Way back when BMW made the Austin 7 under licence, Alfa Romeo were making cars that won on race tracks and sports saloons that were the envy of other makers. Then, despite the odd flash of glory, the Italian company largely lost its way. The release of the big 164 saloon in 1988 changed all that, however, as the newly Fiat-owned company dramatically improved both quality and reliability, starting at the top of its range.
Buyers and the motoring media alike hoped the 164's smaller brother, the 155, released in 1992, would give the BMW 3 Series a run for its money. The purists who had had to eat their words when the front-wheel drive 164 turned out to be a great handler, wondered whether the first front-drive Alfa family-sized saloon would be just as entertaining. To a large extent it was, though sales, sadly, never lived up to expectations. Eventually, though, Alfa's range enjoyed success and sold in reasonable, if never spectacular, numbers.