Review: Alfa Romeo 4C Spider

Alfa Romeo 4C Spider

There is good reason to wonder why anyone would buy an Alfa Romeo 4C Spider.

It’s barely big enough to get a human being in, let alone anything as exorbitant as a bag. And that’s ironic, because they give buyers an upholstery-matched bag as a sweetener.

There is virtually no boot space. Some of the interior design is very Italian – which is to say the product more of emotion rather than of good sense. ‘I know, we really need a cup holder,’ one can imagine the impassioned designer saying. ‘Let’s put it by the driver’s elbow.’

And then there is the name – not ‘Spider’, which has a long and prestigious automotive history, but ‘4C’. It sounds like a school class.

Alfa Romeo 4C Spider is a True Spider

Indeed, there is something very toy-like about the 4C 50th anniversary edition – recognising the 1966 Alfa Romeo Spider; something very spider-like too, the way it scuttles around and, like some arachnid species, has that unexpected, jump-inducing turn of speed.

Stripped Down but Fun

Certainly, anyone looking for luxuries will be sorely disappointed. But that, if you like, is the point of this compact car. It is fun, fun, fun, and daddy can keep his t-bird.

Inside, all is stripped back and elemental: the carbon fibre is on show, as are the nuts that seem to hold the car together. There’s a lot of black plastic, as though the dash has been reconstituted from a haul of black ghetto-blasters, circa 1983.

You want the air vent open? Poke your finger in it, dammit. Entertainment is a solitary, rather sad radio.

But never mind – the real entertainment is in the driving. And while there are cars that are faster, growlier, more corner-hugging and certainly more comfortable, pound for pound few can offer such a straight down the line driving experience.

An Engine That Growls

For one, there’s the 240hp engine, situated, it seems, right behind your ear-holes, its exciting pops, whines and wheezes your soundtrack, and just as as pleasing on braking as accelerating.

More importantly, is the little straight-bottomed steering wheel that offers the kind of leverage you really need to get the car to go anywhere but ahead. And that’s where the real beauty of this car lies: you really – really – have to drive it.

The Alfa Romeo 4C Spider offers no concessions to sloppiness or lack of concentration. There’s no Bondian gadgetry to make your ride easier. It’s like a stunt plane on four wheels – about the same size, about the same thrills.

That begs the question why it’s an automatic, when manual would have enhanced such an experience (though of course, real men use the paddles).

And why does the speedo and associated read-outs look like they’ve been pulled out of an 80s arcade game too, when mechanical dials would have better suited both the aesthetic and ethos of the 4C?

But these are minor gripes. And to be honest, if you get hold of one of the just 50 being made, you’ll be too busy trying to stay alive to worry too much about them. For that reason alone, it’s the kind of car owners are unlikely to move on from for some time. It’s a keeper – a go kart for grown-ups.

BEST BIT: Cliche alert: it’s a driver’s car. Don’t waste too much time looking for cruise control.

WORST BIT: It’s back to basics inside. But c’mon feel the noise.

HEAD TURNING QUOTIENT: Even in yellow it’s somehow understated – like a giddy teenager in a hi-vis jacket rather than a Lamborghini after a hot wash.

DRIVING EXPERIENCE: Don’t buy it for the commute. Don’t buy it for the grand tour. Buy it for the country lanes, late at night.