run a Alfa Romeo 166 saloon?
Stick with the 2.0-litre model for the lowest running costs: it returns an official 29.1mpg average economy. Choose the 2.5 V6 and fuel economy drops to 23.7mpg, while its insurance rating is higher. The 3.0 V6 is thirstier still, with a 22.6mpg official average.
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 Romeo specialist rather than a franchised dealership.
Which used Alfa Romeo 166 saloon should I buy?
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.
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