What Car? says...
When you drive an Alpine A110, you get used to being asked one question over and over: "Wow, that's cool – what is it?" So just in case your history of French sports cars is a wee bit patchy, here's a brief explanation.
The original Alpine A110 was a small rear-engined sports car born in the Sixties. It proved to be mightily good for rallying thanks to its low weight, nimble handling and eager Renault engine.
The connection between the two French brands became even closer when Renault bought Alpine. Under Renault's stewardship, Alpine continued until the mid-Nineties when the name faded away... until this all-new A110 came along.
The styling of the current Alpine A110 is almost a carbon copy of the original's, and so is the concept: a tiny featherweight sports car that places sheer driver enjoyment ahead of out-and-out lap times.
The most significant change is that the engine now sits in the middle of the car – as it does in its chief rival, the Porsche 718 Cayman. The purest expression of the original car’s ethos is the standard car, while if you want something more focused, there's the A110 S, the A110 GT and the A110 R.
Read on to find out whether the Alpine A110 has what it takes to defeat rivals as varied as the Cayman and the Toyota GR Supra.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The Alpine A110's 1.8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine has 249bhp, which might not sound like much cop when you consider that it’s around 50bhp down on the least powerful Porsche 718 Cayman.
That rival weighs a lot more than the 1098kg of the entry-level A110 though. That's very light by today's standards – even a well-equipped A110 is about the same weight as a VW Polo.
If you upgrade to the A110 S or GT, you get 296bhp, which knocks the 0-62mph time down to 4.2 seconds. That's quicker than the Cayman S, by the way, but, in all honesty, you can't really feel the extra power unless you drive both versions of the A110 back to back.
Those with their eye on the S model can opt for the Aero Kit for additional downforce and a higher top speed of 170mph (up from 162mph), thanks to a carbon-fibre front splitter and rear spoiler.
Anyone who's heard a four-cylinder Cayman’s rough exhaust note might be worried that the A110 will sound uninspiring. Don't be.
There’s an appealing rasp as you accelerate (especially in Sport and Track modes with the optional sports exhaust, which is standard on the A110 S and GT), followed by evocative popping and crackling when you take your foot off the loud pedal.
In short, it sounds like a proper sports car. That said, the silky six-cylinder engine in the top-spec Toyota GR Supra sounds more sophisticated, while the flat-six, non-turbo Cayman GTS sounds properly exotic.
When you take into account the fact that wind and road noise aren’t challenging at 70mph (it’s quieter than the Cayman), the A110 is a decent sports car to cover long distances in. For the super light limited edition R version, check out our separate Alpine A110 R first drive.
Strengths Delicate handling; characterful engine; plush ride; sharp gearbox
Weaknesses No manual option
The interior layout, fit and finish
The Alpine A110's interior looks pretty special at first glance. There's leather on the steering wheel, doors and dashboard, as well as a sprinkling of carbon fibre trim. There are even bits of its aluminium chassis on show for a touch of racing car drama.
You don’t have to hunt hard to find cheaper materials, though. The interior plastics are textured, but most are hard to the touch, which is the price you pay for the car’s lightweight ethos. You might also recognise plenty of switches from various Renault models. Overall, the A110 is nowhere near as plush inside as the Porsche 718 Cayman and Toyota GR Supra.
The infotainment system is very poor, especially next to the Supra's excellent BMW-derived iDrive system. You get a relatively small and fuzzy 7.0in touchscreen mounted in the middle of the dash, with a DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity and sat-nav. Fortunately, Alpine gives you Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring as standard so you can connect your mobile and use your own apps through the screen.
Most of the infotainment menus are relatively easy to understand, but the system is well behind the curve. The Bluetooth connection often fails and the screen icons are so small that you can't hope to hit them without a definite glance away from the road.
The software is so slow at times that you can’t help seeing the irony: the fast-paced sports car with a radio that takes an age to change station.
GT and S trims come with a punchier Focal sound system as standard. You can team that with an optional and surprisingly inexpensive subwoofer (called the Focal Premium audio system) for a richer, bassier sound.
Every version of the A110 has a height and reach-adjustable steering wheel. A110 and S trim get a lightweight driver's bucket seat while GT trim has a Comfort seat (it’s a cost option on the standard version). The bucket seat has a fixed backrest but is very supportive and the Comfort seat benefits from six-way adjustment to tailor your driving position more freely.
The appearance of the easy-to-read digital driver's instrument cluster changes depending on whether you're in Comfort, Sport or Track driving mode. Visibility isn't the A110's strongest suit, though. The view forwards and to the side isn’t too bad, but even by sports car standards, the tiny rear screen and thick rear roof pillars hamper what you can see out of the back.
Luckily, the S gets rear parking sensors, while GT trim has front and rear parking sensors, as well as a rear-view camera. If you want front sensors and a camera on S, or sensors and a camera on the entry-level A110, you can add them as options. All versions come with four bright LED headlights, for great vision at night.
Strengths Fantastic standard seats; impactful styling details; superb driving position
Weaknesses Not as plush as a Porsche Cayman; old-school infotainment
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Don’t be fooled by the Alpine A110’s diminutive dimensions. We promise that even if you're well over six feet tall, you'll fit without feeling hemmed in. That's because the seat is mounted low, there are humps in the roof to aid head room, and the front seats slide back a long way.
Storage space is a much weaker point, though. There are no door bins or glovebox – all you have is a centre console between the seats with a tray for a smartphone, a wallet and a few other odds and ends. On top of the console is a slot that’s perfect for the car’s card-shaped key fob (or a phone on charge), but the single cupholder at the other end is rather shallow. Drive with care if you’ve stopped to grab a hot takeaway coffee.
It is well worth specifying the optional Storage package. It adds a cargo net behind the driver’s seat and a small triangular shaped storage case mounted centrally behind the two seats. While these storage cases are not particularly capacious, it is useful to have a place to store your essentials.
Being mid-engined, the A110 has two boots – one at the front, and one at the back. Don’t get too excited, though: the front boot is very shallow and can take only one carry-on suitcase. The rear one is hampered by a tiny opening but is big enough for a squishy overnight bag.
We wouldn’t advise sticking your picnic in there because it gets pretty warm when the engine’s running, and don’t even think about offering your golfing partner a lift. The only space for a set of clubs is on the front passenger seat.
Strengths Plenty of head and leg room
Weaknesses Not a lot of storage space; boots are small
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The entry-level Alpine A110 trim is the one to go for – this sports coupé is more about the driving experience than the fripperies. It comes with part-suede and part-leather-trimmed seats, cruise control and climate control, and can be identified by the 17in alloy wheels and grey brake calipers.
Reasonably priced options such as a sports exhaust, 18in wheels, upgraded brakes and a more powerful Focal stereo are available on the base car. It is priced pretty close to the entry-level Porsche 718 Cayman and is predicted to have even better resale values.
GT trim brings some extra power along with the added convenience of the parking aids and extra seat adjustments that we mentioned earlier. It also adds 18in alloy wheels, blue brake calipers, brown leather seats and dashboard, power-folding door mirrors, ambient lighting, a suede headlining, a sports exhaust and aluminium pedals.
The hardcore S has stiffer suspension, suede roof-lining, part-leather seat trim with contrasting orange stitching, black 18in alloy wheels and uprated Brembo brakes with orange calipers. The range-topping R has carbon-fibre body panels, carbon-fibre wheels, carbon-fibre bucket seats and adjustable suspension.
All A110s get a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty. The Cayman has no mileage limit, but the A110 should be more affordable to run because its low weight is great for fuel consumption. Even the S managed to average 34.3mpg in our test, which is very respectable for a sports car.
There isn’t a Euro NCAP safety rating for the A110, although you could argue that its fine handling is enough to get you out of trouble. It’s still a shame that a modern car comes without automatic emergency braking (AEB) and lane-keep assistance – although the same is true of the Cayman. The A110 only lists a driver and passenger airbag, whereas the Cayman has a tally of six.
Strengths Base car is superb value; options are reasonably priced; slow predicted deprecation; great fuel economy
Weaknesses Like the Porsche Cayman, it could feature more safety kit
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No – but there’s a lot to like about its seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. It changes gears smoothly in Comfort mode, but is also capable of delivering lightning quick shifts in Race mode. The aluminium gearshift paddles behind the steering wheel have a lovely tactile feel and deliver a satisfying click when you change gear.
|RRP price range
|£54,490 - £91,490
|Number of trims (see all)
|Number of engines (see all)
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)
|MPG range across all versions
|40.9 - 42.2
|Available doors options
|3 years / 60000 miles
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)
|£3,658 / £6,355
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)
|£7,315 / £12,711