First Drive: Alpine A110
Iconic French brand Alpine is back, and it's reinvented the A110 with a modern style, new technology and a new engine. Can it match up to the iconic cars which came before it? Rebecca Chaplin finds out.
What is it?
In a time of oversimplification and car makers vying for the market share in SUVs or crossovers, one brand is here to combine heritage and technology in the perfect sportscar package.
The Alpine A110 Berlinette might not have been sold in the UK for very long, but its reputation for rallying in the 60s and 70s proceeds it. Therefore creating a brand new edition, imagined as six or seven generations down the line, is a dangerous game to play but the risk has proved worth taking.
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The A110 has been designed from the ground up by a small team based in France. It's allowed them to develop a car that's completely new, one that's focussed on driving but can stand up as a true style icon.
There are some clear transfers of design from the original model, such as the bonnet spine, twin auxiliary lamps and design sculpted into the door. Everything has been dialled up to 11 though and a sense of modern style compliments every retro hint. This has been combined with clever engineering developments to create the car that founder Jean Redele would be proud of.
What's under the bonnet?
The A110 features the 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine taken from the Renault Megane. As the car is mid-engined, weight is distributed close to 50/50 with the centre of gravity poised around the driver's hips. It produces 248bhp and 320Nm of Torque, giving it a 0-60mph time of merely 4.3 seconds before it carries on to a top speed of 156mph.
Although it's turbocharged, throttle response and power delivery is almost instant while it also produces an incredible noise that's unlikely to disappoint even the most distinguished sportscar owner. Economy figures are respectable too with a combined cycle of 46.3mpg and emissions pegged at 138g/km.
What's it like to drive?
The A110 is inspiring and invigorating with direct steering and the weight distribution enables you to power effortlessly around corners. With petite dimensions, measuring in at just 4.18m long, 1.8m wide and 1.28 high, even navigating the Alpine along the narrowest of roads doesn't cause any issues.
The suspension is a real success story in this car. It's been set up to smooth out bumps in the road rather than the hard sportscar standard you might exect without losing that sporty driving feel. That makes the A110 a suitable GT car too, if it wasn't for the lack of luggage space, and very driveable on long journeys. Even on our native roads it'll be smoother than some family cars.
How does it look?
This is one car that has captured the elements of its heritage without becoming disfigured or a caricature of its former self. There's arguably nothing else on the market to share its design cues and the attention to detail throughout makes it's something very special to behold. The four round headlights create a unique light signature and the Alpine logo brandished across the front completes the vintage look.
The design team has managed to retain the key characteristics in profile too, using a huge diffuser under the car to negate the use of a spoiler. The curve along the roofline and subtle flick across the boot makes it unmistakeable with any other car on the market.
What's it like inside?
The interior also retains design cues from the original A110 Berlinette, such as the round dials and curved dashboard. It's inside that you get a real sense of the weight savings that have gone in - or come out - of this car. Lightweight bucket seats with a microfibre material have been used, hints of carbon fibre and exposed aluminium echo this.
While the digital dashboard is simple, it also works well. However the infotainment system, which is shared with other Renault cars, is simple to navigate but not as responsive as you'd want with dated graphics that don't match the car's style.
What's the spec like?
Currently the A110 is only available in this Premiere Edition specification, and if you want to get your hands on one you'll be sorely disappointed. Only 1955 were produced, in honour of the year the brand was created, and they sold out in five days. This comes in one set up, with the standard infotainment paired with Focal speakers - and even those are weight saving.
While there's a choice of colours, little else is customisable. However, two others will be available from 2018. The first, called Pure, is a more driver focussed edition weighing just 1080kg. The second called Legende is more focussed on comfort with plush leather seats.
Alpine has hit the nail on the head with the A110 and no driver will be disappointed. The attention to detail is apparent throughout and while other manufacturers might claim passion in their design, the love in this tribute to the Alpine brand can be felt in every element.
Facts and figures
Model as tested: Alpine A110 Premiere Edition
Engine: 1.8-litre, 4-cylinder
Torque (Nm): 320Nm @ 2,000 rpm
Max speed (mph): 156mph
0-60mph: 4.5 seconds