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Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0
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PROS

  • Looks
  • Performance
  • Agility
  • Grip
  • Desirability

    CONS

    • Fussy headlamps
    • Price
    • Some handling traits
    • Soulless engine

    Verdict

    Full of promise and brio, the Alfa Romeo 4C has been hotly anticipated since it first appeared as a concept car at the Geneva Motor Show in 2011, and is a deserving highlight in what is otherwise a rather lacklustre range.

    Rear wheel drive, mid-engine and built with extensive amounts of carbon fibre, it’s cause for major celebrations with enthusiasts and the ‘Alfisti’, despite the high price and limited production run

    Small dimensions, light weight

    The Alfa Romeo 4C is only four metres long – the same as the tiny MiTo hatchback – though it is two metres wide. As such it has an imposing stance. It’s already imposing itself on the sales lists too, and while initially the plan was to construct just 1,000 examples a year at the Italian factory, that’s increased almost threefold.

    The head-turning looks have to take the majority of the credit for this; there are few more striking cars available at any price – the 4C costs £45,000 before options here in the UK. However early cars come with controversial headlamps which have been given a mixed reception; the good news is that the original design seen on the concept is being made re-available too.

    With a carbon fibre tub, hung off aluminium extrusions, the Alfa Romeo 4C is incredibly stiff and lightweight, just managing to sneak under 900Kg. Enthusiasts will appreciate being able to see the bare carbon weave of the tub from inside the car.

    Agility and Speed

    Sitting just behind that tub is a familiar 1.75-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, seen in the Giulietta hatchback (though here it’s aluminium, not iron, to save some weight), but here making a credible 237bhp and 350Nm of torque. It might not be the most soulful sounding unit, even with the Race Pack Sports Exhaust, but it offers startling performance; the 0-62mph sprint takes just 4.5 seconds while top speed is 160mph.

    It’s not just in a straight line the Alfa Romeo 4C can hang onto exotic coat tails though, as the double wishbone suspension and wide track means cornering speeds greater than any production Alfa Romeo that has come before. It’s not perfect though - while the unassisted steering sounds like a breath of fresh air the wheel reacts hyperactively to changes in road surface and camber, making the 4C a busy car to drive.

    Those hoping for a classic Italian sports car open-gate gearchange will be disappointed, as the only option is a twin clutch, six-speed automatic gearbox with paddle-shift controls behind the steering wheel. It works well enough, though is best in manual mode.

    Like others in the range the driver can switch between different modes for the gearbox, steering and throttle response via Alfa’s ‘DNA’ system (Dynamic, Natural and All-weather modes). Unlike other Alfas however, the 4C also features a ‘Race’ setting which will allow keen drivers to explore the car’s limits further, on a track day for example.

    Living with it

    You’ll need to negotiate a high sill just to get into the 4C, and once there you’ll notice there’s almost no cabin stowage either – while the boot is just 110 litres large. This Alfa Romeo has been designed purely for the thrill of driving, though, not practicality, and the engaging experience behind the wheel means all of these shortcomings (including some questionable interior plastics) are worth the compromise.

    At least running costs should be low, thanks to the familiar engine and promised 41.5mpg combined fuel economy figure. Being so light the 4C will be kind to its tyres and brakes too, even on track, so there won’t be much spend on consumables either.

    However, with a near £50,000 pricetag, once you’ve added a couple of choice options, the Alfa Romeo 4C faces some incredibly stiff competition from the likes of Lotus and Porsche.

    2015 updates

    Coinciding with the launch of the soft-top 4C Spider, the Coupe was upgraded with standard Alfa Hi-Fi sound system, luxury floor mats, and Bi-LED headlamps with carbon fibre surrounds. Parking sensors and cruise control were offered as free options.

    The headlamps and Giallo paint seen on the Spider also joined the options list.

    Read the rest of our Alfa Romeo 4C review to find out how it stacks up.

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