Fleet News

Alfa Romeo 166 2.0 Twin Spark Lusso – 9,172 miles

Alfa Romeo

Review

MY relationship with our long term 166 is a very artistic one, full of turbulent disagreements and deep joy. For every time I start to feel exasperated, the Alfa wins back its place in my heart with its unique beauty and character. For a start, I don't think the engine is nearly powerful enough. It has 150bhp, which is not much for a car of this size, and sticking a six-speed gearbox on it does not hide its shortcomings in this area.

At low and high speeds, it is struggling. For example, at 70mph in sixth, the engine is doing a decidedly unrelaxed 3,500 rpm, and this has shown through with mpg giving 30.1mpg over its time with us.

But then, the Twin Spark engine is operatic, singing away when you put your foot down so although it is not flying along, you are still travelling with a glorious soundtrack. And this is typical of the head and heart contradictions running right through the Alfa.

Take the seating position. It is poor: you sit high and forward, close to the roof and front window. I have lost count of the number of times I have fiddled with the electronic adjustments trying to get it right. The gearlever is also a bit of a reach and the indicator stalks are in a very odd, low position. How has this all happened in a car of this size?

But the rest of the interior is wonderful, with the cream leather seats particularly splendid: comfortable and put together beautifully. They have a wonderful perfumed fragrance as well, unlike the plastic monotony normally associated with new cars. Italians really 'do' luxury with a verve that very few others could ever match. The dash is equally classy, but although the 166 has satellite navigation, automatic windscreen wipers and climate control, it does not have a CD player. Work that one out.

The clutch pedal saga continues, as chronicled previously by Trevor Gelken and Simon Harris. The rubber cover will not stay on, but that appears to be the only build issue and the days of worrying about reliability are long gone.

The 166 is not perfect, but then that's part of its charm and I do tend to forgive her imperfections. It is a car for a driver who appreciates the aesthetic in life rather than the logic. Bored of the unremitting efficiency of the Germans? The 166 is a truly poetic alternative.

Company car tax bill 2002 (40% tax-payer): £210 per month

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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