Fleet News

Alfa Romeo 166 2.0 Twin Spark Lusso – 7,528 miles

Alfa Romeo


JUST over a year ago I contacted Alfa Romeo to discuss the possibility of running a 166 at Fleet News for six months.

I decided the 2.0-litre would be looked upon more favourably in the light of this year's company car tax rule changes (although we could have gone for the high performance 3.0 V6) and we were able to choose the leather-trimmed Lusso version. I also asked for it to be finished in the striking iridescent Nuvola Blue – at an extra £1,500.

It was agreed, but for various reasons, the car did not arrive at Fleet Towers until April 22 and it has taken until August for me to spend any reasonable time behind the wheel – although last month when we reported the headlights had been corrected, I drove it on the short journey to the dealer.

It was the car I felt I had built and to see other people driving around in it for four months was a little frustrating.

When I took the keys two weeks ago production editor Trevor Gelken – who incidentally did not like the car – reported that the clutch pedal rubber was in one of the door bins and the plastic door of the satnav CD reader had 'pinged off'.

It was obvious to me that the Alfa needed some TLC. It is only when you wash the 166 by hand that you come to appreciate its delicate combination of sharp angles and subtle curves. After four hours with a sponge, a damp shammy, a vacuum cleaner, carpet shampoo and some elbow grease, the Alfa was once again restored to showroom condition.

It occurred to me while chiselling the lump of clay off the metal clutch pedal face, that the clutch pedal rubber might have become detached from sticking to the copious amount of mud on the sole of someone's left boot.

And the plastic flap was easily reattached to the satnav box in the boot, showing no signs of coming loose again.

Driving the 166 is always a pleasure from its quick steering to its responsive handling. The 5-series has always had rounded handling and ride characteristics while the new E-class is trying to get in on the act. However, anyone who says that only rear-wheel drive will do for driving enthusiasts has never tried a modern Alfa.

With a relatively light four-cylinder engine in the front and distinct lack of torque steer from its modest 150bhp unit, the Alfa is lithe and entertaining. It might take a while to wind up the engine, but that's what the six-speed gearbox is for.

And if my colleague was cynically suggesting that Alfas don't stand up to everyday use as well as they should, he couldn't be more wrong. With the wayward parts reattached, there is not a peep or a rattle anywhere.

Although we cannot guarantee that the Alfa will be showered with as much affection at its next temporary home, it has shown it will meet the demands of the no-nonsense company car driver. Simon Harris

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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