RE: Alfa Romeo 156 GTA: PH Used Buying Guide

RE: Alfa Romeo 156 GTA: PH Used Buying Guide

Thursday 13th December 2018

Alfa Romeo 156 GTA: PH Used Buying Guide

Owning the beautiful 156 can quickly become an ugly experience. Here's what to look out for when shopping around.



After the beauty of the Alfa Romeo 156 came the beast that was the GTA. It should have been everything we'd asked for, yet the GTA fell frustratingly just short of brilliance when it was launched in 2002.

With a 250hp 3.2-litre V6 engine and suitably beefed up looks, it was cleverly positioned below the BMW M3 in performance and price. It cost £26,900 for the saloon or £1,000 more for the Sportwagon estate, which made it decent value too. However, those early press reports plus that lingering doubt about Alfa reliability suppressed sales.

The result is that the 156 GTA is a rare bird today and prized by those who own them. Time has also helped sort the niggles that held the GTA back from its true potential when it originally went on sale; this being a car where an effectively modified version is more desirable than a standard one, unless you want to preserve it in aspic.


None of these modifications is particularly difficult or expensive to add to an untouched GTA, so you could own a sorted, sure-footed and swift sports saloon from around £10,000 including having the work done to it. For that, you'll also own one of the best looking saloons or estates ever to grace tarmac and an Alfa that is gently appreciating in value.

Alfa offered its automated manual Selespeed gearbox in the GTA, but there were few takers. As few as six are thought to have been sold in the UK during the GTA's production run between 2002 and 2005. Our advice is to stick with the manual, make the right mods, service it religiously and cherish that V6 noise.

Buyer's checklist


Bodywork and interior

Bonnet catch gets gummed with dirt in the grease so the latch doesn't secure properly. This can cause the bonnet to flip up as you drive and crash into the upper edge of the windscreen. Look for signs of repairs to paintwork here and regularly clean and re-grease the bonnet catch mechanism.

Check for corrosion around the wheel arches and their inner lips. Also inspect the chassis legs behind the bumpers.

Front wings are unique to the GTA.

Make sure the engine's undertray is fitted to protect the vulnerable sump.

Make sure the airbag warning light goes out with the engine started. If not, it's likely to be a dislodged wire under the driver's seat that needs to be reconnected. This will also need the ECU reset to extinguish the dash light.


Engine and transmission

Service intervals are every 12,000 miles or 12 months for the GTA and cost from £180 at an independent for a minor service. A major service comes at 60,000 miles to include the spark plugs and another at 72,000 for the cambelt. However, specialists recommend carrying out the cambelt service at 48,000 miles or four years and should include the belt, tensioner, two idler pulleys, water pump with metal impellers, cam cover gaskets, and spark plugs and gaskets. That lot will set you back around £650.

The Q2 limited slip differential is a very desirable option to have. A Quaife unit can be retro-fitted from around £900 from Auto Lusso.

Any rubbing sound from under the bonnet is probably the cam belt beginning to wear against the cam covers. If left, it will result in a destroyed engine and replacements are £3,000.

The six-speed gearbox should have a smooth shift and reasonably light clutch action. A heavy clutch indicates it's reaching the end of its life and a new one is £180 plus fitting.

The clutch can fail and hole the gearbox casing. The same can happen if the differential fails. A rebuilt replacement 'box is around £1,200.

Selespeed automated manuals are very rare and, consequently, difficult to get replacement parts for.

The MAF airflow meter should be replaced at 70,000 miles. Poor idling, lack of power and flat spots are most likely due to this component failing.

Keep an eye on the water temperature gauge during an extended test drive as the radiators are known to corrode. It can cause the head gaskets to fail. A silicone coolant hose kit is £165.


Suspension and steering

Listen for any creaks from the front suspension as the upper wishbone bushes wear.

Front lower arm bushes also wear very quickly and are tricky to access, though replacements are reasonably priced at £100.

Front anti-roll bar bushes are £120 in parts but three hours in labour.

Rear suspension bushes also degrade, but are not expensive to replace with original equipment items or to upgrade to poly bushes.

Koni FSD springs that are 15mm shorter than standard combined with Eibach anti-roll bars transform the GTA's handling and ride.


Wheels, tyres and brakes

New front discs and pads will set you back around £285 fitted at a specialist, which is for the later and larger 330mm discs. A set of rear discs and pads will be £180.

Earlier GTAs had 305mm front discs with Brembo calipers mounted by lugs. These are reckoned to be more prone to warping than the 330mm discs, which are radially mounted. Later discs arrived in November 2003 and some early cars were upgraded to this under warranty.


SPECIFICATION - ALFA ROMEO 156 GTA

Engine: 3,179cc V6
Transmission: 6-speed man/auto
Power (hp): 250@/6,200rpm
Torque (lb ft): 221@4,800rpm
MPG: 23.3
CO2: 287g/km
Price new: £26,900
Price now: £7,000 upwards

Author
Discussion

v8griff

Original Poster:

54 posts

199 months

Thursday 13th December 2018
quotequote all
Impossibly beautiful, Alfa at it's best.

1974foggy

159 posts

83 months

Thursday 13th December 2018
quotequote all
Id forgotten how nice these look, they are stunning and the noise... yes please! Sportwagen for me just for badness.

swanny71

1,772 posts

148 months

Thursday 13th December 2018
quotequote all
Sold mine 8 years ago, still regret doing so. Lovely cars.

viggyp

1,547 posts

74 months

Thursday 13th December 2018
quotequote all
Always loved the looks of the 156 until the GTA arrived. Curvaceous body with a horrible bodykit especially the squared off rear bumper. That's my only negative thought on this car as I love the way it drives and sounds.

Yidwann

734 posts

149 months

Thursday 13th December 2018
quotequote all
I never knew they did an estate version of this? I bet that is a rare thing now!
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K50 DEL

7,947 posts

167 months

Thursday 13th December 2018
quotequote all
I had a 2.5 V6 156 for a little while as a company hack, still one of the nicest cars I've driven, even if some muppet configured it with green velour interior and the spoiler delete option.

Much like this GTA, the 156 shape just doesn't look right without that spoiler to me, so I'd love this car but would have to retrofit the spoiler or see what Novitec or similar could offer me.

S100HP

9,378 posts

106 months

Thursday 13th December 2018
quotequote all
swanny71 said:
Sold mine 8 years ago, still regret doing so. Lovely cars.
6 for me. Still miss it.

feef

4,154 posts

122 months

Thursday 13th December 2018
quotequote all
Yidwann said:
I never knew they did an estate version of this? I bet that is a rare thing now!
Single figures I believe

Dale487

914 posts

62 months

Thursday 13th December 2018
quotequote all
K50 DEL said:
I had a 2.5 V6 156 for a little while as a company hack, still one of the nicest cars I've driven, even if some muppet configured it with green velour interior and the spoiler delete option.

Much like this GTA, the 156 shape just doesn't look right without that spoiler to me, so I'd love this car but would have to retrofit the spoiler or see what Novitec or similar could offer me.
What colour was it on the outside?

Funk

20,342 posts

148 months

Thursday 13th December 2018
quotequote all
Makes you realise how fussy and over-styled most modern cars are. Thought the same when looking at the simplicity of design of the older Audis ans BMWs too.

What went wrong? Why are cars so fricking ugly these days?

Peppka

80 posts

129 months

Thursday 13th December 2018
quotequote all
156 and 147 GTA, GTV and GT V6's its all about the Busso V6 you need to put on an Autodelta carbon fibre intake pipe and a decent stainless cat back exhaust to appreciate it fully. I have had a Busso engined Alfa of one sort or another for 14 years. I will keep my V6 GT as long as ever I can there is nothing like having a Busso V6 in front of you when you are driving.

K50 DEL

7,947 posts

167 months

Thursday 13th December 2018
quotequote all
Dale487 said:
K50 DEL said:
I had a 2.5 V6 156 for a little while as a company hack, still one of the nicest cars I've driven, even if some muppet configured it with green velour interior and the spoiler delete option.

Much like this GTA, the 156 shape just doesn't look right without that spoiler to me, so I'd love this car but would have to retrofit the spoiler or see what Novitec or similar could offer me.
What colour was it on the outside?
Very very dark green, almost black as I recall, I'll have to see if i can dig a pic out.

Dale487

914 posts

62 months

Thursday 13th December 2018
quotequote all
K50 DEL said:
Dale487 said:
K50 DEL said:
I had a 2.5 V6 156 for a little while as a company hack, still one of the nicest cars I've driven, even if some muppet configured it with green velour interior and the spoiler delete option.

Much like this GTA, the 156 shape just doesn't look right without that spoiler to me, so I'd love this car but would have to retrofit the spoiler or see what Novitec or similar could offer me.
What colour was it on the outside?
Very very dark green, almost black as I recall, I'll have to see if i can dig a pic out.
Maybe I'm weird but that sounds really nice, I like the subtlety of the lack of the rear spoiler and that it wasn't the obvious red.

Hackney

5,480 posts

147 months

Thursday 13th December 2018
quotequote all
S100HP said:
swanny71 said:
Sold mine 8 years ago, still regret doing so. Lovely cars.
6 for me. Still miss it.
5. Ditto.

cookie1600

1,099 posts

100 months

Thursday 13th December 2018
quotequote all
Yidwann said:
I never knew they did an estate version of this? I bet that is a rare thing now!


Featuring the same car in the pictures in the main article, 3 years ago here:

https://www.pistonheads.com/news/euro-cars/alfa-ro...

K50 DEL

7,947 posts

167 months

Thursday 13th December 2018
quotequote all
Dale487 said:
K50 DEL said:
Dale487 said:
K50 DEL said:
I had a 2.5 V6 156 for a little while as a company hack, still one of the nicest cars I've driven, even if some muppet configured it with green velour interior and the spoiler delete option.

Much like this GTA, the 156 shape just doesn't look right without that spoiler to me, so I'd love this car but would have to retrofit the spoiler or see what Novitec or similar could offer me.
What colour was it on the outside?
Very very dark green, almost black as I recall, I'll have to see if i can dig a pic out.
Maybe I'm weird but that sounds really nice, I like the subtlety of the lack of the rear spoiler and that it wasn't the obvious red.
That was the reason for the spoiler delete (and debadge as well) the director who ordered it new lived in one of the rougher parts of Leeds and his territory covered several less-than-salubrious places, he wanted the nice car but didn't want to stand out.
He was probably right to as I had an Impreza as my company car at the same time and it always got a lot of attention whenever I went to those offices.

Trophy-GTA

82 posts

37 months

Thursday 13th December 2018
quotequote all
Have owned mine for little over three years. Red berlina with Quaif diff. It’s an everyday user smile

Want a second one in black too biggrin

BFleming

900 posts

82 months

Thursday 13th December 2018
quotequote all
feef said:
Yidwann said:
I never knew they did an estate version of this? I bet that is a rare thing now!
Single figures I believe
According to Wikipedia, they built 1,973 GTA saloons and 1,678 GTA Sportwagons.
In the peak there were about 350 GTA's in the UK, 10 of which were Selespeeds.
Today there are still 282 manual GTA's on the DVLA books, 200 taxed, and 82 SORN'd.
Of the Selespeeds, there are 5 taxed, and 6 SORN'd.
I know a few GTA's have come in as Japanese imports, some (but not all) RHD's.
Sadly the DVLA doesn't differentiate between saloon & Sportwagon models at high level, but is it really as low as single figures for the GTA Sportwagon in the UK? I'm skeptical.

hondafanatic

4,617 posts

140 months

Thursday 13th December 2018
quotequote all
BFleming said:
feef said:
Yidwann said:
I never knew they did an estate version of this? I bet that is a rare thing now!
Single figures I believe
According to Wikipedia, they built 1,973 GTA saloons and 1,678 GTA Sportwagons.
In the peak there were about 350 GTA's in the UK, 10 of which were Selespeeds.
Today there are still 282 manual GTA's on the DVLA books, 200 taxed, and 82 SORN'd.
Of the Selespeeds, there are 5 taxed, and 6 SORN'd.
I know a few GTA's have come in as Japanese imports, some (but not all) RHD's.
Sadly the DVLA doesn't differentiate between saloon & Sportwagon models at high level, but is it really as low as single figures for the GTA Sportwagon in the UK? I'm skeptical.
Either way, not cheap!

https://www.carandclassic.co.uk/car/C1038899

unpc

2,064 posts

152 months

Thursday 13th December 2018
quotequote all
Peppka said:
156 and 147 GTA, GTV and GT V6's its all about the Busso V6
This. You get the rest of the car thrown in for free. I had the 147GTA for a about 4 years and whilst it was a great engine the car was a bit rubbish. It was reliable in my ownership but was a bag of nails by the time I sold it. Ground clearance on these was always a problem on the rural roads round here.