2020 Alpine A110 and A110S review

Alpine’s more powerful A110S is en route to Australia, where it will sit alongside familiar variants of the A110 range. Here is our full review before the model arrives.

The Alpine brand stretches back decades, and while a long hiatus in recent times means younger car enthusiasts might not fully understand its significance, this new A110 is a hugely important car for parent company Renault.

Not only does the latest car look quite similar to the classic A110, it embodies much of that car’s lightweight, driver-focused ethos. It’s built at Renault’s factory in Dieppe, France, alongside sporty versions of the Clio and Megane. The A110 is a rival for everything from the Porsche 718 Cayman, to the Toyota Supra and Audi TT – but none quite capture the magic and sense of occasion offered by the French legend.

There’s only one body style, one engine (albeit in two different states of tune) and one gearbox. That means that whichever trim you go for, you’ll make do with a stylish two-door coupe body with a 1.8-litre turbo engine and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. They’re all rear-wheel drive, and all weigh less than 1200kg. Power options include either the 185kW or 215kW with the new S.

The entry-level Pure version features part-leather/Dinamica bucket seats and 17-inch alloy wheels, while the Legende includes bigger 18-inch alloys, six-way adjustable leather-trimmed comfort seats and carbon fibre interior trim. The top-of-the-range S variant is more performance focused with an extra 30kW, a specific sports chassis with reinforced anti-roll bar and improved braking via new 320mm discs front and rear.

The Alpine A110 is a brilliant sports car that rivals everything from the Porsche 718 Cayman to the Audi TT. The firm had a lot of pressure on its shoulders when it tried to recreate the magic of the 1960s original, but the result is a sublime driving experience and stunning looks. It feels much more special than its direct competitors, too.

When Alpine – and parent company Renault – set about reviving the legendary brand, its main focus was to make a lightweight and engaging sports car. We’ve now driven a number of examples, and we’re pleased to report that they’ve largely succeeded. The Alpine A110 is a thoroughly engaging car to drive.

Tipping the scales at just 1098kg, it’s much lighter than rivals like the Porsche 718 Cayman and Audi TT RS. As there’s less weight to pull around, it can make do with less power, too – the dinky 1.8-litre turbo petrol engine pales alongside the Audi’s 295kW 2.5-litre five-cylinder unit. The Alpine’s motor isn’t as characterful as its German rival, but it sounds great, and it’s more fun to rev than the muted flat-four in the latest Cayman.

That low weight has huge benefits when it comes to handling. The double-wishbone suspension and strong Brembo brakes help with engagement, while the rear-mounted engine offers perfect balance. There’s even a flat underbody, which makes the car more stable at speed.

While some may criticise the fact the Alpine isn’t available with a manual gearbox (all cars come with a seven-speed DCT transmission), the small sports car feels hugely sophisticated and very fast.

There are three driving modes: Normal, Sport and Track, which alter the settings for the steering, exhaust, traction control and gearbox. You cannot change the settings for the suspension. But despite not offering adaptive dampers, the car flows beautifully over British roads. Grip is excellent, too.

The 1.8-litre four-cylinder unit is available with a standard 185kW for the Pure and Legende versions or, in the A110S, a more potent 215kW. The torque figure remains unchanged across all models at 320Nm, although it’s available over a broader rev band in the S. Rivals offer more power, but make no mistake, this is still a mightily quick sports car.

Alpine claims the A110 with 185kW should sprint from 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds, and our tests recorded a time of 4.6 seconds. The S version with 215kW is a tenth quicker at 4.4 seconds. In a recent triple test against a Porsche 718 Cayman S and Audi TT RS, its German rivals completed the same dash in 3.9 seconds and 3.5 seconds respectively.

The Alpine’s low kerb weight means it is strong in gear, however. This also helps agility through tight bends. Every model is electronically limited to 250km/h.

As this is a small, lightweight sports car, the Alpine’s cabin is quite compact. However, it comes covered in quilted leather, and there’s plenty of tech on offer.

Every car gets a set of digital dials, which change in appearance according to which driving mode the car is in. The optional sports seats offer excellent support without being too firm, while the raised centre console gives a sporty ambience and a feeling of being cocooned in the cabin.

The higher-powered A110 S will be pricey when it lands in Australia, but offers Brembo brakes, an active sport exhaust and bespoke 18-inch black alloy wheels. Inside, you get those brilliant bucket seats, a Focal stereo and a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system. Sat-nav, Bluetooth and DAB are all included, but Apple CarPlay and Android Auto aren’t even on the options list. The S version also includes interior flashes such as orange stitching throughout the cabin and aluminium pedals, but there is only one standard paint colour – Glacier White, so if you want to spec a different hue, you’ll have to pay for it.

The Alpine comes with a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system as standard. The display is responsive enough, although the menus in a Porsche 718 Cayman are more logical and the system is easier to operate on the move because there are more physical buttons.

A two-speaker Focal stereo in the A110 produces a surprisingly good sound given its lack of outright firepower, and DAB radio and Bluetooth are included. There’s also smartphone integration, but it doesn’t use Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. Instead, it has a system called MySpin, which can mirror your phone’s display. We weren’t able to get this tech to work, but the Bluetooth sync is snappy enough.

The neat-looking digital instrument cluster changes depending on which driving mode you’re in, with more or less information and driving data being displayed as required. The S version also adds Alpine Telemetrics, which enables the driver to access technical information such as fluid temperatures, acceleration measurement and lateral/longitudinal forces.

Two-door coupes are hardly famed for their practicality, but the Alpine is worse than most

At 4180mm long and 1798mm wide, the Alpine is smaller than both the Porsche 718 Cayman and the Audi TT. Combined with good visibility, it feels easy to place and therefore very rewarding to drive, even on tight roads. The compliant ride means it’s easy to drive in town, too.

The Alpine is a strict two-seater, so this section is largely irrelevant. However, it’s worth noting that the A110 is quite cramped inside, with the high centre console making things feel quite tight. Still, if you’re not the claustrophobic type, most adults should be able to get comfortable.

Despite having two boots, there’s not much room to carry bags or luggage. The front boot measures 100 litres, but it’s quite shallow and will only really stow a briefcase or laptop bag. The 96-litre rear boot is much deeper, but you’ll still struggle to carry more than a soft gym bag or a weekend’s shopping back there.

Safety kit includes switchable ESP, emergency brake assist, hill start assist, driver and passenger airbags and LED lights. It doesn’t get the latest autonomous safety aids from Renault’s regular passenger cars, such as automatic emergency braking, however. Euro NCAP or ANCAP hasn’t crash-tested the A110, and isn’t likely to, given the niche nature of the vehicle.

Warranty

The Alpine A110 comes with a three-year, 100,000km warranty in Australia. That is two years less than you’ll get on a Renault Clio or Megane.

Servicing

Service intervals are every 20,000km or 12 months. The cost for the first three years services are: $530, $530, and $1280 respectively.

Final Verdict:

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