The number of stars our testers were inclined to dole out for this section varied according to where they drove the 4C.
But we think we finally have an answer to the question of why the 4C was so well received initially, when it was driven only at Alfa Romeo’s Balocco test track, and so poorly thereafter. Because at MIRA proving ground, whose wet circuit is remarkably smooth and whose dry circuit, while it has a little gradient, is also comprised mostly of well-kept asphalt, the 4C – like at Balocco – was a real pleasure.
The 4C’s inherent handling balance, on lowish-grip, smooth surfaces, is exactly as you’d hope it would be. The car’s purity of design is allowed, finally, to show through. Body control is tight and there’s a touch of initial stabilising understeer, which can be turned into something rather more entertaining if you drive the roadster in the right fashion.
On really smooth roads, the steering is largely uncorrupted as well, and if it’s wet, it becomes lighter than usual, which is welcome, and yet it still filters good vibes back through the rim.
The problem comes out on the roads, especially typically battered ones like the Fosse Way close to MIRA proving ground. It would be unfair to have expected the Romans to have foreseen a 4C using the road two millennia after its path was laid, so the onus is on Alfa Romeo to ensure that its car, for all its on-circuit pleasures, is better able to deal with the dips and camber changes that set its steering wheel tugging and weaving and generally exhaust its driver.
Over a short distance you can forgive it – deciding that perhaps Alfa Romeo simply wanted to make its car exciting, which it undoubtedly has. But given the latent, inherent balance that the 4C sometimes displays, its road-going unruliness is a great pity.
All circuits at the MIRA proving ground were wet when we tested the 4C Spider but we suspect, in the end, that’s to the car’s benefit. Lower friction means lower steering efforts and it allowed the Alfa to demonstrate the kind of inherently excellent handling balance that a mid-engined, one-tonne car should possess.
Weight distribution is 40/60 front/rear, and the front tyres are smaller than those at the back, so under braking — and the brakes are superb — and on turn-in, there’s a little understeer. Which is as it should be.
From then on, it’s very easy to trim the Alfa’s line in whatever fashion you like: if you lift off, the rear gradually comes into play; and if you go hard on the power, after a little lag, there’s sufficient boost to unstick the rear, too. In the right places, it’s a real pleasure.