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Alfa Romeo 156 GTA

Alfa Romeo


IN 1909, an Italian artist called Filippo Tommaso Marinetti founded a movement of avant garde painters, poets and designers, called the Futurists. The inspiration for their rather pretentious group was the car.

Marinetti wrote: 'We affirm that the world's magnificence has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing car whose hood is adorned with great pipes, like serpents of explosive breath. We want to hymn the man at the wheel, who hurls the lance of his spirit across the Earth, along the circle of its orbit.'

Nearly 100 years later, the attitude of Italians to their motoring has not changed.

The Alfa Romeo 156 GTA is the latest expression of that spirit. With a 250bhp, 3.2-litre V6 24V engine, uprated brakes, more direct steering, some fierce body skirts and swanky alloys, it is an in-your-face sports car designed to bring some raw racetrack aggression to the elegance of the rest of the brand's cars.

The V6 is a joy, and short gearchanges are a waste of time. Give it a poke up towards the red line and the Alfa sings like few saloon cars on earth.

And when it is working really hard from standstill the scrabbly front tyres act like a dog trying to dig a hole in the road. Eventually the traction control slips the leash on, and off you go, barrelling forward at an amazing rate. 0-62mph take 6.3 seconds, with a top speed of 155mph.

Steering, through that lovely Alfa leather wheel is as sharp and informative as any supercar, and the lock is appalling as a result which makes parking a doddery shuffle. But since when have the Italians ever worried about parking? Just drive fast, stop where you fancy and hop out.

The ride is crashy, set up to deal with lots of power and heavy sideways cornering forces. If selecting a car for long distance stuff, don't bother with the GTA. It is far too much hard work and about as relaxing as watching Kylie Minogue pole dancing. But as much fun. Have the more restrained 156 2.5 V6 instead.

But if a BMW M3 has always been out of budget, the GTA is a fine cheaper imitation, and at £27,900 for the Sportwagon, is incredible value. So good, I had to check the press pack twice, then look on the internet to make sure it was not a typing error. The saloon is a grand cheaper still.

As for other practicalities, the seating position is a bit high and forward, boot space is hopeless for something resembling an estate and it would cost a 40% tax payer £3,900 a year in tax.

But this is a car for a company driver who loves his or her cars and is prepared to pay through the nose, so in a lot of ways the tax bill is irrelevant. I personally found it too furious to put up with every day, but that's not to say I did not think the GTA was fantastic. For the modern day Marinetti, the GTA will be the choice as their serpent of explosive breath.

Model: Alfa Romeo 156 GTA Sportwagon
Price (OTR): £27,900
Top speed (mph): 155
0-62mph (secs): 6.3
Combined economy (mpg): 23.0
CO2 emissions (g/km): 293
CAP Monitor residual value (3yrs/60,000 miles): £8,175/29%
Service intervals: 12,000 miles
Warranty: 3-years/60,000-miles

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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