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Alfa Romeo 156 JTD

Alfa Romeo


FIVE years ago, the prospect of a diesel Alfa Romeo in Britain was unthinkable in the face of the brand's sporting heritage and image. But the 'performance diesel' sub-segment of the upper medium car sector has grown from some 2,300 units in 1995 to over 30,000 in 1998 thanks to technical advances such as the introduction of direct injection and common rail technology. So now the unthinkable is reality, with the 156 JTD marking Alfa's entry into the diesel market and a whole new market place.

For fleets, the JTD's arrival opens up the possibility of an Alfa on all-diesel choice lists. The 156 has already established an enviable reputation as a top driver's car for the enthusiast, and it's also proved an increasingly sound bet from a reliability and running cost point of view, helping to dispel Alfa's previously undistinguished career in fleet where wholelife costs have rendered contract hire rates uncompetitive.

As you might expect, the move to diesel has been carefully thought out: the JTD's engine, first seen in the 166 saloon in overseas markets only, is a state-of-the-art five-cylinder common rail unit displacing a relatively large (by class standards) 2.4 litres. It develops 136bhp and a remarkable 224lb ft of torque at just 2000rpm, placing it with the class leaders in terms of output. From ú20,355 on the road, the JTD is also competitively priced and is available with the same Sport Pack options as its petrol brothers. These add sporting accessories such as alloy wheels, Recaro front seats and leather trim for price increases that take the JTD up to a maximum of ú21,994 on the road, where it competes with the likes of the Rover 75 CDT Connoisseur (ú22,130), Saab 9-3 2.2 TiD SE (ú21,896) and Audi A4 1.9 TDI 110bhp SE (ú22,379).

Question is, with such an unproven record in the diesel market, can the 156 make inroads into a rarefied sector where, some would argue, it has no business to be? Here, we try the 156 JTD with Sport Pack 3, priced at ú21,994 on the road.

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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