By Joe Wiesenfelder on April 23, 2014
From the moment mere cooperation between Fiat and Chrysler was hinted at (long before partnership, much less ownership), auto enthusiasts have predicted and pined for the return of Alfa Romeo to the U.S. market. It's finally happening with the 2015 Alfa 4C.
Alfa Romeo is known for fabulous Italian styling, but I admit I've occasionally had doubts. Maybe it's just because I thought my 1970s Fiat Spider was better looking than the Alfa Romeo Spider, which nonetheless got more attention ... and a higher resale value.
As for the 4C, yes, it looks fabulous indeed, on several levels. First, it's a beautiful design in its own right, a treat to look at from any angle. Second, it's distinctive, which is no simple accomplishment for any car nowadays (aside from overtly ugly ones). The Alfa face will certainly make it stand out in the U.S. And, finally, it's a mid-engine design, and that imbues it with proportions and driving characteristics unique to the style. I'm a big fan of the Porsche Cayman, one of which I drove last week, and I left that experience thinking the U.S. needs more like this.
I managed to fold myself into the driver's seat, which wasn't easy, mainly because the side sill is very tall and wide. Once inside, I actually fit well enough to drive, or at least that's how it seemed. The small and very flat-bottomed steering wheel plays a critical role. Once the wheel is turned, well, I suspect my workable legroom would be in jeopardy.
Forward visibility is surprisingly good, thanks perhaps to the relatively low hood and cowl. Out back, well, that's not so good, for the opposite reason.
The interior quality is merely fair. There are hard surfaces, and while we can count on most manufacturers to show off their expensive carbon-fiber structures — as the 4C does — eventually I think we'll recognize it doesn't always look so good and start painting the stuff.
Frankly, if what I've heard about this car is true, nothing will make one forget about silly things like interior quality and a wee cargo area quicker than actually driving it. The carbon fiber, along with other efforts to keep the car exceptionally light, earns its keep here. I can'trecall a time I was more anxious to drive a newly introduced auto-show car.
Cars.com photos by Evan Sears
Executive Editor Joe Wiesenfelder, a Cars.com launch veteran, leads the car evaluation effort. He owns a 1984 Mercedes 300D and a 2002 Mazda Miata SE. Email Joe