The new Alfa Romeo 4C will be built at a rate of just 3500 cars a year. It's still a hugely important model for the company, though, because it's designed to show the world that Alfa can compete with the very best after years of mediocrity.
The 4C is a rear-wheel-drive sports car with a mid-mounted 1.75-litre four-cylinder turbo engine that produces 237bhp – 83bhp less than the motor in the Porsche Cayman S.
However, the 4C can still out-accelerate the Porsche due to the fact it's around 400kg lighter (the equivalent of chucking out a rugby team's front row).
This low weight is partially achieved by using an extremely light and stiff carbonfibre chassis 'tub', similar to the one in the McLaren 12C supercar, but there are lots of other areas where Alfa Romeo has saved weight; even the passenger's seat is fixed in a single position because mounting it on rails would have added a few kilos.
The 4C costs £45,000 before options, a price that puts it midway between the entry-level Cayman and the flagship S model.
What's the 2013 Alfa Romeo 4C like to drive?
Despite its modest capacity and cylinder count, the engine sounds fantastic. It starts with an angry bark, emits a huge amount of turbo whoosh under acceleration and generally does everything it can to make itself heard.
True, you might wonder what all the fuss is about at low and high revs, where the engine feels a little flat. However, the mid-range performance is supercar-strong.
The only gearbox option is a twin-clutch automatic that can be controlled manually via paddles on the steering wheel, and it's when you make full use of these paddles that the 'box works best.
Sure, it can do a passable impression of a conventional auto when it's left to its own devices, but manual upshifts feel far more speedy and satisfying; they give you a real shove in the back when the 4C is in Dynamic or Race mode.
Unlike most modern cars, the 4C doesn't have power steering, so it takes quite a bit of effort to turn the wheel when the car is stationary, as you might want to when parking.
Fortunately, the steering lightens up almost as soon as the car is rolling, and it really comes alive at higher speeds, telling you everything that's going on.
This does mean there’s some kickback over bumps and poor surfaces, but in a sports car it's a small price to pay for such a strong connection between the driver and the front wheels.
The 4C also changes direction with the speed and agility you'd expect of something so light, plus there's little body roll and lots of grip. A ride that feels firm but well controlled completes an appealing package.
What's the 2013 Alfa Romeo 4C like inside?
Getting into the 4C requires a fair bit of flexibility because there's a wide sill to climb over and the seats are mounted close to the floor.
The exact height of the seat is set up for you when you collect the car from the dealer. Unfortunately, it can't then be adjusted unless you reach for your spanners, which is far from ideal if you're six-feet-tall and your partner is five-foot.
On the up side, there's enough space in the cabin for tall adults, and the fact that you sit low makes the 4C feel properly sporty. The way Alfa Romeo has skewed the centre console towards the driver and left carbonfibre on display in the footwells adds to this impression.
Sadly, the hard plastics used for the dashboard are less appealing, and it's a pity the gearshift paddles aren't made of metal or carbon.
The design of the dashboard is also a bit of a mixed bag; it ditches traditional instruments for a digital display that's both clear and easy on the eye, but the stereo looks distinctly aftermarket and it's too easy for your passenger to bang their knee on the centre console.
Rear visibility is awful, too, and the seats are thinly padded. Meanwhile, the boot is suitable only for soft bags, and you have to prop it open because Alfa ruled out a hydraulic strut on the grounds of saving weight.
Should I buy one?
Alfa Romeo says it wanted the 4C to be more focused than a Cayman, and easier to live with than a Lotus Exige, but while it has achieved this, the 4C is a lot closer in character to the Lotus than the Porsche.
It you're looking for a sports car that you can use every day, then, the Porsche is a much better buy – especially when you consider that it's still amazing to drive on challenging roads.
However, the 4C's blend of style, performance and feel does give it plenty of appeal. As long as you have another, more practical car as well, it's well worth considering.
What Car? says...
Engine size 1.75-litre turbo petrol
Price from £45,000
Torque 258lb ft
0-62mph 4.5 seconds
Top speed 160mph
Fuel economy 41.5mpg
CO2 emissions 157g/km