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The Top Gear car review:Alfa Romeo 4C
For:Looks, performance, handling, technology
Against:Engine and gearbox fit the brief but could be better, noisy, interior finish
1.75 TBi 2dr TCT
Newly softened, but still not the sports car it ought to be.
The Alfa 4C? That’s been out ages…
It has been on sale for a year in the UK now, but this is the first time we’ve been...
Softer chassis, smaller wheels: it’s a 4C that should work in the UK. Does it? Clue: no. Not at all
Can the gorgeous mid-engined coupe cope with our uniquely awful roads? Ollie Marriage reports
UPDATE: TG take the long-awaited Alfa to the Italian mountains… Jason Barlow reports
What we say:
Everything we wanted a lightweight Italian sports car to be, right down to the traditional Alfa flaws
What is it?
The 4C is nothing less than the most important Alfa Romeo for an entire generation. Mid-engined, and with a carbon fibre chassis that’s pretty damn close to the one at the heart of the McLaren 12C, it vaults this lovely but perennially underachieving Italian brand straight into the big league. It also poses some interesting philosophical questions. Alfa insists that the 4C is a junior supercar, but can it really justify the big talk when there’s a four-cylinder, turbocharged 1.7-litre engine in there? Even if it comes up a bit short on that front, does its 41.5mpg average fuel consumption and 157g/km CO2 emissions make up for it?
It’s an absolute blast, simple as that, a ballsy reversal of the power war that has gripped the industry’s big guns for years. But… there are a few buts. The good bits are tremendously good, though. The 4C’s carbon chassis is as sensational as you’d hope. Overall, the car weighs just 925kg, and you can feel that lack of mass in your fingertips and through your backside. The 4C handles and rides beautifully, its unassisted steering is chock full of feel, and nothing this side of the Lotus Elise has a similar appetite for corners. Italian racing specialist Brembo supplies the 4C’s stoppers, and they’re also brilliant.
Unfortunately, the powertrain lags behind, in more ways than one. There’s just no getting round the shortfalls of a blown four-pot, and though the 4C sounds pretty fruity on the outside, inside it’s a bit flat. The turbo’s also rather intrusive, and though the 4C is addictively fast – 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds, 160mph top speed – and doesn’t lack torque, it’s nowhere near as seamless in its delivery as, say, the Porsche Cayman. Its TCT dual-shift gearbox can be a bit obstructive, too, although full-bore upshifts in fast-shifting Race mode are pretty good.
On the inside
The 4C is all about saving weight. Obviously, there’s its lightweight chassis (just 65kg). But the diet continues inside. The dash is a simple single-piece moulding, with the minimum of controls. The carbon-shelled seats are very thinly padded, and the passenger one is fixed. The instruments are housed in a clever, configurable TFT screen, and the door pulls are simple leather strips. All good. Less impressive is the plasticky trim, and the exposed screw-heads are plain awful. It’s hand luggage only, too: the boot is minuscule.
Given its race-bred specification, the 4C is something of a bargain at £45,000 (the launch edition, with sports exhaust as standard, and carbon surround on those controversially reworked headlights, is £52k). It’ll most likely be a rare sight, too, and relatively cheap to run for such a high performance car: there aren’t many machines this fast and engaging that’ll do 41.5mpg.