The Alfa Romeo 4C – the Skibinski thug of sports cars


Every school probably had one – a teenage thug who liked to pick on the little kids. Mine was called Skibinski. He was intelligent but could flip at the opening of a pencil case.

Skibinski was a wild child. He was mad, bad and dangerous and liked to administer punches to the back of the head – as well as offering a school ear-piercing service with his compass.

The 4C is the Skibinski of sports car. It has a Jekyll and Hyde character which requires careful handling. Tweak that accelerator too much and you’re going to open a real nest of vipors.

Few cars have demanded more respect in th last 12 months. The Lamborghini Huracan, McLaren 570S and Morgan Plus 8 were all considerably easier to drive and as much fun.

But the breathtaking looks and unpredictability of the 4C will tempt enthusiastic drivers every time. It’s a car for purists but not necessarily connoisseurs.

A total enigma from the moment you turn the key…

The Alfa 4C isn’t a surfboard but like a duck to water…


You know that feeling… You’re pootling down the motorway on a very wet November day when suddenly there’s a puddle of water in your path.

More lake-size than puddle actually – and the Alfa Romeo 4C has about three inches of ground clearance between it’s composite body and the great British Tarmac.

This is not a good moment to be in a car with no power assisted steering, massive wheels and huge amounts of power on tap.

Sideways in a 4C even at 40mph sharpens your senses. It’s another reason why you really have to know your driving skills to own a car like this.

It’s not a forgiving Golf R, or a BMW M3 for that matter. Get it wrong in a 4C and all hell breaks loose…

Grand Tour – everything we expected?


Anybody spot the Alfa 4C in the opening sequence of The Grand Tour? I was on the edge of my sofa watching those first few minutes unfold – then it all went a bit Pete Tong.

The rest of the Tour focussed to much on a three-way supercar battle, there just wasn’t enough variety  in the mix. The chemistry between the three chaps was still there but the show just seemed a bit too scripted.

Early days and we have to get used to the new format. Like the Alfa 4C, maybe I’m getting a bit long in the tooth for such silliness.

A long drive yesterday proved the 4C is really just a car for weekends and track days. It’s wildly uncomfortable on your ears, arms and arse. Brilliantly entertaining but just too extreme.

Everybody should drive a 4C at some point in their motoring life – it’s a bucket life moment. But that’s all it should be, a moment…

The Alfa 4C is the Mrs Trump of the motoring car world…


Just like Mrs Trump, the 4C is quite beautiful but it still doesn’t have much between the ears.

It’s motoring stripped back to basics. No heated seats, sat nav or power assisted steering – just the essentials to serve up lashings of fun (comparisons with La Trump will stop here).

The Alfa is often spectacular to drive too, engaging and demanding of your full attention. Then it frustrates you with its bad habits on cambered roads and mad noise levels.

Then there’s the steering wheel! What’s all that about? Cut flat at the bottom, it’s quite possibly the ugliest wheel this side of an Austin Allegro.

No wonder the 4C is so divisive. You really need to be in a good mood to drive it…

The Alfa Romeo 4C – deeply flawed but deeply wonderful…


If you drive a Porsche Cayman you may want to look away now. What you see on this page is a car more beautiful, more charismatic and yes, more yellow than anything from Stuttgart.

This is a car that carries the badge of Alfa Romeo, sounds like a Warrior tank on heat and will quite simply, blow you away.

During this week-long series of reports you will discover that the yellow peril is a fine car that is deeply flawed too. It has a mind of its own on cambered or rutted roads, the noise levels are quite ridiculous and the seats are way, way too hard.

Yet by next week I hope you might want own one. Not in Alfa Yellow, a very silly colour indeed but perhaps a shiny gunmetal.

More tomorrow when I’ve taken my medication…

Hydrogen Fuel Cell – technology for cars that’s worth the wait


I’m waiting for the fossil-fuelled lorry of yesterday to come and pick up the hydrogen car of the future. The Fuel Cell Hyundai and I are out of gas – literally – and reality has kicked in.

That reality means there isn’t a filling station close enough for me to fill up the ix35. It would be fine if I lived in London but running out of juice in the Fuel Cell car in the Cotswolds is a problem.

All that will change as as fuel cell technology improves and more hydrogen filling stations open up across the country.

It will take time but after a week with the Fuel Cell ix35, I can tell you that it’s well worth the wait.

Getting high on hydrogen – why the Hyundai Fuel Cell will make you happy


It takes a little getting used to, the Hyundai Fuel Cell car. I drove 180 miles to London and back on the weekend and experienced the highs and minor lows of hydrogen ownership.

Firstly, there were a couple of ‘moments’ when I pressed the accelerator and there was hardly any response. It happened pulling away at a junction and I thought I was going to be rear-ended. No idea what the problem was but it did it twice and then the car was fine.

Then I returned home to the Cotswolds and discovered I only had 50 miles left in the tank. Of course, instead of popping down to the local petrol station, I had to study a map and work out where my nearest hydrogen tank was. Turns out it’s Swindon, quite a slep away.

And the highs? Well, whizzing down the M40 under a full moon in a car that’s quieter than any Rolls-Royce. It’s like being in a flying pod – silence. There’s no impression of speed, no artificial roar, no drama.

It’s quite brilliant and I can guarantee you will love the future of motoring, when fuel cells finally arrives…

A hydrogen fuel cell car is more rare on UK roads than any model of Ferrari


Hyundai yesterday announced that a whole fleet of ix35 Fuel Cells will soon take to the streets of Paris as taxis. This I like – but the car is still more rare than almost any model of Ferrari.

Five hydrogen Hyundais joined the fleet in the French capital a year ago but now a further 60 have been ordered. There are currently just 300 on the road in 12 European countries.

The Toyota Mirai also runs on hydrogen but just a limited number have been released in the UK. The Honda Clarity is also on sale here. Both are more futuristic, while the ix35 blends in with the crowd.

Seeing a hydrogen car on the road in the UK really is a rarity. Will that change in the future? More than likely yes but it’s going to take a very long time to get there…

We could all be driving hydrogen Hyundais if the re-fuelling infrastructure was there


The simple fact is this – we could all be running our cars on environmentally friendly hydrogen if we wanted to. At present though, it’s not our choice.

The problem is the infrastructure isn’t there. Electric charging points are springing up across the country but it’s still a bind trying to find one sometimes. So given there are only a handful of hydrogen filling stations, it’s not really a feasible option to consider Fuel Cell.

Hyundai started working on hydrogen cars almost 20 years ago. There’s been a steady refinement since and on day two of driving the ix35 version, I can tell you there’s very little difference to a ‘normal’ car.

The only issue I have is that over 60mph there’s very little torque – and fuel consumption really suffers.

So like pure electric cars, this is really a machine for city dwellers. That said, give it a few years and technologically will have moved on to a point where even us country folk can consider owning one…

A hydrogen car with no emissions? Stick that in your fossil-filled pipe, President Trump


It’s a field day for curtain twitchers. The words ‘Fuel Cell’ are splattered down the side of our latest test car and not everybody in my Cotswold village seems to realise the future has just landed.

Actually, it’s been here for some time but the ix35 is the first, mass-production passenger vehicle offered for sale in the UK powered purely by hydrogen. Stick that in your fossil-fueled pipe, President Trump.

Anybody could buy a Fuel Cell ix35 – provided they have £53k to spare of course. Remove the high-vis graphics and it would be hard to spot this is anything different to the standard Hyundai SUV.

First impressions? Well, it looks like a normal car but sounds like a space ship taxiing for lift-off. That’s because the Fuel Cell model emits a cool ET-type sound to warn pedestrians a silent vehicle is approaching!

Love it – but can I live with it? Lots of miles ahead to find out….