Last Chance to Buy: Alfa Romeo Spider

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Indy Lifestyle Online

When's it going?

The Alfa Spider went last year, or officially in 2005, although the last run of special editions was actually back in 2004. So we've been without a Spider for a while, and that should make the heart grow a little fonder for the most charismatic of Italian sports cars. There is a new one which arrived earlier in the spring, but it is still possible to pick up the old four-eyed one with a low mileage and tempting price tag.

What's good about it?

It is an Alfa Romeo and that badge still means an awful lot and is perfect for an open-topped sports car such as this. The Spider certainly looked distinctive, and in fact it still does. That is really important when it comes to an open-topped car. Luckily, Alfa Romeo managed to combine the looks with some decent performance. As a front-drive car it always handled neatly and came with characterful engines, from a 2.0-litre Twin Spark to the 3.2-litre V6 launched a couple of years later.

In later years the Spider was heavily facelifted. In came a new corporate nose, 16-inch alloy wheels and a reworked cabin with a new centre console. Standard specification was also boosted with traction control and satellite navigation on the options list. Certainly the Spider was getting on a bit, but at eight years old it seems far too young to die. The problem is that the competition is so intense and many buyers would rather have a BMW or Mercedes badge on their open top. Well, it's their loss; dare to be different, but also see any snags below...

What's bad about it?

The Alfa Romeo badge has never been a guarantee of high-quality build, and the Spider has had niggly and major reliability problems over the years. Dynamically the Spider may be good to drive, but the body has never been that stiff compared with some of its rivals, so flexing on the open road has spoilt the driving experience. Although the soft top stows away very neatly under the rear cover, suddenly folding away your old roof seems to be a very old-fashioned thing to do in this age of electric metal roofs. Depreciation has been an issue – even though most soft tops usually devalue slowly, the Spider is one of the few exceptions to this rule. The bottom line is that the boot is fairly marginal, the ride can be firm and the trim can fall off.

How much?

There are not many low-mileage Alfas of the previous generation, but I did come across a 2005 54 Reg Spider 3.2 V6 24v Lusso. It has the top specification and the biggest and best engine and was with specialist Veloce (020-8275 0630). With just 6,000 miles, black leather, upgraded 17-inch alloys and just the one owner, it was on offer at £15,495. It would have cost £28,300.

Any snags?

The suspension wears seriously on older models, the electrics can play up and the engine can cause problems. Between 1996 and 1999 the car was recalled because the rear brake hose chafed on the suspension, the security of the seat belt was an issue, there was a possible failure of the windscreen wipers and the brake master cylinder supply pipe connectors were liable to break.

Specifications:

Launched: 1996

Engine sizes: 2.0-litre, 3.0 V6, 3.2 V6

Performance: 2.0 top speed 133 mph 0-60mph 8.4 seconds

Economy: 2.0-litre 34 mpg

Safety: NCAP, not tested, but air bags and ABS

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