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#RoadTest: The #Alfa Romeo 4C Coupe

Date: 29 Jul 2016 Author Type: Registered Journalist
Author: Gary Mackay

Many people have forgotten or weren’t around when, ‘you weren’t a petrol head unless you had owned an Alfa’. Alfa was one of the apex brands not so long ago with many technological innovations brought to the passenger vehicle segment like the Double Overhead CAM, the Electric Fuel Injection System, the Common Rail Diesel Engine and the list goes on and on and this is why the 4C is such an important vehicle for Alfa in South Africa as it pegs its return as an awe-inspiring innovative brand.

As a Daily Car?

The 4C is an iconic car; you love it and hate it. As an everyday driver, she’s like a supermodel in stilettos, you want to show her off, but practicality is a problem. It’s tough to get in and out of, its super low, and the door entry and exit angles are too tight, so parking in any normal vertical style parking is a problem with anyone parked next to you. I always made sure to search for parking at the end of the row to solve that problem.

Once inside, the cockpit it is rather comfortable with a great seating position and the cabin layout is very simple and driver focused. The steering wheel was designed specifically for me, or at least that's how it felt, with its flat bottom, perfect grip positioning and flappy paddles beaconing, I really wanted to take it with me. The digital dash is a nice touch and is also simple, neat and colourful and has all the related information visible at a glance. Gearlever? Nope, no gearlever just some simple buttons, ‘A/M’ for Automatic/Manual, ‘1’ for first gear or drive, ‘N’ Neutral and ‘R’ Reverse, while alongside is the DNA selector for Alfa’s driving modes. There is an aftermarket head unit installed, which has a few mod cons like Bluetooth, etc. it’s not great, but then neither are the speakers. There’s virtually no space for oddments in the cabin. Just an elastic pocket under the dash on the passenger’s side, a small elastic pocket behind the centre console that will hold a cellphone and another elastic pocket behind the seat. Boot space is at 110 litres located at the rear of the car situated just behind the engine, enough for a two average size tog bags but no more and no the bonnet does not open either there’s pretty much just the suspension setup under there.

The ride, as expected in a low slung sports coupe, is hard and every bump in the road is not your friend. There’s no power-steering, but as a result, the direct steering action gives good feedback from the road, which is good for handling but not for comfort. The lack of power steering saves weight and provides the 4C with better hardcore handling, but it does get heavy at parking speeds.

As a Driver’s Car?

Well, with that aside and obviously not what this car is all about and speaking as a petrol head, I absolutely love this car, it ticks all the boxes, its loud and brash, simple yet technological, scary but safe, solid and light and an amazingly sexy looking car, oh and you can take her straight down to the track off the showroom floor and rip yourself a new one.

From the moment you see the 4C, the stunning design attracts you to every curve and vent and you find yourself trying to compare it to something and soon realise it’s totally unique in design yet still constituting Alfa’s racing heritage / DNA and aerodynamics throughout.

Opening the door and immediately noticeable is the carbon-fibre construction which is rigid and light, a mere 895kgs is all the entire car weighs with the carbon monocoque weighing in at only 65kgs. Its only 1.18m high and just over 1.8m wide with a length of just under 4m and as they say, ‘dynamite comes in small packages’ and boy does it.

How does it perform?

This little 1742 cc Turbo aluminium engine, which in this chassis, produces supercar performance figures propelling the 4C to 100kph in 4.5 seconds although in our tests we managed runs of 4.2 seconds on the coast. Producing 176kW at 6 000rpm and 350Nm between 2 100rpm and 4 000rpm with 80% available from 1 800rpm. All this sounds ok on paper but nothing prepares you for the exhilaration of the acceleration and all-encompassing sound from the 4C. From just starting the engine let alone driving it, the sound produced from the engine and exhaust system is absolutely wild and incomparable, it’s the best sound from any 4 cylinder production car I’ve experienced.

Frugal is not a word to describe any supercar, so another feather in its cap is its ability to achieve a combined fuel consumption of 6.8L/100km… many supercars can do that?

Driving modes are selected using Alfa’s DNA selector and the driver can select Dynamic, Natural and All-Weather conditions which adjust the vehicle’s overall responsiveness so it’s pretty much the usual comfort versus sport mode settings. In the 4C there is another option for ‘Race Mode’ which isn’t listed on the selector and requires some playing to engage but once engaged all hell breaks loose and the car becomes all racecar and track ready. In the basic modes like All-Weather and Natural the vehicle is a lot more chilled and is more manageable yet the tones from the engine are still very emphatic.

How does she handle?

Phenomenally! I would love to have taken the 4C to the track and put it through its paces but just driving around town and on the highway, the feedback generated from the perfectly balanced, mid-engined 4C, provided more than enough information for me to realise that you are limited by only your fear in this car.

Would I buy one?

The 4C for me is an enthusiast’s car and if I could afford the R1mil+ price tag, hell yes, I would have one in the garage in a heartbeat. Where ever you go in this car you are noticed and I don’t think there was one person that passed by without a ‘kid in a toy store’ face. This vehicle creates awe and want in a brand and that’s exactly what the doctor ordered.

The 4C comes standard with a 3 year / 100 000km warranty and maintenance plan and is currently retailing for R1 050 000. *(price at July 2015)
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