Friday - - Leisure Motoring - 4C 1.75-litre four-cyl turbo Sixspeed twin-clutch, RWD 240bhp @ 6,000rpm 350Nm @ 2,200rpm 250kph 4.5sec TBC Phe­nom­e­nal to drive, beau­ti­fully bal­anced han­dling Ex­pen­sive, im­prac­ti­cal

mode – there’s even launch con­trol help­ing the 4C get to 100kph in 4.5 sec­onds, al­though I never tried it. The cor­ners came much too quickly…

Alfa raised the bar with a carbon tub weigh­ing 65kg and al­loy sub­frames front and rear car­ry­ing the front dou­ble-wish­bone sus­pen­sion and the en­gine in the back with trick MacPher­son struts. If you’re think­ing why no dou­ble-wish­bones, re­mem­ber that Porsche’s Cay­man uses MacPher­sons too, for pack­ag­ing rea­sons more than any­thing.

And I couldn’t help but think of the im­mense chal­lenge of beat­ing a Porsche Cay­man lead­ing up to this drive, but re­ally the Alfa 4C is much more of an Ital­ian Lo­tus Ex­ige. It’s not a ‘full’ or com­plete car like a Cay­man. That’s be­cause the 4C is de­fined by es­sen­tial­ity. There is noth­ing in here, or out there, that’s un­nec­es­sary. Ex­cept for the achingly pretty looks... They aren’t en­tirely nec­es­sary, but then again it is Ital­ian, and it is an Alfa. Even so, the com­pos­ite body’s con­tours sim­ply em­brace the oily bits un­der­neath. In this colour it’s al­most as if a 4C run­ning chas­sis is still stand­ing dis­played on a show stage, with a satin red veil draped over it.

Any­way, it’s much too small for any talk of Porsches – al­most 400mm shorter than a Cay­man but wider and sig­nif­i­cantly lower. Nat­u­rally in­side there is very lit­tle room with that 2,380mm wheel­base es­pe­cially if you’re a pas­sen­ger. The seat ad­justs pro­vided you carry an Allen key ev­ery­where and have plenty of time be­fore de­par­ture. The driver’s seat moves fore and aft but, again, needs a me­chanic for height ad­just­ment. So sort it out for once and never touch it again.

The same goes for your part­ners and be­long­ings. There’s no room here for any­thing, bar­ring my note­book and pen. Ob­ses­sive weight sav­ing car­ries on to the ma­te­ri­als (cheap), pad­ding and in­su­la­tion ( just about nonex­is­tent with the in­ces­sant sound of the four-cylin­der ring­ing around the cabin) and the ugly two-spoke steer­ing wheel, which sheds a third spoke ‘be­cause race­car’. The stan­dard non-leather seats are cov­ered in re­cy­cled plas­tic bot­tles, and they tend to be pretty light­weight.

So a car that weighs about a tonne with flu­ids and a di­et­ing driver, with such com­pact di­men­sions and a stiff carbon tub and 240 horse­power, has no right to dis­ap­point with its per­for­mance. You ex­pect ab­sorbed, en­grossed driv­ing fo­cus, and the Alfa 4C does all that.

It’s al­most like it’s an ar­tic­u­lated ve­hi­cle. You soon gain so much trust in the 4C’s grip that you just go flat-out ev­ery­where.

Alfa would’ve had no ex­cuses if the 4C dis­ap­pointed as a sportscar. Es­pe­cially since it’s so cen­trally fo­cused it’s ab­so­lutely no good at just about ev­ery­thing else. It’s un­com­fort­able, it’s loud, it’s se­ri­ously cramped (the cen­tre con­sole will keep dead-legging your pas­sen­ger), there is no stor­age room, it’s not af­ford­able, it’s not lux­u­ri­ous, it’s im­prac­ti­cal...

It’s bril­liant.

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