It’s no secret that we like an Alfa Romeo here at Not £2 Grand, after all one of our first ever updates was all about the delightful, beautiful and all-round trouser-twitchingly good Spider. Yes, we love an Alfa. Especially this, the 166.
We just had to do another Alfa, there is just no way we can ignore a car like this when it pops up on our radar. The 166 is a car for the discerning driver. The kind of person who will ONLY buy a car if it forces him or her to look back at it when walking away. This is that car. And it’s aesthetics are crucial, because a lot of the time, the 166 will be broken down.
Oh yeah, it’s a looker. Born in 1998 the 166 was Alfa’s missile to be launched into the German-dominated executive car war zone, and it initially had the big three (BMW, Audi and Benz) worried. Well, it actually only had them worried for about three minutes because it was during the third minute the first 166 broke down, probably for reason other than it wanted to.
Handsome it may have been, reliable it was not. Face-palms all round for the team back at Alfa HQ.
What? No, I’ve not broken down, I’m just having a look at this shiny building…look at those, er, windows. Oooh, is that an AA truck?
As is the way with many Italian things, the design had come paramount leaving every ergonomic aspect to come in a very distant second. The mechanicals left a lot to be desired while the electrics left you with a good reason to carry a fire extinguisher with you at all times. Head gaskets were a common fault, as were the seemingly chocolate internals of the gearbox. It wasn’t a complete catastrophe though and a few cars managed to make it into the always gentle (pfft) hands of the motoring press. You’d think a car with build quality to rival that of an IKEA desk your mum put together while drunk would have upset the journos considerably, but you’d be wrong – they loved it.
Yes, they made valid and honest comments about the fact that for no reason at all the doors would fall off, or that Alfredo had neglected to bolt the dashboard in, but that didn’t detract from the overall joy the car brought to its driver.
For its size (and it was a bit of a big bugger at 3,300lb) it was agile, responsive, tight and above all, thoroughly enjoyable to pilot – and that’s just in lowly 2.0 16-valve guise. Should you find yourself behind the wheel of a V6 you’ll be more than impressed thanks to near 220bhp and 203lbft of torque under your right foot, unless the accelerator pedal snaps off, which is an entirely feasible premise. But again, if it did break down it wouldn’t be a problem – you’d just get the opportunity to open the bonnet and look at this…
It was similar affair on the inside too, with all kinds of toys at the driver’s disposal such as sat-nav, air-con, cruise, electric everything and so on. The leather seats were pretty special too – not content with just leather, the box-tickers at Alfa plumped for MOMO leather which is just the same as normal leather but 342% cooler, because it’s Italian.
None of this works.
So, the 166 breaks down a lot and despite the best efforts of Alfa bosses it was trounced with some gusto by the German cars it so passionately tried to rival. With that in mind, why should you buy one? Well, it’s simple really: it’s an Alfa Romeo and nothing makes you feel the way an Alfa does.
A rival car of the same age and spec would be an E39 BMW, an Audi A6 or a Mercedes E-class. That sounds good until you look at them. They look dated, old and they lack any kind of presence and charm – they’re just another addition to a sea of generic cars buzzing around the UK’s roads. A 166 on the other hand looks classic, smooth, stylish and different – it’s simply a car that is noticed because it looks like nothing else on the road. Why should you have to blend in with normality because of your £2,000 budget, eh? Buy an Alfa 166 and stand out!
The failings of Alfa have become the winnings for the car-lover on a budget. The 166 is no longer a failure, it’s a success. Its nine year life makes it incredibly exclusive. And while they were well and truly plagued by reliability issues initially, that’s no longer of concern – they have all been repaired under warranty since then. At least that’s our logic.
The 166s on the market now are the elite, the survivors, the cars that rode the wave of unreliability and unpopularity only to come out as stylish victors, and for not a lot of money they can now be yours. Though if this happens…