Home' Motoring Plus : September 21st 2016 Contents 2 —THE NELSON MAIL Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Same heart, different beat
The same 1750 powerplant propels the mid-
engined Alfa Romeo 4C and the QV hot-hatch.
David Linklater drives them both.
Alfa’s Giulietta QV
and 4C have the
engine, but in very
No power steering, no reprieve from the turbo whoosh/clatter behind your
head. It’s a no-compromise sports car.
At a glance
Base price: $139,990.
Powertrain and performance:
1.8 -litre petrol-turbo four, 177kW/
350Nm, 6-speed automated dual-
clutch transmission, RWD,
Combined economy 6.8 litres per
100km, 0-100kmh 4.5 seconds.
Vital statistics: 3990mm long,
1184mm high, 2380mm
wheelbase, luggage capacity one
decent-sized backpack, 18-inch
alloy front wheels with 205/40
tyres front and 19-inch alloy
wheels with 235/35 tyres rear.
We like: Sensational styling, raw
character, sense of involvement.
We don’t like: Doesn’t like going
slowly, nervous on bumpy Kiwi
roads, no cabin storage.
ou could say Alfa Romeo
has finally created
another proper sports car
with the 4C. You could
say that, but I wouldn’t.
To all intents and purposes the
4C is a baby supercar. It fits the
template of the genre perfectly,
albeit in 7/8ths-scale. It’s built
around a carbon-fibre tub, it has a
mid-mounted engine and the
driver dangles just centimetres
above the ground, in an effort to
get the centre of gravity as low as
The styling is sexy but it’s also
properly aerodynamic, the result
of much work in the wind tunnel
by Alfa’s Centro Stile division.
In terms of design and
character, the 4C has much more
in common with a Ferrari 488
GTB or McLaren 650S than it does
with a Mazda MX-5 or Toyota 86.
It’s not a million miles away from
a Lotus Elise, but more exotic and
certainly more rare.
There are just seven 4Cs in
New Zealand and the one you see
here is pretty special even in
terms of that tiny sample size. It’s
the 4C Launch Edition, which
adds detail touches like carbon-
fibre for the headlight surrounds,
side mirrors and spoiler, but also
brings serious stuff from the
Racing Pack option list with
stiffer suspension, a bonkers
exhaust and upsized wheels on
mixed Pirelli track-focused tyres.
The Launch Edition costs $10k
more than the standard 4C coupe.
Never mind that the 4C was
actually launched three years ago
The 4C is Alfa’s message to the
world: we’re making proper
drivers’ cars again. This one’s
impossibly niche, but the idea is
that the same ethos translates
into more mainstream models
like the rear-drive Giulia sedan,
which is set for Kiwi launch in
April next year.
The drama starts with the 4C
long before you hit the road. To
get in you have to slide over the
high sill of the carbon tub, then
drop right down into the seat. The
driving position is steeply
reclined, legs outstretched so far
it feels like your feet are pressed
against the front bumper.
Twist the key and the 1.8 -litre
turbocharged engine erupts into a
purposeful, lumpy idle. It’s hard
to believe something so small can
be so loud. Powertrain noise
surrounds you always, the turbo
whooshing and popping like an
old-school rally car. It’s raw, raw,
The twin-clutch transmission
(TCT) is turgid in Auto mode; you
have to click it into manual and
shift using the paddles. Indeed,
the whole car seems hopeless at
anything other than serious
speed: the steering is heavy and a
combination of that stiff structure
and rock-hard suspension has the
car creaking and groaning over
No shortage of street theatre,
though: people hear you coming
and they certainly watch you
Truth be told, the 4C’s chassis
might be too aggressive for Kiwi
roads, even at open-road speeds.
The nose darts around through
bumpy corners and the tyres are
easily distracted by changing
camber. It might be easier to
manage in non-Launch
specification... but who wants a
dumbed-down 4C? You have to
work at it, but there are precious
few cars at any price that provide
such an intimate connection with
the road surface.
The steering is so high-geared
that you hardly ever have to shift
your hand position through
corners. The incredible lightness
of being 925kg means that the 4C
is incredibly agile and responsive,
although there’s seldom a chance
to relax. It’s not quite supercar-
fast. The 4C hits 100kmh in 4.5
seconds, which is quick on paper.
But it’s breathtaking from inside
the car, because you’re sitting so
low to the ground.
You get the Alfa DNA drive-
mode system, with three settings:
Dynamic, Natural and All-
Except there are really four,
because if you hold the button on
Dynamic for what seems like a
very long time you get Race,
which switches all electronic
stability aids off. This car is born
to do track days.
We couldn’t resist bringing
another Alfa on this journey. The
Giulietta is mainstream Alfa, a
rival to the Volkswagen Golf. But
the $54,990 QV hot-hatch got a
boost with the addition of the 4C
engine and a similar TCT last
year; of course, in the QV it’s
mounted east-west and in the
front, driving the front wheels.
Giulietta is 300kg heavier and
takes another two seconds to
reach 100kmh. Power and torque
are almost the same (the 4C has
an extra 10Nm) but the
calibration and exhaust are very
different. It’s not half as mad. But
the 1750 engine has given the little
QV more of an edge than it
previously had, even as it winds
down towards a replacement
model. The Giulietta has all the
comforts of home.
The 4C has hardly any: the
cabin structure is mostly naked
carbon fibre, with a sparse
dashboard that houses a tiny,
racing-style instrument cluster.
There’s little storage space, save a
small pocket on the passenger’s
side for a phone and a minute
leather case-with-buckle mounted
between the front seats.
There are token gestures
towards civility: aftermarket
Alpine stereo, crude Bluetooth
system with microphones
sprouting from the windscreen
lining. Both are useless in the
raucous cabin and should be done
away with immediately.
If the idea of a car without a
stereo or Bluetooth connectivity
puts you off, then you’re probably
not 4C-ready. That’s okay,
because this is an extreme form of
entertainment that’s not for
everybody. Might we suggest a
Giulietta QV instead?
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