Kotto has had a weekend love affair with an Alfa Romeo 4C and fallen for the charismatic little sports car, hard.
f you’ve ever had the pleasure of swimming with sharks, the most striking realisation isn’t that you've jumped into the wrong swimming pool at Blofeld's mansion - it’s the shark's eyes. Underwater, they’re the deepest black; soulless, morose and devoid of any warmth. It’s deeply unnerving staring into the face of something that’s done nearly a century of killing. Curiously,
they reminded me of the carbon fibre headlights on the Alfa Romeo 4C.
However, unlike a shark it emanates soul, fun and warmth. It's a truly beautiful car. To call it a machine would be an insult to the artists behind it. The wide, low body flows delicately in places and dramatically in others. The car could ride like a horse trailer, handle like a barge and accelerate with all the grace of me falling down the stairs in Wetherspoons and I’d still buy it. It’s stunning, but intimidating.
The 4C brings a new personality to the wannabe sub supercar club. A touch of exoticness and some desperately needed flamboyancy. There are times when you wish it had a naturally aspirated Busso V6 and a manual gearbox, but once you overlook the clunky 6sp automated gearbox you can have a lot of somewhat exasperated fun. Don’t expect a rasping, crackly exhaust like the Alfa’s of old, however. At best it’s a weird cross between a 2.0L MX-5 and an Abarth 595. Don’t get me wrong, it sounds well enough, but when you pull up next to a Ferrari F430 or Lamborghini Huracan, you’ll win on looks but as soon as you pull away you’ll be confused with an Audi S3.
The interior is quite bare. Think early Lotus Elise with added flair and you’ll understand. But the (mercifully padded) sports seats, exposed carbon fibre and metalwork lend the 4C a race car vibe, which I like - a lot. The steering wheel is a bit clumsy looking when compared to a Giulia but overall, it’s a wonderful place to be. You can even expect to see over 30mpg on average and over 40mpg on a run, making it one of the most fuel efficient sports cars around, much like the Elise. Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment, but I reckon you could easily daily drive a 4C.
Could you drive it through Germany or France? Certainly very cheaply, but I get the feeling after two hours you’ll be taking regular breaks unless you have an iron posterior or gas strut spine. Something like a Porsche Cayman would be alot better on a continental jaunt, but when you get to Paris people in yellow vests would throw eggs at you. What really matters though is how the 4C really drives. Now, we return to our shark analogy because if you were to latch onto a Great White, bite its dorsal fin and squeeze its testes, the ensuing chaos that follows is basically how a 4C handles. It’s a ball of energy, scrabbling along the tarmac, the back wheels skittering across the surface and the steering wheels bucking in your hands. The wide track is highly sensitive to the roads’ camber, sniffing blood in all directions - anytime you add the throttle into the mix the steering controls you as much as you control it. It takes time to trust the 4C, but once you begin to trust it, a spirited drive becomes truly engaging.
By the end of my time with the car, I’d have sunken my Jaws into anyone who tried to take it away. I pondered how long it would take before the delightful Alfa Romeo employee who came to collect the car was reported missing. It’s a truly worn out cliche, but the 4C really does put a spell on you. It can utterly frustrate the majority of the time, yet the moment it's gone you instantly pine to have it back. Cruising around Bath for my final drive the 4C is splendid, and people seem to like this car - there is none of the associated venom that comes as standard with a prancing horse or raging bull - yet it still looks the part. It makes you feel like a million pounds and the contrast between the deep red bodywork and classical architecture of the city made me want to get out and take a photograph at every set of traffic lights.
Despite its drawbacks, I absolutely adore the 4C. It distills Alfa Romeo’s unmatched ability to infuse human soul into machinery, and I know that if you try one, you’ll fall for it too.