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Alfa Romeo 166 2.0 Twin Spark Lusso - 2,840 miles

Alfa Romeo


AFTER an agonising wait, an Alfa Romeo 166 has finally arrived on our long term test fleet.

This car should have been with us more than a month ago, but an over-eager delivery driver experienced a spot of bother on his way to Fleet Towers, and it has taken weeks for the bodyshop to provide a paint match that satisfied the scrutiny of Alfa Romeo.

While a fleet might balk at the prospect of a long delay for the respray, from a driver's perspective it was worth every minute to ensure perfect paintwork, because the Nuvola Blue iridescent paint is a mother-of-pearl dream.

This may be a rather steep £1,500 option, but in my eyes it is also the prettiest, most delicate colour, subtly changing as the light alters, and the only colour that improves upon Alfa's traditional red.

Nuvola Blue also sets the 166 apart from the rest of the silver and sober-coloured executive contenders that occupy directors' parking spaces. This is an important consideration for any car that is going to stand out from the precisely engineered lines of the German luxury makes.

The result is an elegant car that cossets driver and passenger in unstinting luxury in Lusso trim. Electrically adjustable leather seats are standard, as are twin front and side airbags and climate control, knocking the standard fare on similarly priced Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz cars into a cocked hat.

In the hi-tech stakes, the Alfa comes as standard with five-inch colour screen, trip computer, rain sensing windscreen wipers and dazzlingly bright xenon headlamps.

These regularly prompt other road users to flash their lights in anger in the mistaken belief that the 166 lights are on full beam, and although the handbook says the headlamps are self-levelling, the height of the beam is a temporary cause for concern.

With no diesel available in the UK, and an eye on both the taxman and wallet, we opted for the 2.0-litre Twin Spark version, whose engine pushes out 150bhp. It produces carbon dioxide at the rate of 220g/km, qualifying for a benefit-in-kind charge of 28% of its P11D price in this financial year. In my real world (i.e where carbon dioxide-based company car tax is an irrelevance), the 188bhp 2.5 V6 engine would be a better bet for the driving enthusiast, although this falls foul of the 35% benefit-in-kind tax band.

On the road, the 166 handles remarkably sharply for such a large car, and without the penalty of a nailed down ride. On a trip to Oxford with three colleagues, the car proved an extremely comfortable motorway cruiser, and there's so much space in the back that the rear-seat passengers spent the journey with arms spread reading broadsheet newspapers.

However, the 2.0-litre's 150bhp does not do the car justice, and it deserves and needs more 'oomph' to satisfy the performance demands of dedicated Alfa fans.

But at least these Alfa fans and the marque's reputation among petrol-heads means you never have to explain or defend why you have selected a 166 over a German brand, in the way that you occasionally do with other makes. Somehow you're seen to have passion with an Alfa in your parking space.

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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