2016 Alfa Romeo 4C

Starting MSRP: $55,900 - $65,900

Estimated MPG: 24 city / 34 hwy

2016 Alfa Romeo 4C Review

Constructed with exotic lightweight materials and offered at a surprisingly reasonable price, the radically styled 2016 Alfa Romeo 4C is an affordable turbocharged supercar for the rest of us. Whether you opt for the coupe or targa-top spider, keep in mind that Alfa Romeo’s mid-engine Italian exotic favors pure driving excitement over everyday practicality.

By Chris Brewer
Last Updated 09/09/2016

If your new-vehicle shopping checklist has “exhilarating driving dynamics” in the No. 1 position, there are quite a few cars to choose from. When you add “relatively affordable mid-engine Italian supercar” to the checklist the options become far fewer. The 2016 Alfa Romeo 4C is a lightweight two-seat sports car that heavily favors performance over comfort and utility to create an enthusiast-pleasing joy ride.

Available as a coupe and a targa-top convertible, the Alfa Romeo 4C forgoes luxuries like carpeting and power steering in favor of weight savings and ultra-precise handling.

It teams rear-wheel drive with a small, but powerful, turbocharged 1.7-liter four-cylinder engine. The sole transmission is a six-speed dual-clutch automated manual.

The 4C gets some changes for 2016. The exhaust system has been upgraded and an Alpine premium audio system is now standard. The 4C coupe gets a new standard lockable console, and a new alarm system is standard on the convertible. A carbon-fiber halo (the halo is the sheathing over the roll bar) is now available on the convertible.

Exterior

Exterior
10

The 4C may be tiny, but its dramatic styling helps it grab a huge amount of attention, even in the presence of much more expensive sports cars. The low-riding two-seater features a classic Alfa Romeo grille that harkens to the early days of the historic marque. The oversized headlights almost bridge the gap between the front fascia and generous windshield.

The 4C’s low, wide stance is augmented by extended fender flares and deep functional side air ducts. Its roofline exits through the rear fascia, but not before revealing the turbocharged power plant through the rear window glass.

Nearly every aspect of the 4C’s design is a combination of form and function. The 4C has a rear spoiler to help keep the wheels on the ground at speed and side vents are used to cool the vehicle’s mechanical parts.

The list of standard features includes halogen projector headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED tail lamps and dual exhaust, as well as staggered 17-inch front wheels and 18-inch rear wheels. Options include larger wheels and bi-xenon headlamps, along with race-inspired mirrors, spoilers and exhaust.

Interior

Interior
7

If the Alfa Romeo's stunning exterior is pleasantly overwhelming, the cabin achieves the opposite effect. As a driver-centric cockpit, the 4C is absolutely on point, but as a car that costs well over $60,000 in all but the base trim, the 4C’s carbon fiber tub interior feels unfinished.

The oversized doorsill, over 16 inches tall and 12 inches wide, carves space from the 4C’s cabin leaving a daily-driving experience that’s too tight for all but the smallest occupants. The flat-to-the-floor seats are sporty to a fault, ergonomically designed for an average male adult, but with very few available adjustments to make them work for everyone. The interior works well for short trips, but long adventures behind the wheel can feel taxing. The fact that the engine is inches from your head and the snarling exhaust is mere feet from your ears only adds to the weekend-only nature of the 4C’s interior.

One thing that does free up a little interior space is the push-button panel that replaces the automatic transmission's traditional shift knob. A switch to the right allows you to choose between the Alfa Romeo's four driving modes and buttons allow you to place the car in gear.

Keeping with the spartan nature of the 4C’s interior, Alfa Romeo has chosen to use a single 7-inch thin-film transistor (TFT) display to replace the gauge cluster found in the majority of vehicles on the road today. While we found the small screen’s readout sufficient for a spirited ride through the canyons in central California, the small size is bothersome in daily-driving situations. The extra-chunky steering wheel, which we love, also affects visibility when adjusted properly, blocking some of the 7-inch screen.

Standard features include aluminum pedals and a leather-wrapped flat-bottom steering wheel, and leather upholstery is standard in convertibles only. Coupes are available with various leather upholstery choices, and convertibles may be upgraded with leather seats that feature accent stitching.

Performance

Performance
10

It's powered by a tiny forced-induction engine that produces an unremarkable 237 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, but the lightweight Alfa Romeo 4C defies logic by blasting from 0 to 60 mph in only 4.1 seconds. The snappy six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is programmed for performance, but the lightweight vehicle also yields excellent fuel economy.

Ironically, what sets the 4C apart is not what Alfa Romeo has added to the formula, but the ingredients that the manufacturer has taken away. The lack of power steering aids in the car’s excellent power to weight ratio, but more importantly provides some of the most precise and engaging steering of any vehicle on the road today. Those who haven’t driven a car without power steering will want to hit the gym before attempting cramped low speed parking lot maneuvers, but once you are moving the 4C’s steering seems to read your mind, moving exactly where you want it to go with minimal input.

While the lightweight chassis, tight suspension and super-low center of gravity result in a car that is an absolute blast to drive, the truly amazing feature is the efficiency of Alfa Romeo’s sports car. In many ways the 4C's 24 mpg city/34 mpg highway is more impressive than its 0-to-60 number or 160 mph top speed.

Technology

Technology
6

While mechanically brilliant, the Alfa Romeo 4C only offers the basics in the area of in cabin technology. The full-color 7-inch gauge cluster suits the nature of the futuristic sports car, but the small size of the screen feels insignificant.

In an age of 12-inch color touch-screen navigation systems, the 4C’s simple infotainment system seems dated, and the audio system it's paired with really doesn’t sound all that great either. Once you turn it up loud enough to overcome the raucous exhaust you’re confronted with thin sound quality.

All 4C models come with keyless entry and a 12-volt power outlet. The stereo comes standard with iPod controls, a USB port and Bluetooth connectivity.

The good news is that during our time driving the 4C, we never reached for the radio controls or attempted to make a hands-free phone call. The intoxicating nature of the turbocharged two-seater tends to keep you from seeking other entertainment.

Safety

Safety
6

The Alfa Romeo 4C arrives with standard front- and side-impact air bags, seatbelt pretensioners and a driver’s side knee air bag. Standard safety features also include anti-lock brakes and stability control.

Thanks to the agile nature of the 4C – the responsive steering, excellent brakes and incredibly grippy tires and suspension – avoiding accidents in the first place may be the 4C’s greatest strength. Obviously not every accident is avoidable, but with a careful eye and cautious driving the 4C can be maneuvered out of many collisions that would be “unavoidable” in other vehicles.

Unfortunately, rear visibility is limited in the 4C and 4C Spider. The lack of a rearview camera only adds to the problem and backing up can become a worrisome ordeal. A $1,400 Convenience package adds a rear park sense feature that alerts drivers to obstacles in their path. In our opinion, this is a required option.

Cost-Effectiveness

Cost-Effectiveness
9

The 2016 4C coupe is an exotic without an exotic price tag. Pricing for the base model starts at $57,495, which includes a $1,595 destination charge. The 4C Spider starts at $67,495, including destination charges. While not inexpensive, the 4C represents excellent value considering the carbon fiber construction, exotic mid-engine nature and incredible performance. Yes, there are faster cars with more features available for about the same price, but what they make up for with features is arguably lost to the 4C’s singular enthusiast-thrilling focus.

Our highly optioned review vehicle retailed for $76,545.

The 2016 Alfa Romeo 4C and 4C Spider are unique, and both reside within a very competitive sports-car segment. Primary rivals include the Porsche 718 Boxster and Cayman, Mercedes-AMG SLC43, Chevrolet Corvette, Jaguar F-Type, Audi TT and the Nissan 370Z.

Overall

Overall
8

During our review, we drove the 2016 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider along a relatively deserted stretch of the Carmel Valley Road not far from the coast of Monterey Bay. The challenging road presented twists and turns that a more pedestrian vehicle would have found to be too much, but these challenges were rendered almost insignificant in the 4C. Handling was beyond capable and the brakes never faded, even in the summer heat. The car's connection to the road was undeniable.

That said, the things that make driving the 4C so much fun in some circumstances can make it feel lacking in others. The absence of power steering and carpeting may seem irrelevant - or even inspiring, depending on who is behind the wheel - when you’re carving up a canyon road at speed. However, the missing ingredients can feel hugely dissatisfying when you're stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic for an hour or so.