Alfa has spent many years being messed about by successive managements, every one with different half-cooked ideas, then quite a few more. Recently it has had its better-known values attached to B and C-segment hatchbacks - the Mito and Giulietta - because that is where the money is, and have yielded enough success for Alfa to continue developing and creating the Giulia followed by the announcement the first Alfa SUV is on the horizon.
Yet no car in recent history has deliberately set out to embody Alfa values. The 8C Competizione helped, of course, but it was really only a concept made good.
In truth, it is at least 30 years since Alfa Romeo has built a car for real people that directly and affordably expresses its values. This is the 4C's mission and it is why it is so very significant.
Nothing about the fixed-head, two-seat 4C better underscores its seriousness than the fact that its chassis is an extremely rigid carbonfibre tub weighing just 65kg. This featherweight foundation, plus Alfa's use of a new, 22kg lighter, all-aluminium, direct-injection four-cylinder 1750 turbo engine - and a myriad more weight-saving features - mean that, parked in the street ready to go, a 4C weighs just 925kg. That's about the same as a Lotus Exige.
Given that the engine produces 240bhp at 6000rpm, plus 258lb ft of torque between 2100rpm and 4000rpm, its power-to-weight ratio of 259bhp per tonne is really something to crow about, matching that of many big-capacity supercars at more than twice the price and power.
Small wonder that the Alfa Romeo 4C can top 155mph and sprint 0-62mph in just 4.5sec, while returning an impressive 41.5mpg on the combined cycle. As our figures show, even the newly turbocharged Porsche Cayman costs a bit less and goes a bit faster, but doesn't accelerate as quickly and uses more fuel doing it.
More notably the carbon tub puts the 4C on a level - in chassis terms - with the likes of McLaren and Ferrari, yet the 4C will set you back just £52,500 when supplies start to flow at a rate of 3500 units a year before the year-end. Don't get your hopes up, mind. Only 1000 cars a year are earmarked for Europe, and about 200 of those for the UK. All 500 examples of the all-white launch edition sold out quickly, and Britain's allocation of regular models for were reserved with very little hesistation.