Performance and flexibility are this powertrain's forte. The exhaust note can be raucous and the combined racket of ignition-cut and wastegate whoop when you change gear is never peaceful, always inspiring. From outside, the car sounds amazing.
From inside, the quality's not quite the same, though it would always entertain me. Used to the full, the car feels properly quick, especially between 60 and 100mph where it seems to gain pace as rapidly as much bigger cars but without their big-cube effort. The engine's thrust doesn't grow beyond 5500rpm with quite the top-end shove you expect, but the truth is that in Dynamic or Race, using plenty of throttle and changing at 5500rpm, you'll be among the fastest cars on road or track.
Passing manoeuvres are special fun, because the car is compact and gains speed with so little effort. So is slingshotting out of slow bends: there's strong urge from 2000rpm which means almost any gear will do. And the noise is always great.
In countries like the UK, the 4C might seem a mite overgeared; it does close to 30mph per 1000rpm in top. Fortunately, it has the torque to carry it, and you can understand why Alfa has gone down that route; the car would be more frantic with ratios closed up by lower overall gearing.
Inevitably, Alfa has had some complaints about both its choice of a DCT gearbox (why not a stick shift?) and a small-capacity turbo four-cylinder engine (why not a creamy V6?) but the car's performance answers both of these pretty convincingly.
The 1750 engine delivers a unique form of sound and thrust consistent with its lightweight targets. The DCT, as many a manufacturer knows, is the 'box that 90 per cent of owners would choose if it offered both; why spend millions engineering something that few will buy?
Thanks to the lightness, the wide track, the chassis rigidity, the low centre of gravity and lack of overhangs - plus all-independent suspension and the fact that a bunch of hard-driving Italian engineers have given it death in places like Alfa’s famous Balocco test track - the 4C’s roadholding and ride quality are just brilliant. The car will understeer a little near the limit, but getting it to oversteer is a helluva job.
We tried repeatedly, and were rewarded, once for a second, with a brief and reluctant tail wag. Meanwhile, the car rides with a Lotus-like serenity and composure: firm but amazingly flat and perfectly damped. Comfort is likely to be impressive even on gnarly UK roads.
This is one of those cars that doesn't need huge rubber hoops to deliver grip, although our test car was admittedly on the optional tyre pack, 205/40 ZR18s in front and 235/35 ZR19s on the back. The standard wheels are 17in front, 18in rear. On whichever, this light car and its fancy Brembo brakes can stop from 100km/h in just 35 metres, a performance that eludes any heavy supercar.
The unassisted steering takes some getting used to, but becomes one of the 4C's principal virtues. At standstill, you have to re-learn the experience of supplying muscle; it feels weird. But at 2mph and all speed thereafter it's fine. It loads more than power-assist systems as cornering speeds rise, but you feel much more of the road.
At sane speeds (under 100mph) it's superbly stable. Above that, you have to remember - again, as you used to in the unassisted breed of early Porsche 911 - not to chase small steering corrections. The car simply ‘walks’ a little on uneven surfaces, taken very fast. Let it want, and it'll track like an arrow.