Good, all told. Loud, certainly. The claimed weight (empty, rather than an official European Directive EC figure) is only 895kg.
Road-ready, the 4C will be more than that when we put it on our scales, but clearly few of those kilos are sound insulation. The noise is all whooshes and fizzes from the heavily turbocharged motor – which produces 237bhp from its 1.75 litres – and it echoes throughout the stiff tub and the relatively spartan cabin. The launch edition cars have an optional sports exhaust, which doesn’t hinder (or help, depending on your outlook).
The cockpit isn’t as bare as a Lotus Elise’s or Exige’s (because of the similar layout, inevitably we’ll perceive those Lotuses as this car’s main rival), and it feels of higher material grade, but neither is it quite so driver focused. The seats lack lateral and under-thigh support, and the steering wheel’s too flat-bottomed and thick of rim, but the paddles for the gearshift are good and the digital instruments sweet.
The steering is unassisted, and lighter than an Exige’s when manoeuvring, but as you add speed it’s less intuitive than the Lotus’s. Perhaps not surprising. This is Alfa’s first crack and Lotus is pretty good at tuning steering. There’s a little kickback over rough surfaces if you’re cornering at the same time, too, and the ride is firm. Not uncomfortable, really, just firm, connected.
Our UK drive took us up the M1 (boomy, increasingly so the faster you go) and onto damp roads around the Peak District, where the 4C gave us its best. On twisting roads it’s agile, planted, and easy and engaging to thread through corners. It tugs and weaves a little over bad cambers and surfaces, but by no more than you’d expect. It’s an enjoyable ride.
Then we headed to a circuit, cold but dry, where the 4C displayed handling biased towards understeer, to about the same extent as an Elise. Which is fine.
It won’t simply power through that phase – the turbocharged engine doesn’t respond rapidly or powerfully enough, and in a way the 4C then behaves like a McLaren 12C: giving understeer that extra throttle only exacerbates. Instead, then, you need to lift on the way into a bend, get the nose planted, and then ask for a lot of power.
That way the 4C will indulge you, tightening its line (or more), though with less precision than you’d hope because of the boosty throttle repsonse. For our money, a supercharged Elise is a more rewarding, better steering, more linearly responsive drive, and by a margin. Meanwhile, at the other end of the scale a Porsche Cayman is more complete and comfortable. But the Alfa gives a different proposition to both of those. And that the 4C is as good as it is gives us cause for celebration.