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Alfa's stirring new 4C has more prancing horse DNA than a supermarket beefburger

Editorial Staff

Maybe the surprise popularity of the Peugeot RCZ has inspired more manufacturers to be daring, moving what would once have been concept cars into production - and at an affordable price. At the Geneva Motor Show, Alfa Romeo, the nicer end of the Fiat range, has announced the 4C and it's creating stirrings in places that usually only upmarket sports cars reach.

The Fiat group is sprawling from Ferrari at the top to, well, Fiat at the bottom with a few foreign, less well loved brands in the middle. Lancia is still in there somewhere as are Maserati and the much loved but total pain in the arse to own Alfa Romeo.

Alfa seems unable to overcome its quality control problems, often said to epitomise Italy itself - loads of style, makes all the right noises at the right time - but very high maintenance and prone to failure at the important moments.

But Alfa hope to put that to rest with the 4C which has design cues from several Ferraris since the extraordinarily pretty Dino 246 in the 1970s which still looks stunning today.

The 4C is designed by Alfa - but built by Maserati. With luck, that means that its electrics won't become both unreliable and unpredictable within three or four years after purchase.

In 2011, Alfa showed its 8C concept car: much of that car has found its way into the 4C. It's compact - almost the same length as the Peugeot RCZ but about half-a metre wider. The Alfa has a 1750cc Turbo engine so it's it's much, much more powerful the RCZ's 1.6 engine - it's not even the excellent 1.6 Turbo from the Peugeot 308. Both are mid-engined two seaters with steeply sloping roof lines. And the 4C has another trick up its sleeve: it has a carbon fibre chassis. That's a massive disincentive to fast driving on bad roads - or in cities with sleeping policemen.

No prices have yet been announced but it's a reasonable bet that the Alfa will cost perhaps GBP10,000 more than the Peugeot. But that's still going to be a bargain for a thoroughbred mid-engine sports tourer that seems to have more prancing horse DNA than a supermarket beefburger.