Drive a 156 myself and haven't had a single problem since owning.
gave me an unbelievable amount of help.
They do take more mainteance (both cost and time,) then any Jap car. But I still smile when I put the foot down in mine every day.
May advice, get one that has a full Alfa history, (Especially the timing belt done at recommended intervals,) preferably been babied by someone who looked after it, then get it checked by a competent mechanic and you could get a real gem.
Then learn how to keep the fluids topped up and how to preform oil and filter changes (which I learnt from scratch, not too hard.)
Alias No 9 gave probably the most definitve posts on buying & owning a 2nd hand 156 on these forums. Follow his advice and you won't go far wrong!
Originally Posted by alias no.9
The 1.8 from 1998 to 2001 was 144bhp but from 2001 on that was reduced to 140bhp due to the addition of an extra catalytic converter and revised ignition system to meet emissions regulations. The 1.6 has 120bhp, the 2.0 twin spark has 155bhp and the 2.0jts has 165bhp.
Mechanically, they're not as scary as some people would have you think. I think mechanics sometimes play up their tempremental reputation to justify charging customers extra. The engine does burn oil at what might seem like an alarming rate coming from an almera but this is normal so you need to check it weekly and top it up as necessary. Oil and filter changes are a doddle. Timing belts are a weak spot, they need doing every 32k miles, costly at dealers but if you overlook it it will be €€€. I did mine myself, you need a few extra tools and plenty of time but not terribly difficult. If the engine sounds like a diesel, the cam variator will need to be replaced with the cambelt, this is the device that controls the variable valve timing.
The suspension takes a hammering on irish roads, thats the price you pay for the handling. The top wishbones at the front are a common problem and you'll hear a squeaking going over speedbumps as a symptom. Again I've replaced mine DIY without much difficulty. At the rear all bushings wear heavily. For the transverse arm bushings, you just replace the arm and it's only marginally more difficult than changing a wheel but the bushing at the bottom of the strut connected to the trailing arm is a complete b!tc#, only €8 for the part but a complete b!tc# to change.
I've never kept a car for as long as the 156 before, I got rid of all previous cars because I was bored with them. The 156 brought a smile to my face every time I drove it. I havent bought a new car yet but a 156 sportwagon could be on the cards, I've never even bought a second car from the same manufacturer, never mind the same model.
If you're looking to buy one, try and find one that has just had the cambelt (and variator if it's noisey) changed and has recently been through the NCT which will mean the suspension is in good nick. Check the temperature gauge goes up close to 90 and stays pretty steady on the open road, if it is down at 70, the thermostat is shot (they generally fail open rather than closed so overheating is not a problem), quick and easy to replace but make sure the dealer does it for you. The spark plugs are pricey but last for 60k miles, try and get the dealer to fit a new set before you buy. If all these things are sorted, you're routine maintenance will be just oil and filter changes for 35k miles until the cam belt is due again, and of course brakes and tyres as needed which will depend on how you drive it.