Be honest: if it came to a straightforward choice of which you’d rather have on your drive, between a Volkswagen Golf R and a metallic red-painted, carbonfibre-based lightweight Italian sports car with an Alfa Romeo badge?
A new Golf would set you back over £33,500, but you can now buy an Alfa Romeo 4C for the same sort of cash. Not the crazy ‘Nemesis’ version, sadly. This insanely good-looking sports car (just switch the headlights for Spider items) and Porsche Cayman rival turns heads in a way no hot hatch ever could, and it’s not all that different to own. Sort of.
It has two doors and a reasonable boot, albeit at the front. It has sporty seats and a turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 236bhp. Not that much, maybe, but early, low-spec versions weighed as little as 895kg dry. Estimating a kerb weight of about 995kg with fluids and a driver, that’s a power-to-weight ratio of 237bhp per tonne. A Golf R has 200bhp per tonne.
In fact, the 4C is so light that it doesn’t need power steering. It doesn’t need mega-wide tyres. it’s all about presenting an Italian version of a Lotus Exige; stripped-back and lithe in the extreme. The carbonfibre tub at its heart weighs just 65kg – that’s a few less than I do…
That low weight and flat torque curve work pretty nicely together. It’ll top 160mph – take that, expensive German saloons – and its rear wheels will spin it up to 62mph in a very brisk 4.5 seconds, helped along by the fast-shifting twin-clutch gearbox. Driving the rear wheels means it feels like a proper sports car, despite the fact that it’s almost as wide as the English Channel. It’ll even do 40mpg if you have the patience of a Giant Redwood, and only costs £195 per year to tax.
We found this one on Auto Trader for an asking price of just £33,995. Listed by a private seller it has a mere two pictures, for some frustrating reason, but the car has only covered 20,000 miles. It’s in mint condition, says the seller, has recent (and model-correct) Pirelli P-Zero boots and couldn’t you just marry that Rosso Competizione paintwork?
It was specified with 19-inch wheels so it probably isn’t the comfiest thing, but they do look stunning. It has rear parking sensors, air conditioning, Bluetooth and two keys. The interior is a bit of a let-down, being as basic as prison porridge, but just keep your eyes on the next bend and you’ll never worry about it.
As an alternative to a hot hatch this one really gets us ticking. Vastly more exclusive, generally faster and more exciting, and way more of an event than any road-legal production hatchback, buying this instead of a Golf is the sort of mad and wonderful decision you’d always be glad you made.
We used some supplementary pictures of an identical 4C to help fill out the article. That one is up at £35,493 with Sturgess of Leicester, and can be viewed here.