When you take a step back and look at the Alfa Romeo 4C it shouldn’t be a good car. It’s small yet exceedingly wide. It has no power-steering, no manual transmission, it doesn’t even have a trunk.
The rear “window” rattles and the radio looks like something right out of an early 2000’s tuner catalog. The cup holders are designed to hold practically nothing. They are so small and shallow I was left seriously wondering why they even bothered. They aren’t even wide enough to hold your cell phone.
The transmission is dimwitted at slow speeds and won’t hold a hill at idle. So if you’re on a hill at a traffic light you need to pay attention, use your left foot on the brake otherwise you may find yourself rolling your little Italian sports car into the person behind you. From the driver’s seat the little 1.7 liter turbocharged engine sounds like diesel at low rpm.
Plus it’s an Alfa so part of you is always wondering when and where it might decide to stop working, leaving you on the side of the road, stranded, at the mercy of others.
When you use logic and common sense the 4C is not a good car. But you don’t buy a 4C using logic and common sense. If you drive the 4C as God intended, all of its faults are outweighed by the unbelievable driving experience. It is the perfect combination of size, power and Italian design.
The interior is actually very nice and well put together, even if it is a bit simple. The materials and stitching do have a quality feel to them. I’m guessing, in typical Alfa fashion, they finished the interior, stepped back, exclaimed “Perfetto!!”, and called it a job well done. Then, one of the bosses walked up and said, “Great job Anthony! One question though. Where are people going to put their cell phones?” This of course is followed up by much hand-waving and swearing as poor Tony realizes his mistake. But in a clever bit of design they put these leather clad foam pieces in which are there specifically to hold a smart phone. All told the interior is perfect for this car, it’s simplicity makes it beautiful. Too often in today’s sports cars to we get a sensory overload of screens buttons and switches. The simplicity allows you to spend less time fiddling about and more time getting to enjoy the drive.
The Fast and Furious inspired head-unit just doesn’t matter. You have all the stereo you need sitting behind your head. It may only be 1.7 liters. It may only produce 237 horsepower. But that is absolutely all you will ever need. Sure it doesn’t sound great at low rpm, but get her above 4,000 and she sings. When you’re on it the engine makes all the noises you want a turbocharged engine to make: sounds throaty and mean and fantastic. You hear the turbo spool and the waste-gate flutter. 237 horsepower does not sound like a lot, but when you consider the fact that the 4C weighs less than 2500 pounds the little engine has no trouble at all launching you to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds.
Everything about this car screams fun. In heavier cars you can feel the sheer mass of the vehicle trying to pull you off line, trying to defeat the tire’s adhesion to the road. In the Alfa you don’t feel this at all. The short wheelbase and the wide track combine to make the 4C handle flat and stable. You can throw this car into a corner at crazy speed and it grips. Eventually it will understeer but thanks to the phenomenal steering feedback you can feel it coming and adjust accordingly.
If you want to see the on-road impression of the Alfa Romeo 4C, our good friend Subaruwrxfan, has done a Quick Drive on his YouTube channel and can be seen here.
I know it is cliche, and please forgive me, but this is a road legal go-cart. There is no better way to describe the 4C. It goes where you want it when you want it. 237 horsepower is perfect for this car. Enough to quickly get the car up and going, but not so much that you have to worry about over powering a corner. The 4C might be the perfect driver’s car. It is unimaginably difficult for me to say this about a car with only 2 pedals but the way this thing drives is very hard to ignore.
It is hard to sum up what is one of the best cars I’ve ever driven. Too much praise and it sounds like hyperbole. To little and I am not giving the car the just praise it deserves. The best way I can describe the 4C is this: Immediately after driving the 4C I drove the McLaren 570GT. For all its engineering brilliance and pathological attention to detail after driving it, I found myself wanting to go back to the 4C. Simply put the 570GT is too good for the road. To have any fun you have to go at speeds that will have you arrested and sent away for a million years. You can have a really, really, really good time in the 4C without the specter of indefinite incarceration.