Best Italian modern classic cars you can afford

Fancy a surprisingly cheap Italian classic car? We’ve trawled the market to bring you the best modern classics Italy has to offer

There's a reason classic Italian cars are usually described as having spades of passion and soul, that's because they're exciting in a way that no other country manages to replicate. From feisty hot hatchbacks to purposeful sport saloons, Italy has something for everyone to live out their petrolhead dreams. 

These Italian beauties were designed by the likes of Giugiaro, Pininfarina and Bangle but you won’t need to break any auction records to acquire them. But as with any car that's getting on a bit, it's worth setting aside some cash for potential issues later in life. 

As ever with modern classics it’ll be wiser to spend more to avoid the ropey examples so you can spend more time on the open road enjoying your wonderful exotic car.

We’ve listed some of Italy’s best modern classics below, with a handy buying guide to make sure you spend your money wisely.

Check out some modern classics from some other countries here

Alfa Romeo 166

  • Typical price: £3,000
  • Years produced: 1998-2005
  • Price range: £200-£6,000 
  • Rarity: ★★★★★
  • Maintenance: ★★★☆☆
  • Investment: ★★★☆☆

While the 156 was successfully challenging the Germans in the compact executive sector, Alfa couldn’t pull off the same stunt in the next class up with the 166.

It was certainly distinctive-looking and drove well enough, with a free-revving Twin Spark four-cylinder or three versions of the V6 in 2.5, 3.0 and 3.2-litre form. But diesel power and rear-wheel drive were in vogue back then, and neither of them were on offer with the 166, so it faltered and never sold in large numbers.

Now, the models that have survived offer a cheap way into an individual car with the legendary Alfa V6.

Fiat Panda 100HP 

  • Typical price: £2,000
  • Engine: 1.4-litre 4cyl, 99bhp
  • Years produced: 2006-2010 
  • Rarity: ★★★☆☆
  • Maintenance: ★★★★☆
  • Investment: ★★☆☆☆

The Fiat Panda is a design classic – a fantastic car with loads of practicality for a low price. The range-topping 100HP model took this tiny car in a new direction with its revvy 1.4-litre engine and sporty suspension, which transformed it into one of the most fun-filled hatchbacks you could buy. 

When it launched, reviewers said the ride was too stiff, and while it’s on the firm side, it’s still more comfortable than many modern hot hatchbacks. It’s not the fastest hot hatch around, but its engine is a joy and you can have fun at any speed on any road. 

Alfa Romeo 156 GTA

  • Typical price: £17,000
  • Engine: 3.2-litre V6, 247bhp
  • Years produced: 2002-2005 
  • Rarity: ★★★★☆
  • Maintenance: ★★★☆☆
  • Investment: ★★★★☆

The Alfa Romeo 156 GTA has all the right ingredients to become a modern classic: it’s stunning to look at, has an all-time-great engine tucked under the bonnet, is a real rarity on the road, and already has a very active community of owners. 

It’s not as good to drive as a BMW M3, but with some aftermarket modifications – a limited-slip differential is the most common – it can be made a lot better. Front-wheel drive means it’ll never out-handle the BMW, but the engine alone is enough reason to want one – and in the 156 GTA it has an impressive 247bhp, so performance is strong too.

Alfa Romeo GTV/Spider 

  • Typical price: £3,000
  • Engine: Various, up to 237bhp
  • Years produced: 1993-2004 
  • Rarity: ★★★☆☆
  • Maintenance: ★★★☆☆
  • Investment: ★★★☆☆

We’re cheating a bit here by including the Alfa Romeo GTV and Spider as one car, but they have the same chassis and engines, so it’s not really too much of a stretch. 

There are two basic engines: the four-cylinder is slower but more fun to drive, while the 3.0 V6 motor (or 3.2 in later cars) is one of the most exciting engines ever, but its extra weight blunts the car’s handling. It sounds like it ought to be in an Italian supercar, rather than this affordable small coupé and convertible. Practicality is poor, but do you mind when they look and sound this good?

Fiat Coupé 

  • Typical price: £4,000
  • Engine: Various, up to 217bhp
  • Years produced: 1993-2000 
  • Rarity: ★★★☆☆
  • Maintenance: ★★★★☆
  • Investment: ★★★☆☆

The Fiat Coupé makes an interesting alternative to the Alfa Romeo GTV. It’s a smart Italian coupé, but instead of the top model coming with a V6, the Fiat got an interesting and great-sounding turbocharged five-cylinder petrol. 

Prices are on the rise, and while we wouldn’t count on the Fiat Coupé as an investment, now’s the time to dive in if you’ve always wanted one.

Alfa Romeo 4C 

  • Typical price: £40,000
  • Engine: 1.75-litre 4cyl, 237bhp
  • Years produced: 2013-2020 
  • Rarity: ★★★★☆
  • Maintenance: ★★★☆☆
  • Investment: ★★★★☆

The Alfa Romeo 4C was a divisive car when it launched. Stunning to look at but dynamically flawed, some loved it and some hated it. Yet as a modern classic, it’s hard to argue against it becoming more and more loved. After all – and whisper it – some of the most desirable classic cars aren’t actually very good to drive; it’s more about the way they make you feel. 

The 4C’s boosty engine gives it real character on the road and, of course, it looks like nothing else. There are coupé and convertible (Spider) versions available, and aftermarket modifications can help to address some of the Alfa’s more unpleasant handling traits.

Check out the best German classic cars to buy now...

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