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The Top Gear car review:Alfa Romeo 4C
For:Looks, performance, carbon chassis
Against:Engine and gearbox, not as good to drive as it should be, 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 675LT, 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 42mpg 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 4C’s chassis is as sensational as you’d hope. Overall the car weighs just 925kg, and you can feel that lack of mass through your fingertips and backside. However while the 4C is stiff, on UK roads it’s a total fidget, darting after cambers, sniffing left and right. It may be Lotus-like in ethos but it lacks the Elise’s finesse entirely. At times the freneticism is alarming, which is a pity given the potential of this exotic chassis. Italian racing specialist Brembo supplies the 4C’s brakes, and at least they’re great.
Unfortunately, the powertrain lags behind, in more ways than one. There’s just no getting round the shortfalls of a blown four-pot instead of something with more cylinders and more purity, and though the 4C sounds pretty fruity on the outside, inside it’s a bit flat and droney. 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 old six-cylinder Porsche Cayman. Its TCT dual-shift gearbox is annoyingly obstructive, and overall it’s hard to have confidence in the 4C. It simply doesn’t drive as well as it should.
On the inside
The 4C is all about saving weight. Obviously, there’s its lightweight chassis (just 65kg, or less than the average adult). 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, the passenger one is fixed and the door-pulls are simply leather straps.
All good. Less impressive is the plasticky trim, the numerous exposed screw-heads are plain awful, the stereo’s totally unfathomable and it’s hand luggage only because the boot is miniscule. We admire fanatical weight-saving but not a lack of attention to detail, Alfa. It’s not acceptable on a £51K car and people will feel short-changed as a result.
Look at the 4C one way and £51,265 seems good value for an Italian sports car with a carbon chassis, and the promise of over 40mpg is enticing. However the better-handling Lotus Elise is thousands cheaper, and the Porsche Cayman (even in new four-cylinder 718 guise) way more rounded. But if you’ve fallen for the looks, go right ahead. Rarity should give it good residuals. Just do us a favour and stick with the comfort chassis.