The Alpine A110 sports car was actually introduced in 2017, but harks back even further to the 1963-1977 Alpine A110, described as a Berlinette (the French version of Berlinetta) otherwise described as a small two-door coupe.
The new version from Alpine (which is owned by Renault) is designed by putting tracing paper over the shape of the original 60s car and increasing the dimensions proportionately in each direction! Plus smoothing out the surfaces for better aero, faring in the rally lights and essentially giving it the 21st century touch.
As such, it’s an adorable little car, that is both retro and modern at the same time, keeping an evocative overall appearance, but appearing entirely contemporary. The extensive rear hides the engine, as like the original it’s mid-rear-engined and obviously rear-wheel drive.
It’s a great sportscar body, but think hard before you decide to go grand touring in it, because there isn’t much space for anything really, apart from two humans of course – and only two. The boot in the back, under a small flap, has hardly big enough for a pair of squashy bags.
Get into the cosy and delightfully snug little cabin and storage space isn’t much better. There’s a small pouch suspended between the two seats on the back wall, an open cubby box and a tray under the centre console where the USB plugs are also hidden.
But forget the storage space and marvel instead at the exquisitely designed and presented cabin. The car I tried, finished in classic Alpine Blue (it is THE colour to get this in) was upholstered in delicious-looking chocolate brown leather, which also covers the door trim, dashboard and even the steering wheel itself. There’s a centre infotainment screen, but otherwise, it’s generally quite minimalist in here. Which is exactly how it should be in a sports car.
A flat-bottomed steering wheel sits in front of metal-blade paddleshifts, and digital instrumentation. There’s remotes and a big red sports button, to go with the big red starter button! Sadly, there’s not a manual option, and no lever for a gear selector, instead just three buttons. You sit low, in the body-hugging, but thankfully not too-tight, bucket seats. Visibility is not the best, towards the rear, but this is a sports car – what’s behind you, is not important!
Let’s go. Hit the starter button and you’re greeted by a roarty, raspy, very old-skool zesty engine note, that barks, settles and then rips when you go for it. In Sports it’ll always pop and bang on lift off, and it just so intoxicating to stomp on the loud pedal and hear the motor roar, that you’ll do so frequently.
In fact, ‘intoxicating’ extends to the drive. Switch it into Sports, and use the paddle-shifts for really satisfying and punchy changes that make all the right noises and give you performance when you want it. The 1.8-litre turbo four-cylinder engine is good for about 250bhp, in a car weighing just a little more than 1000kg. It will rocket from rest to 62mph in 4.5 seconds and is limited to a top speed of 155mph.
The performance is not pulverising, but it feels frisky and tremendously exciting. The steering is wonderfully well-weighted, neither too heavy, nor too light and provides some level of feedback.
The chassis too sends you messages back through your seat. You have a very clear and confidence-inspiring intimacy with the drive, allowing you to push it harder than you might have expected. Do so and you’ll find the grip is, shall we say, a little lively, and depending on your speed, angle and throttle you can encounter both understeer and oversteer.
Nonetheless the handling is sharp, enticing and engaging. Ultimately you don’t want to stop driving this thing if you find yourself on a challenging road. The experience is further enhanced by opting for this GT version. Go for even sportier versions and the ride hardens – great for track days, but for the roads, you want to be comfortable while you’re having fun. Don’t doubt that the body control remains rigid, flat and composed.
To conclude, unless you are desperate to have loads of storage, there is not a single reason I can give you for not getting this car. Actually, I tell a lie. There is a reason, it doesn’t come with a manual. But the shifters are so good, you just about don’t miss the clutch too much. Ah but there is another problem, so now I’ve lied twice, and that’s the price. It’s £52k for the base model and £62k for the GT. Nearly £65k when you choose this colour. Worse news – Alpine A110s hold their value very well, so they’re not much cheaper used! Worth it though… so worth it.