Compact roadster offers supercar thrills for less

Compact roadster offers supercar thrills for less

Just as there is a little lion in every house cat and wolf within a puppy, the Alfa Romeo 4C brings a taste of Ferrari for a fraction of the cost. Priced from $99,000 plus on-roads in open-top Spider form, the 4C costs less than 20 per cent of what Ferrari asks for its 488 GTB Spider. Power comes from the 1.75-litre four-cylinder turbo (177kW/350Nm) it shares with the Giulietta hot hatch. The 0-100km/h dash takes 4.5 seconds and its top speed is 258km/h, adequate numbers for a sports car but well below par for Alfa’s “supercar” claim. Thirst is 6.9L/100km.

2. INTEGRITY AT ITS CORE

Engineering is key to Alfa Romeo’s insistence on supercar status. The carbon-fibre chassis reinforces the car’s pedigree every time you open a door to find its shimmering core. Finished with a coat of lacquer, the exposed structure looks sensational. Alfa Romeo shares serious company here. For cars sold in Australia, not even Ferrari employs carbon-fibre structures — these are found in a handful of cars including the Lamborghini Aventador and McLaren 720S. Warranty is three years/150,000km — and servicing is a supercar-like $6625 for five years.

3. EVERY DRIVE IS A THRILL …

And that’s not always a good thing. The 4C shines on smooth and dry roads, hungrily scything into corners with delicious mid-engine balance before zooming away to a rally car soundtrack. Get it right and the Alfa 4C is a riot. There may be just four cylinders but they combine to hit notes like an attention-starved prima donna. Air huffs, whooshes and sneezes through the turbo before banging and crackling through one of the least restrictive exhausts on the road. Rutted surfaces and slippery conditions expose the Spider’s shortcomings. It follows every groove and ripple in the road, requiring you to fight its default path with a firm hand. The rear jumps out of line in damp conditions and stodgy unassisted steering makes it tricky to correct a slide. Wooden-feeling brakes don’t help the cause.

4. THE CABIN FEELS LIKE A RACER

Having clambered into the low-slung cockpit, the driver is met by a simple two-spoke steering wheel with paddle-shifters for the six-speed dual-clutch auto. Minimal steering wheel adjustment means some customers have to compromise their driving position. There are no carpets and thin seats trade comfort for cornering support. Tech includes a compact digital dashboard and simple audio head unit. There are five airbags but forget about satnav, reversing camera or Apple CarPlay. Likewise, active cruise control and blind spot assistance are off the menu. Storage is minimal, 110L, so pack light.

5. IT’S JUST YOU AND THE CAR

That’s unlikely to be a problem for folks attracted to the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider. It’s an antidote to forgettable modern motors, stripping away tech that doesn’t directly enhance performance driving. No doubt a tabby or golden retriever is much easier to live with than the wild ancestors — this spider is hard work. A Ferrari is better-mannered and significantly faster. The Alfa is unforgettable in the right circumstances, giving a taste of supercar ownership for a fraction of the cost — but it’s also one of the most compromised cars on the road and strictly for only the most committed enthusiasts.

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