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Reader test: Alfa 156 Sportwagon

2009-09-14 08:10

George Batev, Gauteng

“You’re kidding…? You bought ANOTHER Alfa?”

That was pretty much the response from most of my friends when I bought my fifth Alfa - a 2003 56 Sportwagon 2.5 V6.

Yes, it’s a mommy car. Yes, it's an Alfa. But those who drive Alfas will understand.

That V6 engine sound with the chromed engine bits. Ahhhhh. Only to have the following response from my mates, “The engine is pretty 'cause you spend all your time with the hood open fixing problems”. Very funny.

But on the serious side; what a car! Fully loaded with a standard Bose sound system, leather seats, full on-board computer, multi function steering wheel.

It is comfortable in front while able to fit three adults in the back. However, as legroom is compromised at the back, those three adults might start getting a tad cranky after anything more than a short journey. The space issue moves to the back as well. With the factory-fitted subwoofer hogging space, I couldn’t even get my golf bag in the boot without dropping the back seat. IN A STATION WAGON!!

No box on wheels

But then again it doesn’t matter. Look at it! It has style. The Italians don’t build boxes with wheels; they build stylish wagons that you won’t mind being seen in.

Yes, there are some issues with build quality, but not as serious as people might think. Yes, it can be heavy on gas. Best I ever got was 9.8 l/100 km, worst was 17 l/100 km (I was in a rush). Yes, parts are expensive. Cambelt changes are around R12 000 and worn suspension bushes means the entire control arm needs to be replaced, R6 000 for both. So buyers of second hand 156s be warned.

But on the flipside, it's reliable as the rising sun every morning. The Alfa never let me down.

Power is good. 140 kW, but being front wheel drive and heavy in front, it doesn’t like being rushed through the corners. The 2.0 156 handles the bends much better due to the lower engine weight.

But in spite of all its shortcomings I love it. The same as I loved my 1997 145, 2001 3.0 GTV, 2000 156 2.0 sedan and 2000 156 Sportwagon 2.5 V6. Alfas are great cars with support in SA being their downfall.

The comeback

And because of this support the trade-in prices are horrific. A big problem.

I have since moved on and bought a BMW 320d. Great car. No faults, but but... It just doesn’t excite me when I start it. It's more of an A to B machine missing out all the good bits in between.

Come on Alfa, fix your support! I want to come back!

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