For the moment there’s a choice of just one engine: a 1.8-litre four-cylinder turbo with 249bhp, hooked up to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. That might not sound like much (it’s around 50bhp down on the standard Porsche Cayman and 2.0-litre Jaguar F-Type), but the A110 is light – even well equipped it weighs about the same as a basic Ford Fiesta.
That means it’ll scoot from 0-62mph in a rapid 4.5sec, before hitting an electronic limiter at 155mph. And you don’t have to rev the car to the redline in every gear to make swift progress, either; maximum torque is developed at just 2000rpm. Yes, there is a slight pause between pressing the accelerator and power hitting the rear wheels thanks to the turbo, but it’s easy enough to compensate for. If you’re worried about how it sounds, don't be. There’s an enthusiastic roar (especially in Sport and Track mode) when accelerating and popping when you decelerate. In short, it sounds like a proper sports car and significantly better than either the F-Type 2.0-litre or Cayman.
While some might moan about the lack of a manual gearbox, there’s a lot to like about the automatic ‘box. In Comfort mode it slurs between gears smoothly, but can be unwilling to change down should you need a sudden blast of acceleration. Sport mode sharpens the shifts and makes the car more willing to hold a lower gear, while Track is manual mode only, with no automatic upshifts. It’s this final mode that’s most satisfying; the ‘box swaps gears with no hesitation as you pull the wheel-mounted paddles, which feel great to use. Even so, the Cayman’s gearbox is slightly better.
But it isn’t the A110’s straight-line performance that impresses the most; it’s how it handles. The steering is lighter and a little slower than you’d expect from a sports car these days, but it allows you to place the A110’s nose with millimeter accuracy. Flick to Sport or Track mode and the weight is increased, but not excessively.
Once you’ve got used to this and relaxed your grip on the steering wheel, you start to feel the intimate details of the road’s surface at your fingertips. The A110 is much more communicative than the F-Type and beats the Cayman, too. Even so, there’s never any unruly tugging as you go over poor surfaces. Should you go beyond the limits of the tyres’ grip you’re notified immediately, allowing you to deal with the situation quickly and confidently.
When the A110 does start to slide, it’s always at the front first although it’s easy to neutralise this on corner exit with a dollop of throttle. Track mode does allow the tail to slip slightly, but it never feels intimidating. Even with all the electronic helpers turned off, there’s so much grip and traction that you’ll have to try very hard to unstick the A110. It’s much nimbler than the heavy F-Type and appears to have the edge on the previously untouchable Cayman. In a nutshell, it’s one of the most entertaining and rewarding cars to drive, regardless of price.
Arguably just as impressive is the way the A110 rides. Relatively soft suspension means even bad road surfaces are smoothed over far better than you’d ever think possible. It’s no magic carpet – you still know the bumps are there – but it takes a seriously bad bit of asphalt to upset the A110. Once you take into account minimal wind noise and an acceptable level of tyre roar at speed, it’s a car you can cover big miles in easily.
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