The Alfa Romeo 4C is a real looker that you might just fall in love with - Richard Hammond - Mirror Online
The Mirror's motoring columnist believes Alfa Romeo may have at last produced a car to rival its stunners of the 60s and 70s
Alfa Romeo. Alfa Romeo. What a wonderful sounding name it is. Unlike Audi, which sounds like a shouted command.
Thereís nothing much sexy about the name BMW, although itís a good job that the name shortened from Bayerische Motoren Werke is used and not the whole lot.
If Alfa Romeo made really good cars, then everyone would buy one because even the badge looks lovely.
When I was a kid, I lusted after Alfasuds, which were almost hot hatches before Volkswagen invented the GTI.
I had Corgi and Matchbox Alfa Romeo Stradale 33 racing cars that looked gorgeous even after theyíd crashed into the corner of the washing machine for the hundredth time.
The trouble is, between the lovely classic Alfas of the 60s and early 70s and today, the company has knocked out some really average motors.
The 156 and 159 saloons had lots of style and were good to drive, but by this time horrors like the Alfa Arna (a joint project with Nissan) had ruined Alfaís image. But now we have the Alfa Romeo 4C, and things might be about to change.
I donít need to tell you that itís a stunning looking car because youíre looking at a photo of it and can see for yourself. If you think itís pig-ugly, you might need to go to Specsavers.
You can also tell from the piccy that the 4C is mid-engined, but you knew that already because weíve been writing news stories about the 4C ever since it appeared at the Geneva motor show a couple of years ago.
The engine is Alfaís 1750cc unit (to save weight, its crankcase is aluminium) complete with turbocharger and 237bhp, and the gearbox is a six-speed dual clutch unit activated by paddles behind the flat-bottomed steering wheel.
The really sexy bit, however, is the chassis, which is carbon fibre. At £45,000 the 4C is not cheap, but unless Iím wrong itís the lowest-priced carbon fibre-tubbed car ever.
If you like peace and quiet while you listen to opera in your car, youíd best steer clear of this Alfa.
The engine makes loads of sucking and whistling noises as its turbo does its work and produces loads of mechanical noise when itís working hard. All of this you can hear as high volume booming in the spartan cabin.
Carbon fibre isnít the best material for damping out noise and I donít think Alfaís engineers, worried about adding weight to the car, will have put much extra sound-deadening material into the 4Cís nooks and crannies.
But if you wanted comfort, you would buy a secondhand S-Class Merc. Or maybe even a Porsche Cayman.
The Porsche is the 4Cís natural rival and, on paper, it trounces the Alfa. But cars like these are chosen by the heart, not by the result of sums and adding up.
The Alfa will drive you mad on the motorway with its noise, but driving it on a motorway is like putting a racing yacht into the village pond.
This car is for driving on twisty roads in Wales, Yorkshire and Scotland and not the M6.
The steering is unassisted because the 4C is light enough not to need power steering. The ride is stiff Ė but then, in a car like this, youíd expect it to be. And you wouldnít expect much of a boot, either, so a handbag-like 110 litres shouldnít bother you either.
All of the first delivery of 4Cs to the UK have been snapped up, but no doubt Alfa is busy making more of them. Actually, the little mid-engined beauty is built in Maseratiís factory, which adds a bit of glamour.
As lovely and desirable as it is, what Alfa Romeo really needs to do is build a car that is so cool and beautiful that buying an Audi A4 instead would be like an act of madness.
Alfa Romeo 4C
Price : £45,000
Engine : 1742cc, four-cylinder, 237bhp
0-62mph : 4.5sec
Fuel consumption : 41.5mpg
Porsche Cayman: One of the best sports cars in the world and almost perfect. For everyday driving, unlike the 4C. £39,694
Lotus elise 1.8s: Fabulous to drive, light and agile. The Alfaís closest rival in spirit. £37,205
Peugeot RCZ-R : Peugeotís hot new RCZ. Great looks, fairly practical and reasonable money. Pity that itís front-wheel drive. £31,995