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Alfa Romeo 4C


BMW 4 series

Summary

Alfa Romeo 4C

Nothing could’ve better prepared me for my drive in the 2019 Alfa Romeo 4C than a trip to Sydney’s Luna Park.

There’s a rollercoaster there called Wild Mouse - an old-school, single carriage coaster with no loop-the-loops, no high-tech trickery, and with each ride limited to just with two seats apiece.

The Wild Mouse throws you around with very little regard for your comfort, gently impinging your fear factor by making you consider the physics of what is happening underneath your backside. 

It’s an unbridled adrenaline rush, and genuinely scary at times. You get off the ride thinking to yourself, “how the hell did I survive that?”.

The same can be said with this Italian sports car. It’s blisteringly quick, it’s superbly agile, it handles like it has rails attached to its underbody, and it could potentially do brown things to your underpants.

Safety rating
Engine Type1.7L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.9L/100km
Seating2 seats

BMW 4 series

Tim Robson road tests and reviews the BMW 4 Series with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its Australian launch.

Following on from the mid-life tweaks to BMW's mainstay 3 Series in December 2015, the spin-off 4 Series line has now been updated along the same powertrain and equipment lines.

Based on the same mechanicals as the 3 Series, the three-year-old 4 Series was ostensibly formed to give BMW's nomenclature some sense of logic by designating its two-door machines as 'evens' (2 Series, 4 Series and 6 Series) and its four-door cars as 'odds'.

Three variants currently make up the 4 Series range, including a two-door Coupe, a two-door Convertible and – oddly, given the naming regime – a four-door Gran Coupe that also sports a hatch-like tailgate.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.4L/100km
Seating4 seats

Verdict

Alfa Romeo 4C7.1/10

People might wonder if there’s a reason to buy an Alfa Romeo 4C. It has some great dollar-for-dollar competitors - the Alpine A110 does most of the things the Alfa does, but in a more polished way. And then there’s the Porsche 718 Cayman, which is a considerably more, well, considered option.

But there is no doubt the 4C stands alone, a sort-of cut-price alternative to a Maserati or Ferrari, and nearly as rare to spot on the road as those cars, too. And just like the rollercoaster at Luna Park, it’s the sort of car that’ll leave you wanting another go.

Would you take the 4C over a Alpine A110? Let us know in the comments.


BMW 4 series7/10

The 4 Series line offers three distinct points of difference from the more traditional 3 Series, each with their own attraction. The sharpening of the sticker prices and the additional spec helps their cause as well, with the 430i Coupe probably our pick of the range. The 440i is the firecracker of the group, while the 420d is also worth a look, thanks to its value and prodigious torque output.

What's your take on BMW's division of its 3 and 4 Series range? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Click here to see more 2016 BMW 4 Series pricing and spec info.

Design

Alfa Romeo 4C8/10

Slap a Ferrari badge on it, and people would think it was the real deal - a pint-sized performance hustler, with all the right angles to get plenty of glances.

In fact, I had dozens of punters nod, wave, mount ‘nice car mate’ and even a few rubber-neck moments - you know, when you drive past and someone on the footpath can’t help but forget they’re walking, and they stare so hard they might well collide with the upcoming lamp-post. 

It really is a head-turner. So why does it only get an 8/10? Well, there are some elements of the design that make it less user-friendly than some of its rivals.

For instance, the step-in to the cabin is enormous, because the carbon-fibre tub sills are huge. And the cabin itself is pretty tight, especially for taller people. An Alpine A110 or Porsche Boxster are much more amenable for day-to-day driving… but hey, the 4C is markedly better than, say, a Lotus Elise for ingress and egress.

Also, as smart as it still looks, there are elements of Alfa Romeo design that have moved on since the 4C launched back in 2015. The headlights are the bit that I dislike most - I had a real thing for the spider-eyes lights of the launch edition model.

But even if it isn’t unmistakably Alfa Romeo, it’s unmistakably a 4C


BMW 4 series7/10

No external changes to the 4 Series' bodywork have been affected  for  this midlife refresh, but there have been plenty of tweaks to the standard equipment offerings right across the board.

Practicality

Alfa Romeo 4C6/10

You can’t get into a car this small and expect a lot of space.

The dimensions of the 4C are tiny - it’s just 3989mm long, 1868mm wide and only 1185mm tall, and as you can see from the pictures, it’s a squat little thing. The Spider’s removable roof could be great for you if you’re tall.

I’m six-feet tall (182cm) and I found it to be cocoon-like in the cabin. You feel almost as though you’re tying yourself to the tub of the car when you get into the driver’s seat. And getting in and out? Just make sure you do some stretches beforehand. It’s not as bad as a Lotus for ingress and egress, but it’s still hard to look good clambering in and out of. 

The cabin is a cramped space. There’s limited head room and leg room, and while there is reach and rake adjustment for the steering wheel, the seat only has manual slide and backrest movement - no lumbar adjust, no height adjust… almost like a racing bucket. They’re hard like a race seat, too. 

The ergonomics aren’t terrific - the controls for the air-con are hard to see at a glance, the buttons for the gear select take some learning, and the two centrally-mounted cup holders (one for your double-shot mocha latte, the other for a hazelnut piccolo) are inconveniently positioned exactly where you might want to put your elbow. 

The media system is rubbish. It’d be the first thing to go, if I bought one of these, and in its place would be an aftermarket touchscreen which would: a) actually let you pair to Bluetooth; b) look like it was from sometime after 2004; and c) be more fitting for a car of this price tag. I’d upgrade the speakers, too, because they’re poor. But I can totally understand if those things don’t matter, because it’s the engine you want to hear.

The materials - aside from the red leather seats - aren’t great. The plastics used are similar in look and feel to what you find in second-hand Fiats, but the sheer volume of exposed carbon-fibre does help you forget those details. And the leather pull straps to close the doors are nice, too. 

The visibility from the driver’s seat is decent - for this type of car. It’s low, and the rear window is small, so you can’t expect to see everything around you at all times, but the mirrors are good and the forward vision is excellent.


BMW 4 series7/10

Two-doors are never the most practical devices, but the 4 Series Coupe and Convertible duo make a decent fist of it for front-seat passengers. There are bottle holders in both doors and a pair of cupholders in the centre console, along with a large lockable glovebox.

The centre bin is, however, quite shallow, and houses the car's single USB port inside it. There is covered storage under the dash for smaller items, and a small rubber-lined tray that the current crop of phones has outgrown.

The rear seating in the Coupe is reduced to almost a formality, especially if the front seat passengers are tall and the front seats are set back, while the sloping roofline reduces head space quite considerably. A centre armrest contains a pair of cupholders, and there are small side pockets.

Rainy conditions precluded us from trying the Convertible's metal folding roof, but the rear seat space restrictions also apply here. Its 370 litres of boot space is roomy enough for a drop-top, while a clever lifting function raises the folding roof structure up by about 300mm to allow luggage to be stowed under the panels when the roof is down. Capacity drops, though, to just 230 litres.

The Gran Coupe, on the other hand, is the most practical car in the entire 3 and 4 Series line-up outside of the 3 Series Touring wagon. With a large, flat load area, and a hatch-like tailgate, the Gran Coupe can swallow 480 litres of gear with the seats up and an impressive 1300 litres with the seats lowered.

Face-level rear vents, more head and backseat legroom – not to mention the fact you don't have to squeeze into the rear past the front seat – makes the Gran Coupe a most useful device, and it's little wonder it's the most popular variant of the three.

Price and features

Alfa Romeo 4C6/10

Look, no-one considering an Italian sports car is likely to be wearing their common sense hat, but even so, the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider is an indulgent purchase.

With a list price of $99,000 plus on-road costs, it isn’t affordable. Not considering what you get for your money.

Standard inclusions consist of air conditioning, remote central locking, heated electric door mirrors, leather sports seats with manual adjustment, a leather-lined steering wheel, and a four-speaker stereo system with USB connectivity and Bluetooth phone and audio streaming. It’s not a touchscreen, so there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and there’s no sat nav… but the thing about this car is going the fun way home, so forget maps and GPS. And there’s a digital instrument cluster with a digital speedometer - believe me, you’ll need it.

The standard wheels are a staggered set - 17-inch at the front and 18-inch at the rear. All 4C models have bi-xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED tail-lights and dual exhaust tips. 

Of course, being the Spider model, you also get a removable soft top and you know what’s neat? You get a car cover included as standard, but you’d want to put it in the shed, as it takes up a bit of boot room!

Our car was even further up the pay scale, with an as-tested price of $118,000 before on-roads - it had a few option boxes ticked. 

First there’s that beautiful Basalt Grey metallic paint ($2000), and those contrasting red brake calipers ($1000).

Plus there’s the Carbon & Leather package - with carbon-fibre mirror caps, interior bezels, and a stitched leather instrument cover panel. It’s a $4000 option.

And finally, the Racing Package ($12,000), which includes a staggered set of 18-inch and 19-inch wheels with a dark paint finish, and those wheels are fitted with model specific Pirelli P Zero tyres (205/40/18 up front, 235/35/19 at the rear). Plus theres the sports racing exhaust system, which is awesome, and a racing suspension setup. 


BMW 4 series7/10

Entry into the 4 Series world now stands at $68,900 plus on-roads for the petrol 420i Coupe and Gran Coupe, and tops out at almost $118,000 for the 440i Convertible.

Both the 420i and 420d have been boosted by the addition of adaptive M dampers, a heads-up display, powered folding rear-view mirrors, lane-change warning, driving assistant and BMW's surround view camera with top and side views.

BMW claims the extra kit is worth just over $8000. Leather seats, sat nav, BMW's ConnectedDrive Emergency call system, bi-Xenon headlights and reversing camera are also featured. An eight-speed automatic transmission is offered as stock, but a six-speed manual can be optioned at no cost.

The diesel version costs an additional $2200 over the petrol powerplant.

Stepping into the 430i, the M Sport Package is offered as standard, with the Luxury line, which includes a leather-trimmed dash, a no-cost option.

Additional standard equipment over the outgoing 428i includes 19-inch M rims, heads-up display, lane change warning, driving assistant and surround view camera. The 430i also gains electric lumbar support for driver and front passenger seats and a nine-speaker stereo system over the base 420i.

Finally, the range-topping 440i scores a heads-up display, lane change warning, driving assistant, surround view camera, adaptive LED headlights, leather dash, front seat heating, high beam assist, active cruise control with stop and go function and parking assistant over the outgoing 435i.

Over the 430i, the 440i also gets variable sport steering, a Harman/Kardon surround sound system with 16 speakers, a leather instrument panel (with M Sport Package), ConnectedDrive internet and concierge service, and air collar neck-warming ducts for the 440i Convertible.

Engine & trans

Alfa Romeo 4C8/10

The Alfa Romeo 4C is powered by a 1.7-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder engine, which produces 177kW of power at 6000rpm and 350Nm of torque from 2200-4250rpm. 

The motor is mounted amidships, and it is rear-wheel drive. It uses a six-speed dual-clutch (TCT) automatic with launch control. 

Alfa Romeo claims a 0-100km/h time of 4.5 seconds, which makes it one of the quickest cars at this price point. 


BMW 4 series7/10

There are two new petrol engines, two new badges and prices cuts of up to $10,000 right across the board for the line-up, along with additional standard equipment that improves the value equation even further.

The line kicks off with the 420, which can be had in either diesel or petrol guise. The 420i gains BMW's new B48 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine, which gains 5kW over the old motor to produce 135kW and 270Nm.

It also benefits from slightly improved fuel economy, with a drop of 0.3 litres per 100km for the Coupe and 0.5 for the Gran Coupe to 5.8L/100km, and a fall of 0.2L for the Convertible to 6.2L/100km.

The 420d retains its 140kW, 400Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine, which returns 4.3L/100km in the fixed roof cars and 4.7L/100km for the Convertible.

The 430i – formerly known as the 428i – also receives the new 2.0-litre petrol engine, albeit in a 185kW/350Nm tune. Its fuel economy drops a healthy 0.6L for the Coupe and Gran Coupe and 0.4L for the Convertible, posting figures of 5.8 and 6.3L/100km respectively.

The top-spec 435i has been transformed into the 440i with the addition of BMW's new Twinpower 3.0-litre straight six petrol motor. Its output jumps 15kW to 240kW and by 50Nm to 450Nm, and its consumption falls by more than half a litre to 6.8 litres per 100km for the closed-roof pair and 7.2L/100km for the Convertible.

All cars come standard with a 'traditional' ZF eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission with steering wheel paddles as standard fitment, while a six-speed manual gearbox is a no-cost option across the line.

Fuel consumption

Alfa Romeo 4C8/10

Claimed fuel consumption for the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider is rated at 6.9 litres per 100 kilometres, so it’s no miser.

But, impressively, I saw real-world fuel economy of 8.1L/100km, over a loop that included urban, highway and ‘spirited’ driving on twisty roads.


BMW 4 series8/10

Our brief test loop on a rainy, blustery Melbourne winter's day in all three model types (but no diesel) netted varying fuel consumption readings across the line; we recorded 8.4L/100km in a 420i sedan against a claimed figure of 5.8, 9.8L/100km for the 430i Gran Coupe against a claimed figure of 5.8L/100km, and 8.4L/100km against the 440i Gran Coupe's 6.8L/100km.

Driving

Alfa Romeo 4C9/10

I said that it’s like a rollercoaster, and it really, truly is. The air doesn’t quite rush through your hair as much, sure - but with the roof off, the windows down and the speedometer constantly edging towards licence suspension, it’s a real hoot of an experience.

It just feels so tight - the carbon-fibre monocoque chassis is rigid and super stiff. You hit a cats-eye and its all so sensitive, you could mistake it for having hit an actual cat. 

Alfa Romeo’s DNA drive modes - the letters stand for Dynamic, Natural, All Weather - is one of those proper examples of this type of system done well. There’s a marked difference between how these different settings operate, where some other drive modes out there are more sedate in their adjustments. There’s a fourth mode - Alfa Race - which I didn’t dare sample on public roads. Dynamic was enough to test my mettle. 

The steering in Natural mode is lovely - there’s great weighting and feedback, super direct and incredibly in touch with the surface below you, and the engine isn’t quite as zesty, but still offers tremendous response on the move. 

The ride is firm but composed and compliant in any of the drive modes, and it doesn’t have adaptive suspension. It is a stiffer suspension setup, and though the damping doesn’t change in Dynamic mode, if the surface is anything but perfect you will tram-track and twitch all over the place, because the steering feels even more dialled in. 

In Dynamic mode the engine offers amazing response when you’re at pace, building speed incredibly and before you know it, you’re in licence loss zone.

The brake pedal requires some firm footwork - just like in a race car - but it pulls up strongly when you need it to. You’ve just gotta get used to the pedal feel. 

The transmission is a good thing at speed in manual mode. It won’t overrule you if you want to find the redline, and it sounds tremendous. The exhaust is exhilarating!

With roof on and windows up there’s very noticeable noise intrusion - lots of tyre roar and engine noise. But remove the roof and drop the windows and you get the full effect of the drive experience - you’ll even get some "sut-tu-tu” wastegate flutter. It doesn’t even matter that much that the stereo system is so rubbish.

At normal speeds in normal driving you do need to be considerate of the powertrain because it is finnicky and slow to react at times. There’s notable lag if you’re gentle on the throttle, both from engine and transmission, and the fact peak torque doesn’t come on song until 2200rpm means there’s lag to contend with. 

It’ll be a difficult choice between this and Alpine A110 and a Porsche Cayman – each of these vehicles has a very different character. But for me, this is the most go-kart like and it is, undeniably incredibly involving to drive.


BMW 4 series6/10

BMW introduced a raft of tweaks to the 3 Series platform late last year, which have translated over to the 4 Series. The key addition across the line is BMW's two-stage adaptive dampers that feature a Sport and a Comfort circuit, fitted as part of the M Sport pack that comes standard on the 430 and 440, and is a $2600 option on the 420.

Larger 19-inch rims are fitted to the 430i and 440i cars, while the 420 gets 18s out of the box. It's possible to fit 18s on the more expensive cars, as part of the no-cost Luxury option pack that supplants the standard M Sport pack.

While our test was brief and held in less than ideal road conditions, the large-wheeled 4 Series really didn't enamour themselves to this author. There's a distinct lack of communication from the tyres and chassis through the steering wheel and your backside, while the combination of firm Sport shocks and large 19-inch wheels with narrow-section tyres made for an uncomfortable ride over country roads.

Sampling a 420i with the Luxury 18-inch rims, however, improved things immensely, with much better feedback and comfort that didn't come at the expense of handling.

One of BMW's strong points should be its steering, given all the 3 and 4 Series cars are still rear-wheel-drive… but it's not, unfortunately. The electrically assisted set up is far from perfectly calibrated, feeling too dull and digital underhand, no matter what the setting.

The pick of the bunch performance wise is – logically – the six-cylinder 440i. The turbo powerplant is potent from right down the rev range, with a muted yet still pleasing engine note permeating the cabin. The self-shifting mode on the eight-speed auto does a good job of keeping up as well.

The updated 2.0-litre four is a sprightly performer, too.

Safety

Alfa Romeo 4C6/10

You’re in the wrong spot if you want the latest in safety technology. Sure, it’s at the cutting edge because it has an ultra strong carbon-fibre design, but there’s not much else happening here.

The 4C has dual front airbags, rear parking sensors and an alarm with tow-away protection, plus - of course - electronic stability control

But there are no side airbags or curtain airbags, there’s no reversing camera, there’s no auto emergency braking (AEB) or lane keep assist, no lane departure warning or blind spot detection. Admittedly - there are a few other sports cars in the segment which lack safety smarts, too, but 

The 4C has never been crash tested, so there’s no ANCAP or Euro NCAP safety score available.


BMW 4 series8/10

Safety features for all cars in the 4 Series range include six airbags, lane departure warning, pre-collision safety pack, parking sensors, active cruise control with collision warning, AEB and pedestrian warning, along with reversing camera and surround-view cameras across the line.

Ownership

Alfa Romeo 4C6/10

If you’re hoping that a ‘simple’ car like the 4C will mean low ownership costs, you might be disappointed in this section.

The Alfa Romeo website service calculator suggests that over 60 months or 75,000km (with service intervals set every 12 months/15,000km), you will have to fork out $6625 total. For a breakdown, the services cost $895, $1445, $895, $2495, $895.

I mean, that’s what you get when you buy an Italian sports car, I suppose. But consider you can get a Jaguar F-Type with five years of free servicing, and the Alfa looks like a rip-off. 

The Alfa does, however, come with a three-year/150,000km warranty plan, which includes the same cover for roadside assist.


BMW 4 series6/10

BMW offers a Service Inclusive program at the time of purchase, which for $1340 covers everything – including items like spark plugs, brake fluids and other fluids - for five years or 80,000 km scheduled. The cars are also covered by a three-year free roadside servicing program, in addition to BMW's two year, unlimited kilometre warranty.