The Alfa Romeo 4C – the Italian manufacturer’s re-entry to the sports car segment. The drop-top version of the coupe model is available to buy here in the UK, but is it any good? Danni Bagnall finds out. Just the thought of an open-topped Italian sports car is enough to cause a stir in your areas… and Alfa Romeo being back in that market is sure to peak interest. Having first debuted as a concept car at the Geneva Motor Show back in 2011, you’d be forgiven for wondering if the 4C’s production had anything to do with Lotus (I thought the same) but surprisingly it didn’t. Still in Lotus tradition, though, the Italian sports car is powered by a mid-mounted lump and has too been made to be very lightweight.
The Spider uses pretty much everything from the coupe, apart from the new carbonfibre windscreen surround, a new steel cross member to the engine bay, and the new insulated fabric roof. These additions have inevitably added to its overall weight, but take the steel cross member for example – this addition gives the model added stiffness required to accommodate its lack of fixed roof.
There’s no denying that this car looks fantastic and turns all the heads on the road – as you’d expect from the Italian manufacturer. The 4C Spider is distinguished from the coupe with a redesigned rocker cover, Xenon headlamps, along with the more-obvious fabric roof. Despite the brand doing away with the LED headlamps as standard, they’re available as an option for £850.
The rear-wheel drive car features a two-seat layout and is powered by what sounds a measly 1742cc displacement unit. More interestingly, though, this four-cylinder unit is mounted transversely just behind the seats and has been turbocharged to produce a very respectable 237bhp. Respectable in the general sense, of course. When you couple that with the fact that this car weighs in at under a tonne – a dry weight of 940kg to be exact (in Spider form) – then it enters the realm of being stonkingly quick. Granted, converting the 4C from a fixed-head to a convertible has meant the Spider coming in slightly heavier than the coupe. For reference, the coupe weighs in at 45kg less.
With torque figures at 258lb ft. (at 1700rpm) the Spider has a claimed 0-62mph time of 4.5seconds. To put those figures into perspective, the Lotus Exige has a claimed 0-60mph of 4.1seconds. Due to the Spider’s turbocharged four-cylinder unit, throttle response is slightly delayed, but not to the point of causing an issue and it does whir along nicely. The engine is mated to the same six-speed TCT twin-clutch gearbox found in the coupe. The box is responsive, but revs are high so if you’re pootling at 50mph it tends to want to remain in a lower gear than needed. At times like this, it’s maybe wise to change to manual mode to help with fuel consumption. The sound the car makes is just lush. It doesn’t pop, but it has a deep grumble to it. Our test model also featured the £500 option of racing double exhaust tailpipe. As I’ve not driven it on track, I can’t comment, but I imagine it’s bloody awesome. It sticks to the smoothest of roads, but unfortunately probably doesn’t suit the majority of our UK roads. When I say the ‘majority’, I’m talking about the pot holes, the uneven surfaces, the worn sections and the grit surfaces as opposed to beautifully laid tarmac – a rarity in the UK, I’m sure you’ll agree.
On the right roads, this car can’t be faulted. It’s an absolute dream. On the wrong roads, however, is a major upper-body workout in itself. Your biceps, triceps and whatever other ‘ceps are in there will be given a good seeing to as the slightest dip in the road’s surface will throw you off and continue to test you. The car feels like it’s teaching you a lesson. It’s like I can hear it saying: “Are you paying attention?!” Then when it finally lets up and gives me a break, I swear I can hear it laughing. It’s immense fun, though, even in those moments. I think I’d be monumentally exhausted on a very long drive, though. Its weight distribution sits at 40/60, with more of its weight to the rear. The front tyres are also slightly smaller than the tyres to the rear, so braking can create a slight amount of understeer – which is normal for this set-up. Double wishbone suspension is found to the front, while MacPherson struts have been used at the rear. Performance is strong, and thanks to that turbocharger, economy is also pretty good for a car of its type, with around 40mpg average consumption being achieved – in moderate driving, of course.
To the inside, there’s not really much to say. The 4C Spider doesn’t get a great deal – but that’s ok. If you’re looking to buy one for utmost comfort and luxury cruising, move along. But if you’re intrigued what the basic car gets as standard, be prepared to be underwhelmed. It features cup holders, air conditioning, Bluetooth and electric folding mirrors. Leather seats are available as an option – for this set that feature contrasting yellow stitching, you’ll fork out £1780, while the leather dashboard with contrast stitching is available for another £700.
The fabric roof can be removed manually and stored perfectly in the only luggage bay of 110-litres, which is situated to the rear. Which may sound small, but is bigger than the likes of the Porsche Boxster 718 S or Lotus Elise Cup R.
The seats are super comfortable. I, personally, have a generous posterior and it held everything in nicely. Being 5ft. 6inch, too, meant that I actually had some extra space behind my seat, for hand bags shopping and the like – very handy indeed. The steering wheel, if slightly basic – much like the rest of the car – was comfortable. With hands sitting at quarter to three. In keeping with the minimalist feel Alfa is going for with the 4C, there’s no head unit to play music through as standard, but the manufacturer will fit a decent Alpine head unit for you, which has good connectivity to play music from your phone or iPod. I struggled to find the USB port in the first instance, but it’s located under a piece of material that is essentially your glove box. There’s no satnav option, but there’s a 12V socket to the centre console should you wish you plug one in.
Bearing in mind that the Spider is priced at £8,000 more than the coupe model – you’d probably need to be a real ‘wind in your hair’ enthusiast to go for it over the coupe variant. To throw it in there, though; rivals such as the aforementioned or Lotus are both available for just shy of £10,000 less. I love this car, though; it’s fun, even with the workout, and it keeps you on your toes – probably not a motorway-miler, but the perfect weekend runabout. It’s important to understand why you’d buy this car and for me it’d definitely be for the light-weighted fun element. As the Spider model has been on sale for a decent period of time, it seems residual values are very strong. Leather bucket seats and special paint (our yellow is available at a cost of £600) will help retain said residuals
© Danni Bagnall
Photographer: Keith Bridle