Parkers overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 3.5

A wide range of engines have been fitted to 156 from a basic-but-lively 1.6 T-Spark to a 3.2 V6 fitted to the electrifying GTA. The 1.8-litre and 2.0-litre models are the best all-rounders offering flexible performance with reasonable economy plus the 156 also gets Fiat/Alfa Romeo's acclaimed common-rail JTD diesel engines. The 1.9-litre engine is willing, refined, economical, and - after 2002 - boasts 150 bhp (up to 2002 it was 136 bhp).

There's also an excellent 2.4JTD version with 175bhp available.

Behind the wheel, the 156 is everything you'd expect from a fiery Italian with involving handling and keen cornering abilities. There's barely any difference in handling between the Sportwagon and saloon model - push on and it remains very confident and secure while the sharp steering offers plenty of feedback. It also feels nimble around town and is happy to dart in and out of traffic, although it can be frustrating if fitted with the Selespeed semi-automatic gearbox.

It suffers on motorways where the ride is firm and wind and road-noise are above average.