There’s a reason classic Italian cars are commonly described as spades with passion and soul, it’s because they are exciting in a way no other country can replicate. From spunky hot hatchbacks to purposeful sports saloons, Italy has something for everyone to make their petrolhead dreams come true.
These Italian beauties were designed by the likes of Giugiaro, Pininfarina and Bangle, but you don’t have to break auction records to buy them. But as with any car that gets a little carried away, it’s worth setting aside some cash for potential problems later in life.
As always with modern classics, it is wiser to spend more money to avoid the miserable examples so that you can spend more time on the open road and enjoy your beautiful exotic car.
Alfa Romeo 159
- Price range: £2,000 – £12,000
- Our choice: 159 3.2 JTS V6 Ti
- Engine: 3.2-litre V6 petrol, 256 hp
- years produced: 2004-2011
If you’re looking for some Latin brio on a budget, then look no further than the Alfa Romeo 159. The Giulia’s predecessor lacks the poise and rear-wheel drive of the current sedan, but it looks great, and with prices from under £2,000, it’s a steal to boot.
There are eager four-cylinder petrol engines and frugal diesels, but the highlight is the 256-hp 3.2-litre V6 and its growling soundtrack. The 159 is also pretty good to drive, with precise handling and decent refinement. In fact, it doesn’t rust like older Alfas did, and although the interior feels a little low, the 159 is mechanically robust.
Alfa Romeo Spider
- Price range: £2,500-£14,000
- Our choice: Spider 2.0 Twin Spark Lusso
- Engine: 2.0 liter 4cyl petrol, 150 hp
- years produced: 1995-2006
The original 1960s Alfa Spider is one of the most desirable classic cars in the world, but its 1990s successor runs close and costs thousands less. With its signature wedge-shaped profile, quad-headlamp layout and full-width taillights, the two-seat Italian drop-top looks as fresh today as it did when it made its debut in 1995.
It’s still great to drive, with quick steering, agile handling and a range of great engines, including the raspy Twin Spark 2.0-litre petrol and howling ‘Busso’ 3.0-litre V6. Plus, many have been owned by enthusiasts, so finding a clean and well-maintained one should be a cinch.
- Price range: £55,000- £135,000
- Our choice: F355 GTB
- Engine: 3.5-litre V8, 380 hp
- years produced: 1994-1999
Fiercely fast, stunningly styled and invigorating to drive, the F355 set the winning template for every subsequent entry-level Ferrari. Essentially a heavily revised version of the 348, the mid-engined F355 omitted the razor-sharp handling of its predecessor for a beautifully balanced chassis that was as rewarding for experts as it was safe for beginners. The drama was heightened by the 3.5-litre 40-valve V8, which provided a chilling soundtrack and scorching speed.
There is a choice of coupe, GTS targa and Spider body styles, but values are rising fast, so get in before it’s too late.
- Price range: £4,000 – £15,000
- Our choice: Coupe 20V Turbo
- Engine: 2.0-litre 5cyl, 220 hp
- Yesproduced ears: 1994-2000
Fiat ran like clockwork in the 1990s and nowhere was confidence more apparent than in the Coupé. Designed by American Chris Bangle before he left for BMW, it attracts as much attention today as it did in 1994. Its slanted wheel arches and curvaceous headlight lenses won’t be mistaken for anything else, while bold details include an aluminum filler cap and body – colored strip across the dashboard.
There is a choice of raspy four-cylinder and whistling five-cylinder petrol engines, while the front-wheel drive chassis provides sharp handling. The 220bhp 20V Turbo is the most desirable version and delivers a supercar experience on a budget.
- Price range: £1,500 – £3,500
- Our choice: Multipla ELX 100 16V
- Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl petrol, 103 hp
- years produced: 1998-2004
It is often said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but even the mother would struggle to find the Multipla attractive. Yet the interior is bursting with neat details. The new three-in-a-row seats in the front provide space for six, while the large windows provide excellent visibility and a light and airy atmosphere.
The Multipl is also good to drive and can handle turns as easily as the school track. It won’t be easy to track down one, but do your best and you’ll have a great starter classic for the whole family.
- Price range: £6,950-£45,000
- Our choice: Quattroporte 4.7 S
- Engine: 4.7-litre V8, 425 hp
- years produced: 2003-2015
What do you get when you mix Italian style, limousine luxury and a Ferrari V8? The answer is the fifth-generation Quattroporte, one of the most charismatic and stylish fast saloons money can buy. The Pininfarina-designed Maserati still looks good today, while the howling naturally aspirated engines provide a whirling soundtrack and scorching performance.
It’s not the most comfortable or sophisticated choice, but rear-wheel drive operation is more fun than you’d expect given the car’s sheer size. Prices start at around £7,000, but keep in mind you’ll need deep pockets to keep it going.