It is often said that you can’t possibly call yourself a petrolhead unless you have owned and experienced an Alfa Romeo. It has also been said (by me, mostly) that you need your head examined if you buy a secondhand Alfa because it will break down, fall apart and bankrupt you. Either that or the driving position will cripple you for life.
The upside is that it should be lots of fun to drive, the engine will make a characterful sound and, if you're lucky, it will be pretty to look at.
The best bit, though, about buying an Alfa is that it will be cheap. Depreciation is something that traditionally tears into every single Alfa Romeo, making them relatively affordable as soon as they have left the showroom. For the Bangernomic bargain hunter, then, these fiery Italians offer an awful lot of fun - and possibly grief - for not much money.
Here are a few hardtops I quite like.
Alfa Romeo Brera
The Brera is now generally accepted as being the Alfa you don’t need to make any allowances for. It’s reliable, great value and very, very pretty. Not as sporty to drive as some other coupés, though, despite sharp steering. Entry-level 2.2-litre four-cylinder develops 185bhp. It sounds good, too, thanks to a trick exhaust.
Alfa Romeo 147
The best pocket-sized Alfa for decades with great styling, engines and specs. A genuine alternative to a safe and dull old VW Golf, plus it will be cheaper. All the engines are plenty powerful enough and equipment levels are high. The 1.6 petrol is the smallest but pulls the car along with spirit, while the 2.0 packs real fizz.
Alfa Romeo GTV
Head-turning body by Pininfarina helped by a twin-spark 2.0-litre under the bonnet from 1996, followed by a characterful 3.0 V6 in 1998. Standard specification was twin airbags and an alarm. Lusso pack added air-con, leather and 16-inch alloys.
Alfa Romeo 156
Plus points are a great range of engines - 1.6, 1.8, 2.0, 2.5 and V6 petrol plus 2.4 JTD diesel - and attention to stylish detail that is hugely satisfying for car enthusiasts. Inside and out this has always been a great-looking car that is great to drive. The level of standard equipment is also impressive and all models have climate control, central locking and electric windows.
Alfa Romeo 166
What you are buying into here is genuine Italian design flair. Inside, the dashboard looks lovely, all overlapping dials, timber-rimmed steering wheel and plush leather on the Lusso models. Alfa also managed to combine a fairly quiet and comfy ride with some sharp, sporty handling. It's a big car that likes going quickly and can take corners very smartly indeed.
Alfa Romeo 159
Looks good on the outside, and most company car drivers are going to want the powerful and refined diesels. Not as much fun to drive as, say, a BMW 3-series, but it comes with plenty of equipment as standard, from climate to alloy wheels.
Alfa Romeo GT
Here is an overlooked and underrated four-seater coupé that looks goods and remains tidy when pushed. As with all Alfas these days, the specification list alone is reason enough to consider a GT, as one trim level fits all. The V6 is for the enthusiasts, while a diesel turbo is for the more practical owner.
So what have I missed? Which one did you buy? Which one would you buy?