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ALFA'S LUCKY NUMBER (some text hidden)
BY ANDY ENRIGHT
Introductionword count: 96
Alfa Romeo really came of age with the 156. Prior to this model, buying an Alfa middleweight had always been a gamble that could backfire spectacularly. The Giulietta, the 155 and the 75 could all be great fun on their day but never really had the talents to form a cohesive whole. The 156, initially introduced in 1998, changed all that. The car we look at here is the post facelift version of the 156, identified by its more angular front end and it's this model that probably makes one of the smartest used Alfa purchases.
Modelsword count: 11
Models Covered: (4DR SALOON, 5DR SPORTWAGON [1.6,1.8,2.0,2.0 SELESPEED,1.9, 2.4 JTD,2.5 V6])
Historyword count: 188
The established order of compact executive cars certainly got a wake up call when the 156 first landed in dealers back in 1998. Suddenly, here was an Italian rival that not only looked better but also offered decent build quality and was priced keenly to boot. An elk-induced mishap suffered by the Mercedes A-Class landed the 156 the 1998 European Car of the Year award and sales skyrocketed. Alfa did their best to keep demand high, introducing cars with Selespeed sequential manual gearboxes, improving specifications across the board and even launching the Sportwagon estate variant but it wasn't until 2003 that they really went to work in a decisive fashion. Knowing that the 156's successor, the 159, wouldn't be brought to market until 2006 at the earliest, Alfa had to prolong 156 sales for another three years and made the decision to give the car a facelift. Always a risky strategy with a car that campaigns on its styling as much as anything else, the resulting changes were, on the whole, well received. Thus nipped and tucked, the 156 continued until the Spring 2006 introduction of the 159.
What You Getword count: 315
It's very difficult to agree on what defines automotive beauty. To some it's a flowing shape, to others it's an elegant engineering solution. Fashions change and a car that was beautiful can rapidly become gawky and gauche. The Alfa Romeo 156 was a car that united opinion. It was beautiful. So why did Alfa Romeo see fit to indulge in a little cosmetic surgery? Some manufacturers just feel the need to tinker. Sometimes the facelifts work, sometimes they go a little bit wrong. A straw poll in the office saw everybody rated this Alfa Romeo 156 as a good-looking car but there seemed something of a split as to whether it was actually any better looking than its predecessor. Credit for the styling job went to Giugiaro's Ital Design studio and it's a very neat piece of work. The Hannibal Lecter-style hockey mask of a grille and the frowning jewel effect lights catch the eye of the dedicated Alfisti, but few would spot the differences if unprompted. Genuine anoraks would also spot the microscopically modified tail lights and the Sportwagon estate version's ever-so slightly cleaner rear bumper design. The styling revisions marked a distinct shift in Alfa Romeo's design language. We first saw the big grille on the 147 hatch and it was subsequently incorporated into the revised GTV and Spider models. When the 156 came in for the treatment, it was indicative of a company revelling in its stock on the rise. All 156 variants featured a revised centre console with dual-zone climate controls so that driver and front passenger could set their own temperatures. There's an impressive Bose multi-speaker stereo system - and the option of the clever CONNECT 'telematics' set-up, offering satellite navigation, internet use and access to the emergency services. There's also six airbags as standard, plus the Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) stability system, brake assist and Isofix child seat mountings.
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Category: Luxury Saloons and Estates
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