Bling but not much zing
11 May 2004

Passion has often dictated Alfa’s past sales but, unfortunately for the 166, executive-car buyers tend to think more with head than heart. But now that it’s been given one of the best nosejobs we can remember and the TI badge has been dusted down, things should change.

Following its decision not to give UK buyers the brilliant 2.4 JTD, Alfa is relying on 2.0-litre four and 3.0- and 3.2-litre V6 petrols to carry the range. With just 134lb ft of twist, the base 2.0 Twin Spark needs every rev to give the 166 any brio. But a super-quick throttle response, sweet induction growl and extra urge at the top of the rev range serve as a reminder of Alfa’s sporting heritage. A delightful six-speed manual means swapping cogs is no hardship, though closer ratios would better exploit the peaky powerband.

The £2000 TI pack is new to the revised range, bringing aggressive 18-inch alloys, a 15mm ride-height drop, retuned springs and dampers and black leather sports seats, on top of the £24,400 Lusso. Low profile 235/40 ZR18 Pirelli P-Zero Rossos increase road noise, but the ride is surprisingly unfazed. Around town the independent suspension can hop and skip, betraying the chassis’ age, but the ride gets less fidgety with speed. The steering is direct and ultra-quick and negligible torquesteer belies the fact that the same wheels both turn and drive.

Inside, superb, multi-adjustable seats allow a comfortable driving position and the circular air vents, cramped instrument cluster and ribbed leather facings provide an appropriately Italianate ambience.When we drove the 166 five years ago, we dubbed the 2.0-litre ‘best value in the range’. Opt for the £21,750 Turismo (not the TI) and that still holds true.

Jack Galusha

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