by James Allen
It’s far from being the best-in-class, but the Alfa Romeo 4C is undeniably a unique and very special sports car.
Prospective sports car buyers who are after the least compromised performance vehicle on the market will be disappointed with the Alfa Romeo 4C Coupe. As an engaging and entertaining sports car that can deal with more mundane driving tasks, the raw and rough-around-the-edges Alfa Romeo can’t hope of matching other vehicles in this segment. That’s not to say the Alfa Romeo 4C is without merit, though. It’s by far the most hardcore coupe of its type on sale today, and very much starts ticking all the right boxes when you drive it hard – especially on a race track. Perhaps of even more importance, the Alfa Romeo 4C is a very rare and special car that’s unlike anything else you can buy in this segment. In summary, the Alfa Romeo 4C won’t be for everyone, and we feel it’s too flawed overall to be the best-in-class. However, we do still feel it’s worth having a closer look at – and especially if you’re interested in a less obvious choice for your next sports car.
The Alfa Romeo 4C Coupe is a snug performance coupe even by class standards.
Sports cars are never designed with practicality primarily in mind, but the Alfa Romeo 4C Coupe is a snug performance coupe even by class standards. Whilst the interior space is surprisingly good for a two-seater sports car, with enough leg and head room for six-footers to feel comfortable in, the overall storage capabilities are quite pitiful. There aren’t any door bins, for example, and the glove box consists of a small pouch underneath the dashboard. At 3.7 cubic feet, the trunk space is also pretty meagre, and is only suitable for carrying a small duffle bag at best.
It’s worth pointing out that the doors open quite wide, so tighter parking spots should be best avoided in the Alfa Romeo 4C.
Quality-wise, the Alfa Romeo 4C is okay, but can’t compete with vehicles like the Chevrolet Corvette and Porsche 718 Cayman. The switchgear in particular brings down the more upmarket aura of the cabin, with the flimsy toggles on the center console and the small infotainment setup feeling out of place in a vehicle as expensive as this. Still, most of the main patches are fashioned from higher-grade materials, and the main screen in the dashboard binnacle is of a good size and clear to read. Being so low, the Alfa Romeo 4C was never going to be the easiest vehicle to get in and out of. That said, the narrow door sills and okay-sized door apertures means it’s not too much of a struggle to enter or exit the car’s cabin. However, it’s worth pointing out that the doors open quite wide, so tighter parking spots should be best avoided in the Alfa Romeo 4C.
The Alfa Romeo 4C Coupe is a very nimble car that changes direction responsively.
For the die-hard driving enthusiast, the Alfa Romeo 4C Coupe will be a particularly appealing ownership prospect. With such little mass to carry around (Alfa Romeo claims the vehicle weighs 2,465 lbs – albeit only when the gasoline tank is empty and there aren’t any other fluids in the car’s systems), the Alfa Romeo 4C Coupe is a very nimble car that changes direction responsively and – as a result of the strong brakes – has very impressive deceleration performance. Being so light (on top of having a very rigid, supercar-esque carbon fiber chassis) also means the Alfa Romeo 4C can get away with having a slightly-soft-by-sports-car-standards suspension setup and still be well controlled. Admittedly, the ride can even in its supplest setups (firmer suspension is available as an optional extra) still get a bit fidgety on rougher road surfaces and there is a hint of body lean when you’re driving the vehicle really hard, but overall the Alfa Romeo 4C Coupe is a special car to drive.
The steering doesn’t have any powered-assistance, so it’s incredibly heavy at slower speeds.
There are, however, some quirks of the Alfa Romeo 4C’s driving experience that may put potential buyers off. For instance, whilst the car does have the capacity to be relatively comfortable on the freeway, the intrusive wind noise and tire roar do stop the Alfa Romeo 4C Coupe from being an ideal long distance car. Plus, if you specify either of the two sports exhaust options, the engine note does become a bit boomy at highway speeds. Other areas hold back the Alfa Romeo 4C from being a more usable vehicle. The steering doesn’t have any powered-assistance, so it’s incredibly heavy at slower speeds – though, when you’re on more open stretches of road with higher speed limits, it becomes easier to operate whilst still being well-weighted, with lots of feedback telling you what the front wheels are doing. Visibility is also a mixed bag: whilst the large windshield gives a good view out front, the tiny rear window and incredibly thick rear pillars means it’s incredibly difficult to detect what’s behind you. For buyers who plan on using the Alfa Romeo 4C Coupe as a ‘weekend toy’ instead of a day-to-day car likely won’t be put off by those quirks. However, it’s worth pointing out that the Porsche 718 Cayman is as engaging to drive as the Alfa Romeo 4C whilst still being a usable sports car, with the likes of the Chevrolet Corvette coming in a close second place in this regard.
The sprint to 60mph from rest can be completed in 4.1 seconds, and the claimed top speed of 160mph is rather brisk on top.
The Alfa Romeo 4C Coupe’s 1.75-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine might be one of the smallest you’ll find in any sports car on sale today, but don’t write it off. With outputs of 237-hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, the small four-cylinder unit has more than enough power to call upon – especially when you consider how light the vehicle is. As a result, performance is quite spritely. The sprint to 60mph from rest can be completed in 4.1 seconds, and the claimed top speed of 160mph is rather brisk on top of being on par with what rival vehicles top out at. Being turbocharged, the torque spread of the engine is also quite broad, so in-gear acceleration is pretty impressive. The exhaust note is also appropriately rorty at higher revs, with the acoustics of even the standard exhaust system being quite pleasant. However, unlike some other sports cars like the Porsche 718 Cayman and Audi TT RS, the Alfa Romeo’s four-cylinder unit isn’t amazingly refined at lower revs, and generates a fair bit of noise. With the optional exhaust systems, that drawback becomes especially prominent.
The transmission is a more refined unit, so owners who plan on taking their Alfa Romeo 4C on longer journeys won’t be displeased in this area.
Thankfully, the transmission is a more refined unit, so owners who plan on taking their Alfa Romeo 4C on longer journeys won’t be displeased in this area. Better still, the six-speed automatic also changes gears quite quickly and smoothly in both the fully automatic and the manual modes. If there is a criticism to have, it’s that the Alfa Romeo 4C’s transmission isn’t the finest you’ll find in this class of car – however, as the six-speed unit is a very good transmission, it’s not really a major fault. Efficiency-wise, the Alfa Romeo 4C is quite impressive by sports car standards. With claims of 24mpg in the city and 34mpg on the highway, the Alfa Romeo is actually amongst the more efficient four-cylinder sports cars on the market right now.
In fact, we reckon the $1,400 ‘Coupe Convenience Group’ package is the only one worth considering.
Considering the car’s pared-back nature, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the $55,900 Alfa Romeo 4C Coupe isn’t available with many noteworthy features. Opt for the most sparsely-equipped model you can buy, and you’ll have the bare essentials like stability control and air-conditioning along with fixtures like hill start assist and leather bucket seats. The options list is also fairly brief – and especially if you ignore the mostly cosmetic extras that are available. In fact, we reckon the $1,400 ‘Coupe Convenience Group’ package is the only one worth considering, as the rear parking sensors that come with it will be invaluable considering the compromised rear visibility.
Also worth considering are the two sports exhaust systems.
Buyers who plan on taking their Alfa Romeo 4C regularly on a race track will also be interested in the firmer suspension and leather/microfiber-covered steering wheel as found in the $2,300 ‘Coupe Track Package’. Also worth considering are the two sports exhaust systems (a $500 ‘sports exhaust’ setup, or a $3,000 Akrapovic system that can be louder or more silent depending on the selected driving mode), though it’s worth highlighting that both result in a drony engine note at highway cruising speeds. As the Alfa Romeo 4C is a low-volume sports car, it likely won’t ever be officially crash tested. However, via a combination of its tough carbon fiber chassis, the complement of airbags and the standard-fit stability systems, the car should be able to keep you and your occupant protected in the event of a collision. The Alfa Romeo 4C Coupe also comes with an okay warranty, courtesy of its four-years/50,000-miles basic cover.
The Alfa Romeo 4C isn’t a car for everyone. Those looking for a ‘second car’ performance vehicle that can also be used on a daily basis will be sorely disappointed with the Alfa Romeo 4C, and others likely won’t be fans of how pared-back and basic the vehicle is. For others, though, those particular attributes put the Alfa Romeo 4C right on the top of their shopping lists. Very little at this price point offers a driving experience as focused and as demanding as the Alfa Romeo’s, and the fact it’ll be a very rare car with a dedicated following will likely mean you’ll recoup a lot of the money you originally spent come resale time. In summary, the Alfa Romeo 4C appeals to a very specific type of sports car buyer (i.e. one that primarily wants a performance vehicle that can also be used on a daily basis if needed). However, if you’re primarily looking for a ‘weekend toy’ two-seater coupe or are after a more driver-focused experience, then we definitely feel you should consider the Alfa Romeo 4C Coupe as your next new car purchase.