Currently reading: Used car buying guide: Alfa Romeo 4C
An Italian Boxster for the tarmac-loving Alfisti - here's what to check and avoid

Ten years since it was launched, the Alfa Romeo 4C still turns heads, still quickens pulses, still provokes debate. In the intervening years, the Alpine A110 has arrived and proved that it’s possible to have as much fun but be comfortable, too.

Yet it doesn’t pluck the heartstrings in the same way, at least if your ticker is stamped ‘Alfa Romeo’. Production of the 4C ran from 2013 to 2020, and today there are only about 475 examples in the UK. For some years, few used ones came to market, but just recently more have begun to emerge. As this was written, around 20 were being offered at prices starting from £44,000. That compares with £35,000 two years ago.

Proving that Alfisti prefer to drive their cars than salt them away, many have done reasonable mileages, a few around 30,000.

The 4C comes in two flavours: original coupé and Spider, the latter launched in 2015 with a sticker price of £59,500 over the coupé’s £52,000.

They are constructed around a strong yet light carbonfibre tub with aluminium subframes front and rear. The body panels are made of a composite material that flexes on impact and doesn’t dent, although it will tear if struck hard enough.

Alfa romeo 4c side

The steering is unassisted and the suspension by a double-wishbone arrangement at the front and MacPherson struts behind. The engine is a mid-mounted 1.75-litre turbo petrol four-pot. It produces 237bhp and drives the rear wheels through, when it behaves, a lightning-quick, six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

With the coupé weighing only 925kg and the Spider 1080kg, 0-62mph takes 4.5sec, but its in-gear acceleration impresses more. 

At launch, the 4C attracted mixed press. Everyone loved its looks and rawness, but a few testers, including Autocar’s, criticised its unruly handling and steering on all but the smoothest of surfaces. Alfa took note and recalled early cars for tweaks to their geometry.


Read our review

Car review
Alfa Romeo 4C
Alfa 4C is built to encapsulate all of the Alfa Romeo brand values

The 4C is Alfa's first true driver's car for decades, and it shows how brilliantly a small turbo four can go and sound in a lightweight package

Back to top

The first coupés could be ordered in Launch Edition trim, offering unique paint colours, 18in and 19in forged teledial wheels in place of the standard cast 17in and 18in items, carbon-surround bi-LED headlights, specially calibrated suspension and a ‘Race’ exhaust.

Alfa romeo 4c side profile

The launch of the Spider ushered in further steering and geometry improvements and even a rear anti-roll bar, plus an upgraded interior featuring leather trim. It gained improved headlights, too. Subsequently, these tweaks were shared with the coupé. 

To celebrate 50 years since the Duetto’s starring role in The Graduate, a special edition Spider with the larger wheels, a race exhaust, carbon bits and special colours arrived in 2016.

A very limited-run Competizione C4 edition followed in 2018, then in 2019 it was all over for the coupé and a year later for the Spider. Options included an Akrapovic exhaust (rare but desirable) and a Race Pack featuring a loud race exhaust, uprated suspension and those larger 18in and 19in wheels.

There are many aftermarket upgrades, including those by the respected Alfa Workshop. Joe Quinn at Supercar Sourcing has owned a few 4Cs and reckons the one to have is a 2017 coupé or Spider in Rosso red with teledial wheels and black leather.

Back to top

With more 4Cs looking for new homes, now is the time to buy before prices rise further.

What we said then 

Alfa romeo 4c rear three quarter

9 February 2014: “This 4C is an excellent driver’s car, although it won’t suit everyone. Some will say a Porsche Cayman  is more ‘grown-up’ and they are right. It is certainly more of a car that you could easily drive to work. But 200 Britons a year will not care a damn. They will not be thinking about Porsches. They will be Alfa 4C owners and they will have discovered one of those cars that truly stands apart from the rest.”

An owner's view

Amon O'Hara: “I’ve owned my 16-reg 4C Spider for two years, during which time I’ve had the timing belt changed (£1200) by Alfa Workshop. I’ve also had the suspension geometry adjusted by the same guys, but to be honest I prefer the factory set-up, when the car felt like a bloodhound sniffing the road. I’ve had a stage-one power upgrade to 280bhp, too, but the standard 237bhp is quick enough. I’ve also had paint protection film put on the nose. Yellow is a silly colour, but it’s a silly car! Fortunately, it’s reliable too.”

Buyer beware

Alfa romeo 4c engine

Engine: It’s proving to be reliable, even past 70,000 hard-driven miles. With the quiet, standard exhaust fitted, you can at least hear all is well with the turbo, pulley tensioner and valves, but the optional racing exhaust is more thrilling. Service intervals are every 12,000 miles or 12 months. Jobs include general bolt tightening, although some owners say this is not necessary. The timing belt should be changed every 60,000 miles or five years. There are increasing reports of the alternator failing and the battery management module wrongly telling the car its battery isn’t fully charged.

Exhaust: Listen for the standard system vibrating badly at idle (a problem likely to be caused by a perished flexi-pipe) and also for the silencer blowing.

Gearbox: Check the TCT thoroughly on the test drive. Changes should be quick. Any hesitation, random selection or even the ’box going into neutral should be cured by restarting the car several times to clear the fault codes or a dealer software or firmware update, but if the problem lingers, hurry away. One or two owners have reported lumpy downchanges on a closed throttle in auto and manual modes and even ‘slipping’ between gears.

Back to top

Chassis, wheels and suspension: Check workshop receipts for evidence of periodic bolt-tightening. Subframes are the only parts that rust. On an early car, turn the steering wheel listening for creaking, most likely from the main bushes on the lower wishbones. The whole assembly has to be replaced, but fortunately the bushes were upgraded on later models. Owners rate Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres over the original Pirelli P Zeros for their less nervy handling.

Alfa romeo 4c side

Body: The composite body is soft and returns to shape after a casual knock, but the paint (especially the red) is also soft and chips and scratches easily. The presence of protection film on the nose and wings suggests a careful owner. Check the central rear brake light’s LEDs work. 

Interior: Check the deep sills for knocks and scrapes and the dashboard for delamination or ‘bubbling’. As our summers become hotter, this last issue may become more common. It’s unsightly and expensive to put right. 

Also worth knowing

Alfa’s DNA dynamic control selector controls the behaviour of the engine, brakes, throttle response, suspension and gearbox. Dynamic mode is the least intrusive, while Normal strikes an everyday balance and All-weather tames the performance so you don’t spin the wheels. Some recommend starting in this mode, as well as using it in stop-start traffic. Race switches off the anti-slip regulation but not the stability control.

Back to top

How much to spend

£42,000-£44,999: Privately and dealer-sold Spiders and coupés from 2013 to 2016 with up to 30,000 miles.

£45,000-£47,999: Well-specced, dealer-sold, 2016 and 2017 cars with sub-20,000 mileages, some also with a fresh timing belt.

£48,000 and above: Some rare Launch Edition coupés and 50th-anniversary Spiders with fewer than 15,000 miles.

One we found

Alfa romeo 4c used

Alfa Romeo 4C, 2017, 16,500 miles, £47,950: This dealer has the right combo of red paint and black leather, plus the Race Pack with the Race exhaust. It also has a fresh timing belt and the larger tele dial wheels shod with new Michelin Pilot Sport 5 tyres all round.

Join the debate

Add a comment…
sadjad_ahmadi 1 August 2023