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Wayne Cunningham/CNET

Alfa Romeo readies a minisupercar

Alfa Romeo unveils the 4C concept at the 2011 Geneva auto show.

Alfa Romeo 4C
The 4C is a compact sports car with a carbon fiber body. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

Curvy and compact, it would be easy to mistake the Alfa Romeo 4C for a Lotus. The new concept professes similar virtues: low weight, short wheelbase, small displacement, and efficient engine. The result: thrilling performance. At least, on paper.

Alfa Romeo says the 4C hits 62 mph in under 5 seconds. With a mid-engine configuration, 60 percent of the car's weight sits on the rear wheels, which should contribute to superior cornering.

For this concept, Alfa Romeo took everything it learned from producing the 8C Competizione and came up with a sports car appropriate for a more fuel-efficient era.

Powering the 4C is a turbocharged 1.75-liter direct-injection four-cylinder engine, which Alfa Romeo says will produce over 200 horsepower. It should, as this same engine reaches 235 horsepower in the Alfa Romeo Giulietta 1750 Tbi. Mated to a twin-clutch automated manual transmission, this power train uses all the most recent efficiency and performance technologies.

Although shown as a concept, Alfa Romeo says a production 4C goes on sale in 2012.