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Alfa Romeo 4C

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Whatcar? Review

For

The Alfa Romeo 4C combines supercar looks and performance with agile handling. It’s competitively priced, too.

Against

A small boot, thinly padded seats and awful rear visibility make the 4C hard to live with every day.

Summary

As long as it’s not going to be your only car, the Alfa Romeo 4C is worth considering.

Performance

The only engine available is a 1.75-litre four-cylinder turbo that produces 237bhp. That’s a lot less than the engine in a Porsche Cayman S, but the 4C can still out-accelerate the Porsche because it's around 400kg lighter (the equivalent of chucking out a rugby team’s front row). The engine does feel a little flat at low and high revs, but it’s supercar-strong in the mid range.

Ride & Handling

The steering is heavy when you’re manoeuvring, but lightens up almost as soon as you’re rolling, and tells you everything that’s going on. The Alfa feels more alert and alive than a Porsche Cayman, which is hardly a surprise given how much lighter it is. That said, the front end of the car runs out of grip earlier than you might expect, which limits how quickly you can go round corners. The firm ride is perfectly acceptable by sports car standards.

Refinement

Despite its modest capacity and cylinder count, the 4C’s engine really makes itself heard. It starts with an angry bark, emits a huge amount of turbo whoosh and roars like an old-school rally car under hard acceleration. No one buying a 4C will expect much in the way of refinement, and that’s a good thing because there’s a near deafening amount of road and wind noise at motorway speeds, and the optional sports exhaust also drones away loudly at a steady 70mph.

Buying & Owning

The 4C is priced between the entry-level Porsche Cayman and the flagship S model, despite being faster than both. What’s more, its low weight makes it surprisingly efficient when you’re not driving it hard; it has claimed average economy of more than 40mpg. The 4C should also hold its value well because demand is high and it’s being built in relatively small numbers.

Quality & Reliability

The large chunks of carbonfibre chassis on display in the cabin look fantastic. The hard dashboard is more functional than classy, however, and it’s disappointing that the gearshift paddles are made from plastic instead of metal or carbonfibre. Alfa Romeo has a poor record in reliability and customer satisfaction surveys, although the 4C is largely bespoke and it isn’t built alongside other Alfas.

Safety & Security

Every 4C comes with stability control and a tyre-pressure-warning system, but it’s disappointing that there are just two airbags; Alfa Romeo doesn’t even offer side airbags as an option. The standard security kit includes an alarm that can detect if the car is being lifted.

Behind The Wheel

The 4C ditches traditional instruments for a digital display that’s both clear and easy on the eye. The height of the driver’s seat is set for you when you collect the car from the dealer, though; it can’t then be adjusted unless you reach for your spanners, which is far from ideal if you and your partner are different heights. Rear visibility is awful, too.

Space & Practicality

Getting into the 4C requires a fair bit of flexibility, because there’s a wide sill to climb over and the seats are mounted close to the floor. Then once inside, it's also too easy for your passenger to bang their knee on the centre console. The boot is suitable only for soft bags, and you have to prop it open because Alfa Romeo ruled out a hydraulic strut on the grounds of saving weight.

Equipment

The list of standard equipment includes launch control, sports seats, aluminium pedals, electric windows and a radio, while air-conditioning, web applications and Bluetooth phone connection are no-cost options. Given the awful rear visibility, it’s disappointing that you have to pay extra for reversing sensors, though.