On 9 October 1997, the international press got to know the Alfa 156 at its launch in Lisbon. The appearance of this car, a medium-sized sports saloon that encapsulated Alfa Romeo’s proud sporting and engineering heritage in a clean, stylish and obviously Italian package, set the company on a fast-track to rejuvenation.
The new 156 was voted Car of the Year 1998; this award being followed by some 35 further accolades. In the intervening four years the 156 has gone from strength to strength. Just under half-a-million saloon and Sportwagon versions have been sold throughout the world. It now occupies an enviable position in European segment D, where it has more than tripled Alfa Romeo’s market share: from 0.7% in 1996 to 3.2% in 2001.
It has also boosted overall brand sales, which rose – in Europe – from 117,500 in 1996 (0.9%) to 202,100 in 2001 (1.4%) … an increase of 72%.
Last year Alfa Romeo also celebrated its best-ever sales performance in the UK, (16,867 units), and closed 2001 as the fastest-growing UK importer, with sales up 71% year-on-year, a result to which the 156 range made a significant contribution, (up 35% year-on-year with 9609 units).
The revised 156 range, including the new 165 bhp 2.0 JTS and an uprated 150 bhp 2.4 JTD which go on sale here in June, incorporates deep-seated changes to offer better performance, more safety equipment, a comprehensive telematics package and more luxurious interiors.
The range is also complemented by two exciting new cars which go on sale here in early May, the Alfa 156 GTA and Sportwagon GTA. Both these cars incorporate the comprehensive internal revisions applied to the new 156 range, while representing the quintessence of Alfa brand values, and reviving a legendary name associated with the much loved Giulia Sprint in the mid-sixties.Published 2 April 2002