2018 Alfa Romeo 4C Review

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2018
The Car Connection
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Kirk Bell Kirk Bell Editor
January 18, 2018

Sexy, light, and balanced, the 2018 Alfa Romeo 4C is at home when pushed hard. It sure isn’t practical or comfortable for everyday driving.

The 2018 Alfa Romeo 4C, offered as a coupe or semi-convertible called Spider, is a scaled-down supercar in more ways than one. First, it is simply smaller than Ferraris and Lamborghinis. Second, in price, it comes in way below those cars. And third, it undercuts them in weight, thanks to a carbon-fiber tub and a turbo-4.

We rate the mid-engine 4C a 5.8 overall. We give it high marks for handling, driver feedback, and power. We subtract points for its tiny cabin, rough ride, lack of amenities, and cut-rate materials. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

For 2018, the 4C offers a front fascia with carbon-fiber vents and yellow stitching for the black leather seat option.

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The Alfa Romeo 4C is best bought as a specialty car that is used for fun. It looks special, with its low, menacing stance, scoops, and curves. Lines flow from the triangular grille up front, and pronounced rear haunches give the look of a predator ready to pounce.

The 4C comes alive on a twisty road or racetrack. The turbo-4 puts out 237 horsepower and sends it to the rear wheels via a 6-speed dual-clutch transmission. The mid-engine layout gives it great balance and the light weight lends amazing agility. Add in great grip and the car is purpose-built for a racetrack.

The manual steering that is so great at speed, however, is tough to deal with at lower speeds. Team that with cramped seats and a harsh ride and this car is a pain to drive on a regular basis.

Get inside and the 4C has very little to offer. The materials are low-end, it has few amenities, and the radio looks like it came from the Best Buy clearance bin a decade ago or more.

Not surprisingly, the 4C also lacks any of today’s active safety features. Don’t expect it to ever be crash tested.

Fuel economy, however, is pretty good for a sporty car at 28 mpg combined.

7

2018 Alfa Romeo 4C

Styling

Low slung, sleek, and stunning on the outside, but simple on the inside, the 2018 Alfa Romeo 4C is one of the most striking cars on the road today.

The Alfa Romeo 4C is among the best-looking cars on the market. It sits low, with a menacing look. It’s festooned with scoops, curves, and a trianglular grille with a corresponding overbite. It looks sleek, sexy, and exotic rolling down the road, and we rate it a 7 for styling, though that would be higher if its minimalist cabin had more design flair. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Alfa Romeo says the 4C’s design was inspired by the 33 Stradale of the 1960s and other race cars of that era, but we see some Ferrari Dino in the mix. Of course, all of these are positive influences.

The 4C presents as a scaled-down supercar. The nose comes to a point at the triangular grille, and those lines flow back into the hood. The front end also features pronounced air inlets and dark oblong headlights. The body sides are replete with scoops, cat-eye side glass, and flowing lines that kick up at the rear wheels into the haunches of a predator stalking its prey. At the rear, the car has round taillights and a spoiler.

The profile of the coupe flows more naturally than the Spider’s, but both are appealing. The coupe has a transparent engine cover, much like a Ferrari, while the 4C Spider features a targa bar, a lower rear deck, and a fabric top that can be removed and stored in a bag in the trunk. Removing and installing the top takes a few minutes.

The 4C’s cramped cabin has very little design aesthetic, but it does feature a flat-bottom steering wheel, red accents (plus new yellow stitching for 2018), and some exposed carbon-fiber surfaces. The hard, low-grade plastics are textured to appear like road surfaces. The gauges are digital, and they change color based on the mode chosen via the DNA switch: red for Dynamic, gray for Natural and blue for All-weather.

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2018 Alfa Romeo 4C

Performance

The 4C is at its best when driven hard on a track or twisty road, and it rewards drivers with more feedback than any car on the market.

The 2018 Alfa Romeo 4C is about one thing: performance. If you're not driving it hard you probably aren’t having a good time. It takes a back-to-basics approach to performance that provides a lot of feel, but also requires a lot of effort. It’s very agile, but rides hard and makes a lot of noise.

We rate it an 8 for performance. We add points for its quickness, agility, track performance, and braking, but subtract a point for ride. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The Alfa Romeo 4C excels in terms of handling, steering, and braking, and that’s enabled by its weight and balance due to its mid-engine layout. Built around a carbon-fiber tub, the 2018 Alfa Romeo 4C weighs in at just 2,465 pounds, making it 500 pounds lighter than the Porsche 718 Boxster, 830 pounds trimmer than the Chevrolet Corvette, and 900 pounds lighter than the Jaguar F-Type.

Adding lightness is the 1.7-liter turbo-4, which huffs out 237 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Without a muffler, it’s a raucous engine that exhibits a bit of turbo lag, though it still propels this mini supercar from 0-60 mph in just 4.5 seconds. It feels even faster due to how low the 4C sits to the ground.

The 4C sends its power to the rear wheels through a 6-speed dual-clutch transmission. While we mourn the lack of a manual in a car with this much of an analog feel, the dual-clutch is great for track work, especially with the DNA selector in the Dynamic or Race modes that hold shifts longer and downshift quicker. Race mode turns off the stability control, but without that safety net we don’t recommend it for use on the street or in the hands of an inexperienced driver.

From the driver’s seat, the 4C provides a lot a feel but it also requires a lot of effort. It has manual steering, so low-speed turns build arm strength, but at speed the feedback is unmatched. The floor-hinged pedals (just like a city bus, oddly enough) allow for a high degree of subtlety and control. Jump on the brakes, though, and the weight moves forward from the rear, which can make the car squirm and shimmy while slowing down. Coupe or Spider, it offers amazing agility, and we can’t tell the difference between the body styles. They are, after all, based on the same carbon-fiber tub.

The suspension, largely made from aluminum, features double wishbones up front and MacPherson struts in the rear. The ride is stiff with the base suspension and the standard staggered 17- and 18-inch wheels, but a Track package adds even stiffer dampers and anti-roll bars, and buyers can opt for 18- and 19- inch wheels. With any choice, the 4C has a lot of grip to hunker down through corners. Just like other mid-engine cars, though, it’s not wise to hit the brakes mid-turn unless you want to go for a spin.

Those brakes are 12 inches in diameter up front with four-piston calipers and 11.5 inches in the rear with two-piston pinchers. They are vented and the fronts are Brembos. Thanks to the car’s light weight, the 4C stops from 60 mph in less than 100 feet, Alfa claims. The stopping power is substantial, but the brake pedal feels hard and has little travel, making it harder to modulate than the other pedals.

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3

2018 Alfa Romeo 4C

Comfort & Quality

Tight quarters, low-rent materials, and few creature comforts leave Alfa Romeo 4C drivers with no choice to concentrate on driving.

Getting into the Alfa Romeo 4C is not easy and spending any amount of time inside it isn’t either, unless you are driving hard on a twisty road. Otherwise, it’s cramped, lacks storage and creature comforts, has questionable materials, and can fit only two. Some of these traits are appropriate for a sports car, but we give it a 3 for comfort and quality, nonetheless. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Alfa Romeo has a singular mindset with the 4C and it doesn’t involve passenger comfort. The car is built around a carbon-fiber tub that demands wide door sills and leaves just enough room for two with little left over for creature comforts.

Those sills and the 4C’s low stance make getting in and out a chore, though if you do it 25 times you’ll build core strength. Once inside, head room is good, but the seats will pinch the backside of all but the slimmest occupants. The air conditioner box interferes with passenger leg room, and there is little to no storage space; heck, there isn’t even a glove box. The trunk has only 3.7 cubic feet of storage space, making it hard to take even a carry-on bag to the airport.

Interior quality is low-end as well. The dash and door panels are low-grade plastic, unless you spend for the Interior Leather package, and then that plastic is covered with leather. Even then the mirror controls are low-rent and the radio looks like the one your college roommate put in his Grand Am back in the day.

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2018 Alfa Romeo 4C

Safety

The 2018 Alfa Romeo 4C skips today’s active safety features and it hasn’t been crash tested. Don’t crash it.

Production of the Alfa Romeo 4C is very limited and therefore it will likely never be crash tested. Without crash-test scores, we can’t give it a rating for safety. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The 2018 Alfa Romeo 4C comes with dual front airbags, front side airbags, a driver’s knee airbag, and hill-start assist. Rear park assist is the only safety option. No active safety features are available.

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4

2018 Alfa Romeo 4C

Features

The 2018 Alfa Romeo 4C is short on equipment but it does offer some additional go-fast goodies to further enhance its mission.

The 2018 Alfa Romeo 4C is a back-to-basics sports car that isn’t about creature comforts. It’s sparsely equipped, with an old school radio, and a few options that make it a better track car. We give it a 4 for features, recognizing that it performs its main mission but offers few of the niceties today’s buyers have come to expect. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The 4C is offered as a coupe or Spider convertible with a lift-off top that stores in the tiny trunk. Both body styles are equipped essentially the same.

Standard equipment consists of air conditioning, automatic-off headlights, cloth sport seats with four-way manual adjustments and a carbon-fiber structure, a leather-wrapped flat-bottom steering wheel, power windows and locks, a 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster with telemetry and a G meter, and staggered 17- and 18-inch alloy wheels on summer performance tires. For entertainment, the 4C has an Alpine AM/FM/CD radio with satellite and HD radio, a USB port, an auxiliary input jack, and a 12-volt power outlet.

Options start with a Convenience group that adds cruise control, an alarm, and rear park assist. A Carbon Fiber Interior package adds carbon fiber for the interior vents, instrument panel bezel and surround, and shift bezel. A Leather Interior package adds a leather-wrapped instrument panel and door panels, plus black (with red or new yellow accent stitching) or red leather seats and a leather storage bag.

Those who want more performance can choose the Track package, which adds a racing suspension with unique front and rear sway bars, stiffer shocks, a flat-bottom steering wheel with a microfiber insert, a carbon-fiber rear spoiler, and carbon-fiber exterior mirrors. Also offered are staggered 18- and 19-inch wheels; xenon headlights; brake calipers painted red, black, silver, or yellow; an Akrapovic exhaust; and a premium Alpine audio system.

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2018 Alfa Romeo 4C

Fuel Economy

At 28 mpg combined, the 2018 Alfa Romeo 4C is more efficient than any non-electrified supercar and most sports cars.

With 4-cylinder power, the 2018 Alfa Romeo 4C is rather efficient for a sports car, and we rate it a 7 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The EPA rates the Alfa Romeo 4C at 24 mpg city, 34 highway, 28 combined for either the coupe or the Spider. Few sports cars can match it, and if you consider the carbon-fiber 4C a supercar, which isn’t a stretch, no rival that isn’t electrified can meet those numbers.

The only drawback is the 4C requires premium fuel.

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$55,900
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5.8
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 7
Performance 8
Comfort & Quality 3
Safety N/A
Features 4
Fuel Economy 7
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