Alfa Romeo 4C review: first UK drive

15 Jan, 2014 6:30am Luke Madden

Stunning Alfa Romeo 4C is fast and fun, but flaws restrict all-round appeal

Verdict

4
Those hoping for an Alfa resurgence can rest easy – the Alfa Romeo 4C has a raw purity that’s hard to find in the new car market. It isn’t the type of car you’ll want to drive every day, but you’ll always look forward to the occasional blast. With only around 200 cars a year coming to the UK it’ll be a rarity, and those incredible proportions will have heads turning wherever you go. The 4C has its flaws, but there’s no denying it’s great fun and very different.

The Alfa Romeo 4C is about the same size and price as a Porsche Cayman, but as we found out on our first UK drive of the new coupe, it’s an entirely different proposition.

Alfa Romeo 4C review

We tried a left-hand-drive model, and the moment you set off, the stripped-back cabin and the rally-inspired exhaust note all make you think ‘race car’ rather than luxury sports coupe.

It’s a car that demands concentration when driving. On bumpy UK roads, the unassisted steering follows cambers and the wheel wriggles about in your hands over bumps. It’s so intense that you can come to the end of a nice, long, twisty piece of road and find your hands are aching from gripping the steering wheel so tightly. You’ll be smiling, though.

Everything else about the 4C only adds to the experience – the 237bhp 1.75-litre turbocharged four-cylinder is almost completely new to this car, and it has an absolutely frantic character.

Acceleration from 0-62mph takes 4.5 seconds, but as the turbo comes to life just behind your head, you get a hiss of intake noise, a rasping growl of exhaust and a firm punch in the back as you rocket up the road. Part of the 4C’s urgency comes from just how light it is.

Thanks to a carbon-fibre tub and a host of weight-saving measures, this car is just over 900kg when fuelled, placing it in the same kind of featherweight company as a Lotus Exige. That has great benefits to how the 4C feels from behind the wheel – direction changes are immediate, and you can barely feel any weight interfering with the car’s line through a corner.

But, in shedding weight, the 4C has also lost much of its ability as an everyday car. Where you could use a Cayman as your daily driver, only a brave few will use the 4C in the same way.

At motorway speeds, the engine – paired with the optional sports exhaust of our car – booms away with the kind of intensity you expect from a bassline at a rock concert. For anything more than half an hour, it’s unbearable. You could always not opt for the sports exhaust, but the amount of wind and road noise is nearly as bad.

The ride is pretty easy to live with, and it’s no better or worse than what you’d expect from a car this extreme. You’ll want to add the optional parking sensors, though, as you can’t see anything over your shoulder and you can barely see out of the back window.

While the 4C is a blast to drive, it’s nice to be able to step back into something more civilised. The gorgeous looks have worked their magic, though, as all 2014’s UK allocation is sold already – despite the £45,000 price.

Disqus - noscript

With those looks then I think a softened up version with more equipment and comfort could sell whilst keeping a special badge for genuine track day versions.

Very good review. Balanced, informative and easy to read. I am interested in this car and hopefully will get a test ride in the future.

Key specs

  • Price: £45,000
  • Engine: 1.75-litre 4cyl turbo
  • Power: 237bhp
  • Transmission: Six-speed dual-clutch, rear-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 4.5 seconds
  • Top speed: 160mph
  • Economy/CO2: 41.5mpg/157g/km
  • Equipment: Sports exhaust, digital display, air-con, electric windows
  • On sale: Now
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