Tested : Alfa Romeo 156 vs MG ZT

Sporting pretenders?


They might be unfashionable now, but diesel cars have been on a huge adventure in recent years. The time when cars fuelled by the black pump were slow, noisy and smelly have long since passed – even the most affordable secondhand examples can give you a great deal of pleasure if you buy well. The era of the sporting secondhand diesel is well and truly upon us, and this point is underlined by the fact that you can buy a sporting diesel from Alfa Romeo and MG – two of the car industry’s sporting protagonists – for very little money indeed.

Alfa Romeo has been selling diesels in Europe since the early 1980s, but it wasn’t until the emergence of the pretty 156 that the UK was considered an attractive enough market. MG was even later to the party, and the oil burners to wear an octagon badge hit the scene in 2001, when the wraps came off the MG ZR, ZS and ZT.

In the era of £1.20/litre fuel, we reckon these sub-£1000 40mpg hotshots are here to stay for the foreseeable future. However, just because these cars can deliver at the fuel pumps is no excuse to accept second best on the road – so are the Alfa 156 JTD and MG ZT CDTi good enough for skeptics to finally stop using the qualifier, ‘for a diesel…’ after any sentence that involves performance or driving appeal?

The cars

When the Rover 75 was first unveiled at the Birmingham Motor Show in 1998, few would have predicted the rocky road it was about to travel. Developed by Rover at Gaydon, its conception was eased along nicely by the company’s former owner, BMW’s, insistence on signing large cheques.

It looked stunning and was received well by the press, and for a while it looked like the 75 had the world at its feet. However, we know the outcome, and in 2000 following BMW’s sale of Rover and Longbridge to the Phoenix Consortium, many of those Engineers who worked on the original were tasked with turning the ‘Auntie’ Rover 75 into a sleek and sporting MG – for little money and in the shortest possible time.

The front-wheel-drive car may have majored on ride comfort and refinement, but the stiff bodyshell, intelligent suspension design and strong mix of engines meant that, when it came to developing a sporting version, the Engineers started with a major advantage. Badge-engineering is a term used far too often in the motor industry – and, in 2000, when the MG ‘Zed’ cars were initially shown to the public, many people cried ‘not again.’ Despite clever styling tweaks, which undid much of Rover’s twee retro styling, they looked like the same cars underneath the bright paint and big alloy wheels.

These preconceptions were blown out of the water once the cars were available for people to drive – not only did the ZT look fantastic, but it also drove superbly. Although the ZT 190 attracted the most attention, it was the diesel ZT CDTi that enticed the majority of buyers. Powered by the state-of-the-art 1951cc BMW M47 common-rail turbo diesel engine – uprated to 131bhp, thanks to the XPower ECU re-map – and married to a sweet-shifting Getrag gearbox, the CDTi went on to become the quiet achiever of the ZT range, selling strongly until the car went out of production in 2005.

Like MG, Alfa Romeo is a name that conjures up images of beautiful saloons and coupes – in the classic car scene, there aren’t many marques to match its rich heritage. However, following the launch of the Alfasud in 1971 – and weakening export sales – the company plunged into deep financial crisis, and ended up being bailed out by the Italian Government.

The 1970s and ’80s will be remembered for a string of rusting under-achievers – average cars powered by great engines. However, the beautiful Pininfarina-styled 164 of 1987 proved the company could build cracking cars – and, from that point on, each successive new car launch upped Alfa’s game just that little bit more.

The point when Alfa Romeo hit the big time – again – was marked with the arrival of the 156 in 1997. Styled with breathtaking attention to detail, and featuring an impressive front wheel drive chassis, it went on to be crowned the 1998 European Car of the Year award – and the pundits soon came to the conclusion that here was an Alfa you could buy without needing to make excuses.

Two years later, the award-winning 136bhp common-rail in-line five-cylinder JTD engine was added to the range – and, with it, Alfa’s establishment shake-up was just about complete. A few years earlier, the idea of a diesel-powered Alfa Romeo or MG might have seemed laughable but, with the arrival of the CDTi and JTD, everything changed overnight.


This test is all about living with these cars day to day, and whether they deliver a driving experience true to the sporting heritage of their manufacturers. In the case of the Alfa Romeo 156 2.4 JTD, the answer is a definite yes. As with all diesels, you need to move away from the idea that revs-equals-acceleration, and learn to change gear early – and let it torque the talk.

With 136bhp on tap, you’re not going to slingshot away from the lights, but with a 0-60mph time of 9.9 seconds, and very impressive fourth gear flexibility, real world performance is more than adequate – and not just ‘for a diesel…’ Take the Alfa down a typical British B-road, you can leave it in fourth gear and still achieve devastating cross-country times without breaking into a sweat – so don’t be fooled into thinking this car is built only for motorways.

Being Italian, it’s more about how the results are achieved – and it’s here the Alfa really scores. In short, it sounds wonderful – yes, it clatters at idle, but once moving, it sings lustily, with a lovely warbling engine note typical of in-line fives. However, don’t imagine for a moment that the Alfa’s brio leaves the MG ZT trailing in its wake.

Thanks to the smoothness of the BMW engine in the ZT, rapid progress can be made effortlessly – and, although its soundtrack is softer and more cultured than the Italian, don’t confuse civility with sluggishness. The 131bhp power unit in the ZT performs just as well as the Alfa and, although there’s a lot of weight to haul, it goes well, and never feels underpowered.

Accelerating hard from rest, 60mph comes up in 10 seconds, but it’s the mid-range flexibility of this car that will have you moving along rather quicker than you’d rightfully expect to. Just like the Alfa, you’ll happily leave the ZT in fourth gear for a give-and-take B-road, and as long as there’s more than 2000rpm dialled in, it punches effectively exiting corners.

Being more refined than the Alfa, the onset of speed is more effectively achieved in the ZT, and that means you’ll be watching the speedo more often than you would in the petrol equivalent. It also means that, if you were to jump back into the equivalent 1.8-litre ZT120, you’d be left frustrated by its lack of pulling power.

Handling and ride

If the test came down to performance alone, the result would come down to the wire – with the Alfa just nosing ahead. However, straight-line grunt is one thing – enjoying your car in the bends is another matter entirely. Unsurprisingly, the MG ZT cleans up here. The MG ZT is fitted with sports suspension and low-profile 18-inch rubber, but its chassis continues to astound. Although the Rover 75’s legendary ride quality is lost in translation to MG spec, it is effective enough on smooth roads, especially considering its sporting aspirations.

On the motorway, the ZT always feels planted, and its firm ride is a positive boon. Around town or on less well-surfaced B-roads, the bony ride can be irksome, with poor insulation from sharp irregularities being the main criticism, even though they are never judderingly bad thanks to the strong body and tight build quality.

Unfortunately, there’s a trace of understeer when you really push the MG, but this is exacerbated by the lack of feel through the steering – which, although well weighted, does not inspire confidence in extreme situations. Thankfully, the understeer is slight and, if you deliberately provoke the ZT, it will poke its tail out, but it’s all easy to control.

In other words, it’s a masterful effort.

As for the Alfa, it’s a good effort, but ultimately outclassed. The prime criticism would be a lack of body control (in relation to the ZT), and copious amounts of plough-on understeer. The JTD engine might be soulful and grunty, but it’s also heavy, and that upsets the handling balance. Despite having 16-inch wheels and higher profile tyres, the Alfa’s ride can’t beat the MG. The less solid structure of the Alfa, and the firm damping leave the car struggling with potholes and fidgeting over imperfections.

The steering is excellent, though – 2.1 turns from lock to lock means there’s excellent response and more feel than the ZT. That said, it’s not perfect as the poor turning circle is irritating.

The inside story

The Alfa’s interior will leave you feeling special. From the embossed seats, and podded dials, to the way the instrument panel wraps round favouring the driver, there’s a real feeling that enthusiasts designed the Alfa.

It’s a stylish cabin and the red dials look fantastic, creating a superb atmosphere, even if they’re not as legible as they could be thanks to the low-set steering wheel. There’s more than enough equipment to leave you feeling you’ve had your money’s worth, and the simple, yet effective three-knob interface for the climate control is particularly impressive.

The seating position is fine and, although it’s been criticised for being Italianate, there’s more than adjustment to disguise this. The seats themselves are firm and supportive, and the wheel, pedals and gear knob are nicely positioned. Head and legroom up front are more than adequate, although the dramatic roofline will leave lanky passengers feeling cramped in the back.

Again, the Alfa is shaded, though. Although it has more visual appeal than the ZT, it’s left behind in terms of quality and usability.

The ZT scores heavily here because the dials and switchgear both look and feel good (Germanic, in fact), and they operate with a well-engineered feel. The Alcantara seat facings are simply superb – and far nicer than leather – and we wonder why the material isn’t used more widely. The dual-zone climate control is a joy to use and the dashboard colour-keying leaves the driver in no doubt that this is a no-nonsense car.

Shorter drivers may feel intimidated by the high dashboard and huge steering wheel, but the rest of us will find it very easy to obtain the perfect driving position in a ZT. It isn’t perfect though – and, for a car so large and heavy, it’s laughably cramped in the rear.

It’s also hard to see out of – and, although the limited rearward visibility can be forgiven, the enormous A-posts can’t, as it affects vehicle safety.

Living with them

Our year-2000 Alfa Romeo and 2003 MG ZT will both comfortably beat 40mpg when driven with verve and, although that might not sound impressive compared with the 32mpg of their petrol-fuelled counterparts, the difference certainly adds up for higher mileage drivers.

There’s also the pleasant prospect of nearly 500 miles between refuels in both cars – a positive point given the fact you’ll be using the smelly pump.

We also think that the styling of the 156 and ZT set them apart from all of their contemporaries, as real effort has been expended in both. The Alfa’s curved flanks, fantastic frontal aspect and concealed are obviously the efforts of one impassioned individual – Walter Da Silva. However, the MG ZT scores equally well on style – it’s a Richard Woolley masterclass of restrained taste and clever detailing. Both, therefore, are already timeless classical pieces of design.

Other than that, both cars serve to remind you how much equipment we take for granted in modern cars – both come with electric windows, climate control, and decent sound systems and are easy to live with as a result. Because of their bodykits and alloy wheels, they will also look good on your driveway, and will mark you out as an ‘enthusiast driver’ as opposed to a mere ‘car user’.


The Alfa 156 JTD has a brilliant engine in an attractive body but is held back by an average chassis and less than perfect build quality. It’s still up there among the best cars of its type you can buy for the money and, for many Alfa Romeo fans, that will be good news indeed, as they will be spending less time than ever justifying their addiction.

There’s no doubt it goes well, and its styling remains breathtaking after all these years, but faced with the onslaught of the MG ZT, it wilts.

We’re going to be controversial here, but the MG ZT CDTi is among the best cars ever to wear an octagon badge on its snout. It’s so complete, so accomplished and so easy to live with that we’d struggle to find a more effective all-rounder for the money. Yes, it has its faults, but overall, its keen handling, no-penalty diesel engine and strong performance will leave any potential buyer struggling to justify the more expensive V6-engined MG ZT 190.

The Alfa Romeo hits the target with laser-guided accuracy for those who buy cars with their heart – but the MG wins because it’s the only head and heart choice. It’s a great car. Period…


How they compare
Alfa Romeo 156JTD MG ZT CDTi
Top speed 126mph 121mph
0-60mph 9.9sec 10.0sec
Economy 36-45mpg 38-47mpg
Engine 2387cc, ohc, 5-cylinder 1951cc, DOHC, 4-cylinder
Power 136bhp, 4200rpm 131bhp, 4000rpm
Torque 224lb/ft, 2000rpm 221lb/ft, 1900rpm
Gearbox 5-speed manual 5-speed manual
Brakes Disc/disc Disc/disc
Steering Rack and pinion Rack and pinion
Weight 1400kg 1535kg

Keith Adams


  1. MG represent! The MG Z-Series were the best MGs – great undercover, somber but with a killer punch. Take that Alfa!

  2. Sorry, but diesels are still slow and noisy compared with petrol engines. Compare like with like, do these have turbochargers? Yes, when compared with a petrol engine of similar size, which is also turbocharged, the tractor engine is still SLLLOOOOOOWWWWW!

  3. I know that was, and still is, the only reason to have a diesel, but they are still not fast and quiet though!. I don’t know why we don’t have petrol engines which have the economy of a diesel? They achieved this in the 1970s but abandoned the technology because that required what was, at that time, an unprofitable level of processing power to make it work.

  4. I’ve never fancied buying a diesel up to now due to the well-documented stories of noise and lesser performance. However, these days, I keep hearing of the diesel virtues (in turbo form) and my brother now owns a Jaguar XF Diesel so I may be tempted to change to an oil burner – eventually.

  5. @Stewart
    Technology is catching up in some ways – the VW Group is, for example, offering Skoda Octavia 1.4 Turbos and the Hybrid drivetrains are offering close-to-diesel economy whilst drinking the good stuff!

    Actually, for some models, petrols may be worth considering as they now often have lower servicing and repair costs than the comparable diesel, which offsets the cost of fuelling it!

  6. Well, I went from an MG ZT 260SE to a Vectra SRi 1.9 CDTi 150 and, I have to say, I’m not too disappointed. Yes, it’s 90bhp down on the MG and the interior is rubbish but, once you get used to driving a diesel, they are not all bad. Oh, and I’ve gone from 10mpg to 40mpg!

  7. Well, I just love my sporty MG – it’s great fun with a wonderfully loud exhaust, which sets alarms off as I’m whizzing past, and beats loads of cars off the mark.

    She’s getting a bit into her golden years and, although my wonderful trusty oily rag – whoops mechanic – has recommended that I get a new car, I’m loathed to get rid of her as she purrs along the road as a trusty friend to Rover.

    Sorry, Alfa you are not for me… Well, not yet anyway!

  8. own a 156 and a zt .alfa great looking car.but zt blows it in to the weeds in every other respect it just does.and its still a handsome car in its own right.

  9. LOL couldnt stop laughing at the guy who sold a MG ZT 260 (4,6 mustang engined v8 zt) for a 1.9 diesel vectra lol .

    Any way the BMW powerd diesel engine isnt slow and pulls better than any small petrol power car ,and it has the room and comfort to go . The MG ZT was also the test bed for the jaguar x type (yes realy ) it was also designed by the guy who designed the mclaren F1. It was also good to see that Bentley also copied the front styling for the continental .

    In short the mk1 ZT is the one to go for as the build quality isnt the same in the mk2

  10. The MG looks far more substantial and majestic compared to the alfa,i find the bmw engined car quite lacking in power and torque,as if bmw de-rated it for rover somehow.The jet thrust diesel five cylinder alfa is somewhat smoother and throbby a bit like an old audi 5D engine,but as the figures show you would be splitting hairs in terms of performance.
    Setting that aside,alfas like renaults of the same era are shagged out after a few years and miles in terms of trim and other components notably engine drive pullies,clutches and front and rear suspension componentry.

  11. Like the MG, you can’t buy a big Alfa saloon these days.
    (Though hopefully both marques will rectify the situation in the coming years!)

  12. “Traditionalists might blanch at the prospect of oil powered sporting saloons, but in the era of £1.20/litre fuel, we reckon these 40mpg hotshots are here to stay for the foreseeable future.”

    Only £1.20? I remember those halcyon days.

  13. @Francis Brett – Oh really? My ’05 156 JTDM is still good as new, nothing rattles, or has fallen off, it still pulls like a train, and gives 56 average MPG. The internal trim is as good as it was when it left the factory. Mileage – approaching 80k – I currently drive 24k per year for business. My earlier 145 was still going strong on its original engine, clutch, steering & suspension components, with no major failures, and no trim fallen off after 114k hard driving. The 156 & 166s the Alfa garage loan me when my car is in for servicing are all on 130k plus, and are still fully functioning, and all go like stink, with all trim and electrics intact and working. No HGF, and provided the drive-belts and water-pumps are attended to at the required service intervals, cambelt failures can be avoided.
    I agree though that upper wishbones are a weak spot……

  14. @15 arnt you lucky,ive had the misfortune of working on these vehicles and quite a lot of them too,from cam variators coming loose,same failing on V6 to almost impossible to get to starter motor bolts again on the V6,thats why alfa technicians are on a £1 more hourly rate than thier fiat counterparts,im one of alfa engines biggest fans especially the V6 petrols,the 156 was aons away from alfas of old but ive had this experience from the workshop floor,they are no means the worst but they will never ever top a JD power survey for reliability,im very pleased that your experience differs from mine and customers i have had,especially the one with a 147 twin spark which snapped its cambelt unannounced at 23k (18 months old)some years ago all because of a defective afforementioned cam variator working loose and the dealer told him to piss off its not covered under warranty-thats the attitude what put him in a focus!

  15. £1.20/litre. I wish – £138.9 for unleaded onight, the cars running on fumes but I didn’t bother filling ‘er up as the queues at every filling station are huuuuuge!

  16. @16 Francis. I wouldn’t touch an Alfa main dealer with a mucky stick. I have always used the independents, from day one – knowledgeable, enthusiastic, friendly. Every car has it’s foibles – I’ve read tales of Fords blowing turbos, VWs doing the same, and the tales of woe I’ve encountered myself with SAAB, TBH, I’m bored of recounting myself. My 145 had the dreaded cam variator fault – I was told by Veloces to leave it alone – even if I had it replaced it would still rattle. As for cambelts, you name me one manufacturer who hasn’t had premature failures………..

  17. @18 so we agree all cars are crap!and we used to knock allegro’s! and applaud you for using independants because i strongly believe they are the best and have a “we care and it shows” attitude.Without being anal,the only cambelt i have not seen snapped is the VW PD engine- thats discounting oil contam etc,its very wide and ive seen some with 200k and was shocked,but i would not recommend it!

  18. Well, Ive had both. I currently have the MG-ZT.
    whilst the Alfa is’fun’ and light in the corners, I think they’d be a fair match with the MG wanting to burn out of the corner like a big beemer, and the alfa like a poor mans prancing horse. Both have great traction, the MG is clearly bigger and heavier, but the speedo doesnt lie, they’re not far behind each other and the MG enjoys a remap, whereas the alfa chews clutches and driveshafts. The MG is clearly more refined and feels like its 10 years younger than the aging, facelifted ’80’s french’ feeling Alfa, the MG feels like an english car that germans made.. and it kind of is. Its bigger, more planted on the motorway (miles get eaten up) and you dont need to change the cam belt every 48k. Dont forget the alfas been designed in the 80’s, chrune dout int he 90’s, facelifted int he naughties, but its an old car udnerneath.
    The alfa, whilst looked fantastic every day of the week (and by the roadside) was a pain to own, everything snapped, broke, came loose, cost a fortune (that’ll be £500 sir…again, see you next month), so far the MG has just given me a few vibrational woes and has a cam chain that needs no replacement. It just feels like a different world.

    Overall, the MG is an upgrade, a clear step ahead and a modern car with cutting edge diesel. The Alfa, you’d be risky to bother picking one up – i got one withlow miles and it was hell for the 3 years until it left (left with lots of unfixed bodges i might add and i cleared the finance early to get me out of the pain!)

    If choosing, get the MG and spend the money on polish opposed to parts and labour every month!

  19. Both great cars as we have a rover 75 in the family and I have an alfa. A bit suprised though comparing a 2000 model alfa with a 2003 mg. The 2003 alfa 156 has a much nicer revised interior as well as the 150 bhp 2.4 engine as standard taking about 1 second off the 0 to 60. Also what suspension spec is the alfa as the Lusso is for comfort and the veloce for handling? Just some food for thought but I would be happy with either 🙂

  20. Funny, I have a 147JTD-8V (ok not a 156 but basics are the same) and since yesterday a 75 Conny CDTI 129bhp. The power delivery is a bit different, 75 seems slower off the mark, maybe the weight exacerbates this feeling, add a very harsh ride and a noisier/agricultural sounding JTD, the Alfa seems more alive on the road. The 75 is as capable and as fast as the 147 but does it with a level of refinement that my Jag X-type V6 would only dream off… Only my S-Types were on a par with that carpet ride quality, quite an achievement. Oh, Preston-Glasgow yesterday resulted in 53 mpg despite some peaks near 100 mph..same as the 147, I get 60 mpg with the 147 day in, day out commuting from one end of Glasqow to the other at peak times(it’s 18 miles and avg speed is never better than 35 mph) but the wee Sporty cars like the kind call her will have to go…There’s no denying the way the 75 makes you feel special.

  21. Odd that the two are almost identical in power and torque but the Alfa is 400cc larger. I think a remap might make interesting difference, that and a slightly higher boost valve. Does anyone do remaps for Alfa diesels?
    Incidentally have a look at autospeed.com, there’s some amazing stuff on there.
    I test drove a 75 once, can’t say I was that impressed although interior was nice, I’d probably prefer a Cyclops 75 over a modern one. A P4 with the 3.5 would be fun.

  22. An interesting comparison. Personally I’ve never been a massive fan of the 75’s retro styling (I’ve always preferred the 600), whereas I’ve always loved the 156’s looks.

    The 159 was really stylish as well whereas the Giulia is a bit underwhelming

  23. I was a big diesel fan 16 years ago, owning a non turbo diesel SEAT, which was rock solid reliable, was slow but very quiet on long journeys, and could return 64 mpg on a long journey. Nowadays with diesel costing more than petrol and too many electronics that could go wrong, I wouldn’t have a diesel. Also petrol technology is rapidly catching up and you can buy cars like the Skoda Rapid TSI that are just as economical as a diesel and just as quick.

    • When they’re not coking up the exhaust if you only do short runs, and burping out more micro particulates than a 1990s Renault Master with knackered injectors.
      A clear case of “Scotty Syndrome”. To whit “the more they overthink the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain”.

  24. I’ve never understood why the 156 was raved about for being a great looking car. It’s mentioned several times in the article, and various posts. To me it always looked a mixture of plain and awkward; I never thought it was remotely attractive, and still don’t.

  25. I had a 2001 JTD and it had 140bhp, I believe Alfa uprated this to 150 bhp in 2003 and again to 175 bhp in about 2005. The further updated version of the engine appeared in the 159 with 210bhp. The 156 was a lovely car, but in ownership it was expensive. Suspension parts MAF’s and turbo were consumable items and my Alfa dealer could never solve the radio reception issues.

  26. I’ve never owned a diesel powered car, as my daily use of a car isn’t suited to diesel.
    As for the owner’s cost of running the MG TZ (my brother owns a TZ190) and the 156 (I owned a 2,0 TS), all I can say is, the MG have had to have 2 engines (2nd. on parts warranty) and the suspension renewed twice.
    My Alfa didn’t need anything than service and consumables doing its 12½ years and 215k km (134k miles) and some rust sports rectified (about £150) before I sold it. Had I kept on to it it would have needed new chock absorbers.

  27. We had a 2002 156 diesel Sportwagon a few years ago. It was a much loved and totally immaculate black specimen advertised simply as an ordinary 156. Within a day or so of ownership – once I got used to it and began to ‘extend’ it – we realised it was not an ordinary car at all.
    The guy had mentioned only the obvious in terms of any upgrade – a red cross bar between the two front suspension towers . What he didn’t tell us but was evident in the paperwork passed over when we collected the car – was that this car had some serious upgrades.
    For a start it had been chipped to within an inch of its life! It should have been 150bhp but was chucking out nearer 250 and as I began to have more and more fun I realised that I could actually keep up with a well driven Porche Boxter to around 80 mph. I was getting so confident that almost anything (barring the prancing horse) seemed fare game at the lights – very little got away from me. I learned that the suspension was tweaked, (as well as the crossbar under the bonnet), the clutch was a competition edition and huge amounts of upgraded bits had replaced standard bits. This thing would corner so quick, a competition driver (who normally drove a track BMW 5 series) was incredulous at the speed I could circumnavigate a roundabout (that offered excellent visibility I hasten to add). He was quick to tell me he wouldn’t of the got the Beemer round that quickly!
    As for the cabin – that was standard – and probably one of the best places to be out of a hundred or so cars we have owned. It always felt as if I had sat in a seat and Alfa had built the car around me.
    I’ll pass quickly over the next bit but sufficient to say, when we sold the car, our Alfa Romeo specialist went bust the following month! You really do have to read this bit quickly – don’t attach any importance to it at all – after all – it’s only money!
    In 14 months of ownership we had a replacement clutch (twice), both radiators, a complete transmission unit….. no, I’m not going to list it all but the costs headed towards £9k.
    I remember two ‘funnies’ – the first was when I contacted the clutch supplier and told him his clutch had worn out in 8,000 miles. He asked me for the reg. number and when I told him he said “bloody hell – you did amazingly well. With that spec. we reckon 3,000 miles would be going some!”
    The second was when we sold the car. A mature gentleman came and bought it saying he wanted it for taking his dogs to the races. (We did tell him about the upgrades and showed him every bill).
    A month later he e mailed me to say he was very happy with the car but thought it could have been a bit quicker – so he had it (nitrous?) injected and some other mods and it was now doing 0-60 in sub 5 seconds. (For how long of course I have no idea).
    Would we buy another 156? – of course we would (albeit a standard car).
    Why don’t we you might well ask!
    Because the drive is full of Rover 75 of course! A horse of a different colour but adorable all the same!
    At the time though, we were so in love with the ‘serpent and the cross’ we replaced the 156 with a V6 916 Spyder and enjoyed the sound of perfection for a good few years!

  28. Amazing to think this test was done 15 years ago today!
    I’d still happily have either of these cars

  29. Alfas managed to bear the rust bug in the eighties and seem to have stopped winning the wooden spoon in reliability surveys, but the quality isn’t quite there with them and many buyers are wary of trading in German cars for an Alfa, which offers an equally good and different driving experience. I notice they’re quite rare and can;t even think who sells them in Cumbria after County Motors went bankrupt.

    • My work colleague had a Mito from new and after two years ended up with the usual electrical problems that Alfas had nearly 30 years earlier with my Uncles 75. I love Alfas but I wouldn’t buy one unless I had it as my second car and very deep pockets.

      • @daveh, they still seem to suffer from trim defects and electrical faults that never seem to go away, even if mechanically the cars are quite strong. I did check and the nearest Alfa Romeo dealer is 100 miles away and the network of dealers is thin nationally, reflecting the low sales for the cars.

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