Few cars shake up their market segment for their sheer beauty the way the Alfa Romeo 156 did when sales began in 1998. In a finger click, the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class looked dull and ordinary, although the German brands could teach the Italians several chapters from the book on build quality.
Launched first as a four-door saloon to replace the quirky Alfa Romeo 155, a number of styling elements which would become brand hallmarks were introduced. Ensuring that deep shield-shaped grille remained proudly on display, the front number plate was off-set to the nearside, while the rear door handles were hidden around the window trim to give a hint of coupe-like appearance.
Initially powered by a range of charismatic petrol engines, 2000 saw the arrivals of the first modern diesels (dubbed ‘common rail’) – a format commonplace today.