ALPINE'S A110 REACHES EUROPEAN CAR OF THE YEAR FINALS
Every year, a troupe of motoring journalists from various publications in Europe get together and argue long into the night about what should be the next winner of the prestigious European Car of the Year award, and pretty much every year they get it hopelessly wrong.
Last year they went for the Volvo XC40, which would've been a great choice if the only new car launched last year was the Volvo XC40, but it wasn't. We had the BMW 530d, which was better, and the Lamborghini Huracan Performante, which was even better than the BMW.
Still, at least the Volvo was sort of nice, unlike the year before when they picked the gangrenous Peugeot 3008 over the Alfa Romeo Giulia. If a new definition of the word "insanity" were ever needed, this would be it.
To be perfectly honest with you, the last time that anything vaguely good and noble won the award it was in 1978 when the Porsche 928 scooped the crown, although you got the impression that it only won because no new Hillmans had been launched that year.
This year however, things are shaping up to be a little bit different. The 2019 shortlist has eschewed the usual roster of beige and for once every single finalist is a good car. There's the Jaguar I-Pace, which will probably win because it's an electric car, and even though such a thing will only ever work in theory until the woeful charging infrastructure is sorted out, we are all told we have to be nice about it.
Then we have the new A-Class Mercedes, which should win for its utterly wonderful interior, not to mention the fact that if you avoid the diesel engine, it's bloody good fun to drive. On the basis that a Merc hasn't won the top prize since 1974 though, it looks unlikely.
However, the most surprising entrant on the shortlist has got to be the brilliant Alpine A110. The little French sports car is a breath of fresh air in a market usually dominated by the Porsche Cayman, and with it's 252 horsepower and 1103 kilo kerb weight it was one of the best cars I have driven all year.
Don't get me wrong, the I-Pace is very cool, and almost certainly the best fully-electric car in the world right now. And I enjoyed spending time with the new A-Class so much that I actually bought one, but from an enthusiasts point of view you've got to be rooting for the Alpine.
It's one of those cars that adds up to way more than the sum of its parts. The Renault engine isn't the most exciting, the styling is a bit awkward from some angles, and the £52,000 price tag is as sharp as the brakes. However, it's the way that the components come together so beautifully in the A110 that makes it so compelling, it's a car that feels as though the engineers have judged it to perfection, and when you drive it you get the sense that every single one of them really cared about making a great car. It just has something about it.
And if this years judges have anything about them, it's the one they'll pick. We'll have to wait until next year to find out. I bet you they don't though.