You don’t buy a car from Alfa Romeo with your head, you buy one because they excite you and they look great and you want something a little alternative. But the problem is, for me at least, Alfas of recent years haven’t been that exciting.
Which partly explains why I was sceptical of the 4C. Yes, a carbonfibre tub sounds very cool, but look at those lights. It’s a little overdesigned, a bit try-hard. And who in their right mind would spend £45,000 on one when you can bag a Porsche Cayman for less?
But then I saw one in the metal for the first time. It was parked in our car park, surrounded by absolutely massive, er, Ford Ka and the like (for a modern car, it’s tiny). It looked cool – kinda futuristic, but begging to be jumped in and taken for a spin.
I didn’t, but I did jump in the passenger seat for a blast with Sean.
First thoughts are that the interior is very different to the Porsche’s – more like a Lotus, really. You get the impression that Alfa blew its budget on the chassis, and the interior was a bit of an afterthought. You sit low – like, really, really low. And as Sean started it up, an elderly lady in the next town had a heart attack.
Sorry about that, dear. You see, our car was fitted with the optional £3,000 racing pack with adds a sports exhaust, a stiffer suspension, bigger alloys and an annoying (Sean tells me) sports steering wheel. And the bark of the exhaust is fierce. It’s a bit chav, very un-Harpenden and would no doubt get a little annoying on long journeys. But for a weekend blast, it adds to the specialness.
‘Special and immense’
Special is what this car does well. There are very few cars out there for £45,000 that would put as big of a smile on your face as this thing. For a start, the acceleration is immense. At 4.5 seconds to 62mph, it’s over a second quicker than a Cayman – and quicker even than a Cayman S. And sitting as low to the ground as you do, in such a basic cabin, boy do you feel it.
What I really like about this car is the engine. It’s got a 1.75-litre turbocharged motor – that’s tiny, considering its power output of 240hp. Combined with a dry weight of 895kg it’ll apparently return 41.5mpg and emit just 157g/km CO2. But these figures aren’t what important – it’s the fact that you can get so much excitement from such a small, efficient engine. It’s cars like this that are the future for people who like driving, I reckon.
Would I buy one? Well, as a weekend toy it’s certainly more exciting than a Cayman. And if I did buy one, I’d be very happy with my decision – something I don’t think I could say about any other Alfa Romeo. But there’s one issue: the Lotus Elise. You can buy an S for £37,150 – a good chunk less than the Alfa, and it’s practically as quick.