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First UK drive: Alfa Romeo 4C. Image by Alfa Romeo.

First UK drive: Alfa Romeo 4C
We've driven Alfa Romeo's mid-engined turbocharged sports car in the UK, and it's not all good news.

 



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Alfa Romeo 4C

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If you like your sports cars edgy then the Alfa Romeo 4C might be just the thing, but its over-active, super busy steering dominates the drive so much to be detrimental to the overall experience on UK roads.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Alfa Romeo 4C
Price: £45,000
Engine: 1.75-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Transmission: rear-wheel drive, six-speed twin-clutch auto
Body style: two-door coupé
CO2 emissions: 157g/km (Band G, £180 per year)
Combined economy: 41.5mpg
Top Speed: 160mph
0-62mph: 4.5 seconds
Power: 240hp at 6,000rpm
Torque 350Nm at 2,100- to 4,000rpm

What's this?

The most exciting car to wear an Alfa Romeo badge in at least a generation. Alfa has traded on its history and styling for a long time now, the 4C promising to add some real sports car credibility today to back up its glorious sporting past. It's unique to Alfa Romeo too, the 4C rather exotic in its specification, featuring a carbon fibre tub - something usually the preserve of supercars that cost well in excess of £200,000. It's part of Alfa's fastidious weight saving, leading to a kerb weight comfortably under a tonne, meaning that the '1750' 240hp engine doesn't have much mass to shift.

How does it drive?

It's fast, which isn't really a surprise given the low weight the 240hp turbocharged four has to propel. The engine's delivery is always impressive, performance-wise at least, but it's no operatic Italian from inside. Push the accelerator and there's near instantaneous response, the 4C's ability to accelerate certainly not in question. Accompanying the ever-ready response and impressive pace are curious sounds, the turbocharged four sometimes sounding like a late rally car from the late '90s, though it's all intake and chatter, the four-cylinder itself adding nothing to the mix - from inside at least.

There's plenty low-rev flexibility though, and the engine's performance is not at the expense of driveability. The six-speed dual-clutch paddle shift gearbox helps, as it's smooth enough when left to its own devices, but better still when you do so yourself - just be careful not to ask for a gear too early, as it'll punish you with a horribly piercing electronic beep if you do.

Those paddles are mounted on a chunky wheel, which needs clutching rather than holding. While some bemoaned Alfa's decision to go for a two-pedal auto set-up in such a driver-focused machine, it's desirable here because it means you never have to remove a hand from the wheel.

You'll not want to, as the 4C's nose is more enthusiastic than a sniffer dog's at a party in Tony Montana's gaff. If there's a white line the 4C 's nose with chase it with resolute enthusiasm, while cambers, ripples, bumps, surface changes, cracks and anything else that passes for road in the UK requires constant inputs and corrections at the wheel. It's ridiculously busy, to the point of utter distraction, Alfa's keenness to allow the unassisted system to offer feel and speed meaning you need to spend all your time keeping it both in your lane, or on the road itself. That's true not just on the tough topography of country roads, but even motorways, where HGV-battered inside lanes have the 4C squirming around, and it's not always entirely predictable where it's going to go.

Overtakes on country roads are limited by the steering, too. It's a brave 4C driver who pulls across the crest of the road into the other lane accelerating. No, you need to position the 4C in the lane before applying the accelerator to pass - and hope there's no surface surprises to kick you off line.

All this utterly dominates the driving experience, to its detriment. A Lotus Elise offers all the clarity of the 4C, but achieves it without battering the driver into submission behind the wheel. That's a shame, as behind it there's some real magic, not least the huge mechanical grip from the rear axle, the fine ride and of course the mighty performance from the curiously tuneless engine.

Verdict

Yes, it's laughable that we're criticising a sports car for being too demanding when most of the time we're calling for more precision and feel, but the 4C's steering so fundamentally dominates the driving experience on less-than-smooth UK roads as to remove the enjoyment from it. It never, ever, settles down; indeed, we've driven rose-jointed, track specification cars on the road that have had more compliance in their steering than the 4C. On a perfectly smooth track it's bound to be a hoot, but on the road, or at least what often passes as a road in the UK, it's hugely compromised. It's not fun as a result, unless perhaps you're the sort of person who finds BASE-jumping, free-diving and proximity wing-suit flying boring. Which is a real shame, as there's real scope for greatness here.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

3 3 3 3 3 Interior Ambience

2 2 2 2 2 Passenger Space

2 2 2 2 2 Luggage Space

2 2 2 2 2 Safety

2 2 2 2 2 Comfort

2 2 2 2 2 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Kyle Fortune - 8 Jan 2015









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2015 Alfa Romeo 4C. Image by Alfa Romeo.2015 Alfa Romeo 4C. Image by Alfa Romeo.2015 Alfa Romeo 4C. Image by Alfa Romeo.2015 Alfa Romeo 4C. Image by Alfa Romeo.2015 Alfa Romeo 4C. Image by Alfa Romeo.

2015 Alfa Romeo 4C. Image by Alfa Romeo.2015 Alfa Romeo 4C. Image by Alfa Romeo.2015 Alfa Romeo 4C. Image by Alfa Romeo.2015 Alfa Romeo 4C. Image by Alfa Romeo.2015 Alfa Romeo 4C. Image by Alfa Romeo.



2015 Alfa Romeo 4C. Image by Alfa Romeo.
 

2015 Alfa Romeo 4C. Image by Alfa Romeo.
 

2015 Alfa Romeo 4C. Image by Alfa Romeo.
 

2015 Alfa Romeo 4C. Image by Alfa Romeo.
 

2015 Alfa Romeo 4C. Image by Alfa Romeo.
 

2015 Alfa Romeo 4C. Image by Alfa Romeo.
 

2015 Alfa Romeo 4C. Image by Alfa Romeo.
 

2015 Alfa Romeo 4C. Image by Alfa Romeo.
 

2015 Alfa Romeo 4C. Image by Alfa Romeo.
 

2015 Alfa Romeo 4C. Image by Alfa Romeo.
 

2015 Alfa Romeo 4C. Image by Alfa Romeo.
 






 

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