The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 4.0
Back in the day Alpine was considered the French Porsche and, with its recent revival by Renault, the brand is once again going against its old rival with a bold and distinctive alternative to the all-conquering 718 Cayman. Don’t be fooled by the retro looks either – the A110 is a thoroughly modern sports car that achieves scintillating performance and great handling through clever weight saving rather than outright horsepower. It’s also remarkably comfortable and efficient as a result, albeit stripped back and not as practical as its Porsche rival.
Reasons to buy
- Sensational ride and handling balance
- Seriously fizzy performance
- Really impressive efficiency
At a glance
Running costs for a Alpine A110
Given the basic sounding 1.8-litre engine and Renault origins you might have expected the Alpine A110 to be priced more like a Toyota GT86 or Audi TT but the car is serious in its ambitions to rival the Porsche 718 Cayman and is priced accordingly. Widespread critical acclaim has helped desirability, this combined with relatively limited supply meaning resale values should remain strong and helping keep monthly costs down if you’re looking to lease or finance your Alpine.
The lack of weight offers the Alpine huge advantages in ride and handling but it also means running costs are very reasonable for such a focused sports car. In our experience the official fuel consumption of just shy of 40mpg is easily achievable at a cruise and emissions are low for a car of this nature. The Alpine is bang-on with its main rivals for insurance groupings, meaning your premiums shouldn’t be any more severe and in everything from replacement tyres to service costs will be much cheaper to run than a Porsche.
Reliability of a Alpine A110
Commenting too much on reliability is difficult because this car – and the brand from whence it came – is a completely unknown quantity. It uses a lot of Renault parts, shares an engine with the Renaultsport Megane and the parent brand occupies a fairly lofty position in the manufacturer standings of Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index. But, this car is built on a completely bespoke aluminium chassis, uses quite a few unique components, so there are very few meaningful conclusions you can draw from that. For a modern design it is commendably simple, though. The best thing we can do is watch with interest for any reliable data and keep you posted.
Safety for a Alpine A110
Parent company Renault has a sparkling reputation in this area, but looking at the A110’s roster of standard safety equipment, we wouldn’t blame you for questioning whether that reputation will extend to Alpine’s products. It only comes with two airbags, along with the tyre pressure monitoring and stability control systems that are legal requirements these days, but very little else. Crucially, automatic emergency braking isn’t provided, and neither are the other clever safety systems that are commonplace these days. Alpine will argue this is in an effort to keep weight down for maximum driving enjoyment, but it’s still something prospective buyers should definitely be aware of. The car hasn’t been crash-tested by Euro NCAP, and it’ll sell in such small numbers that it probably never will be.
How comfortable is the Alpine A110
Although aimed squarely at the 718 Cayman the Alpine’s hardcore appeal means it also rivals minimalist sports cars like the Lotus Elise. Thankfully it suffers none of the Lotus’s practical compromises though and, for such a low-slung car, it’s easy to get in and out of and comfortable to sit in. The more luxurious trim has six-way adjustment for the seats but if you want height adjustment in the more minimalist version you’ll need to get the spanners out and move the seat in its mountings.
While spacious enough in leg and headroom don’t expect the Alpine to feel especially roomy inside – you rub shoulders with your passenger and there’s next to no oddment space for your stuff, the A110 lacking a glovebox, cupholders or much in the way of storage. Like the Cayman it has two boots, one up front and one in the back. Unlike the Cayman, though, they’re very small and you’ll need to pack light (and in lots of small, squashy bags) to make use of what space there is.
So, it’s pretty impractical. But you won’t mind once under way because the A110 is simply stunningly good fun to drive, thanks mainly to how light it is. For context it’s about three-quarters the weight of a 718 Cayman S, meaning it can use smaller and lighter tyres and softer suspension with no compromise in agility or handling prowess. You can genuinely steer it with your fingertips, the car seemingly pivoting around your hips and giving you huge confidence to carry your speed through the corners and make the most of its natural balance. Yet it’s also one of the most comfortable cars out there of any type, flowing with the road surface and soaking up the bumps while still feeling responsive and grippy. The stiff, locked down suspension on a Cayman might give it a slight edge on a track. But as a road car the A110 is in a class of its own. It’s also surprisingly quiet and refined on a cruise.
And if you do want a more serious Alpine there’s now the A110 S, which has significantly stiffer suspension and an eye to track-style performance. If you do track days or drive purely for the pleasure of it you’ll appreciate that and it adds a sharper edge to the experience. But the natural flow in the standard car is appealing in its own right and pretty much unique for a car of this type.
Features of the Alpine A110
The entry-level Pure version of the A110 is marketed as the choice of the driving purist, so it comes with less kit to keep the weight (not to mention the price) down. Even so, it still comes with all the bits you need, such as automatic climate control, electric windows, heated door mirrors, cruise control and a 7.0-inch touch-screen infotainment system with navigation, Bluetooth and smartphone mirroring.
Legende cars are designed to be a bit more luxurious, and add front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, six-way adjustable seats and upgraded sound system. The A110S is pitched as a more focused, hardcore version of the car, so it doesn't have quite as many niceties as the Legende, but you do get a lot of performance and handling upgrades.
Power for a Alpine A110
The A110 - in Pure and Legende models - is powered by a turbocharged 1.8-litre petrol engine delivering 252 horsepower through the rear wheels, via a seven-speed twin-clutch automatic gearbox. Don’t be fooled by the relatively modest power output; when a car is this light, that’s all the power you need for some seriously impressive results, as demonstrated by a 0-62mph time that beats the considerably more powerful 718 Cayman S.
With so little weight to haul the engine always feels keen and responsive too, picking up quickly from low revs and spinning out eagerly to the redline. The engine doesn’t feel quite as exotic, or muscular, as that in the Porsche but you won’t hear any complaints about the performance it delivers. A Sport mode makes the throttle and gearbox more responsive, shifting via the steering wheel paddles in the manual mode the preferred option when you’re pressing on so as to keep it all on the boil. The cracks and pops from the sports exhaust fitted to our test car also added to the fun.
Though the torque output for the A110 S is the same as the standard car it does get a boost to 292 horsepower and this complements the sharper response through the steering and suspension. It’s not dramatically faster by the numbers but the S definitely pulls harder through the gears and has just a little more attitude in the way it goes, without diluting that unique Alpine character that makes the A110 such a distinctive alternative to more conventional rivals.