Ever since Alfa announced that it was going to build a rear-engined sports car that made extensive use of carbonfibre, I’ve been fascinated to find out what it was actually like.

After all, it was a dramatic move. Alfa’s range was at a low ebb, with just the four-year-old Giulietta and six-year-old Mito occupying its ranks. A model like the 4C would endow the brand with some refreshed cachet and generate much interest, hopefully preparing the market for a series of appealing and competitive new models.

I’d seen the 4C parked up, and on the move, but I’d never actually sat in or driven one. During a range review event, however, the opportunity to test one arose. Admittedly I was only going to get – in automotive terms – mere moments in the car, but it might prove the only opportunity - and regardless, I was grateful for any time in the car at all.

A small course had been built on an airfield, and Alfa had brought along two fully fuelled 4Cs. It was busy, mind, with many other journalists on the event, so our time was going to be limited to three hot laps with an "instructor" alongside – it was clear Alfa was intent on looking after the cars, and understandably so.

As I watched one of the bright red 4Cs roll back into the pit area, brakes ticking noisily as they cooled, it struck me how small the Alfa seemed in person. Despite what you might have been told, it’s a relatively compact sports car – it’s actually shorter than a Mazda MX-5, but the body is over 14cm wider. Its overall measured width is only exacerbated by wide wing mirrors, which grant you a modicum of rearward visibility. It’s still narrower than a Mondeo mind, excluding the mirrors, so for most people it shouldn’t prove much of a problem to manoeuvre and park.