The Alpine A110 is the best sportscar under £60k - prove me wrong
This is probably going to be one of the longest reviews I've ever written but the car's worth it. I even included a "piece to camera". Oh boy.
The Alpine A110 was introduced in 2017 as a hommage to the original Alpine (part of the Renault family) that won rally races in the 70s.
"Operation nostalgia" such as this rarely work in the automotive world, mainly because yesterday's design only works on yesterday's products (and with yesterday's regulations) but in this instance, I think they pulled it off. The modern Alpine harks back to the original car and captures several elements of its characteristic design language like the four individual headlights, the wheels and the overall shape. It is an interesting car and it looks great. People look at it, some know what it is and some don't, but most were pleased with what they were seeing.
What I love most about this car is the fact that it was designed with a completely different idea and concept in mind. It isn't a super-powerful, super-heavy, super-techy elephant-in-a-china-shop kind of car. It's simple, nippy, pure. There's quality but there's also substance.
Modern cars are getting fatter and weigh doesn't help with anything, we all know that, it doesn't help fuel consumption, doesn't help with emissions and hinders performance but with the Alpine, they kept things simple. Instead of giving it a million horsepower and unnecessary geek stuff, they've fitted a 1.8 L turbocharged I4 engine making 249 hp and 236 torques, but because it only weighs 1,100 kg, it is super-agile, nimble and faster than you think.
wow. please ignore the horrid thumbnail
0-60 is dealt with in 4.5 seconds and the top speed is 155 mph and that's not the end of the story. Precisely because it is lightweight, it comes with surprisingly good MPG figures. I drove it for 706 miles and used around 83 litres of fuel. That translate into 32.17 MPG (US) / 38.64 MPG (imperial). In plain English, this means the Alpine is cheap to run and crucially, cheaper to run than a great deal of SUVs and crossovers that clatter up the roads, as well as most other sportscars.
Alpine engineers talked the A110 into going to gym to shed weight and it worked. The chassis and the body are made from aluminium and the seats are much lighter than they are in any Renault. Everything that wasn't needed was removed and even creature comforts such as the infotainment display have been designed specifically for the Alpine to save weight. They could've simply used the same system out of a Clio RS or a Mégane RS but they knew this would have made the car heavier so they used a purpose-built system for the Alpine.
The car I drove ("Legende" trim) also comes with Focal stereo system and a digital instrument cluster with graphics showing all the information you need. It changes when you press the "sport" button on the steering wheel, which will also improve throttle and brake response. This is also going to change the behaviour of the 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox.
The gearbox is, in my view, one of the biggest drawbacks of this car. It's Renault's own system, called the EDC (Efficient Dual Clutch) and in all honesty, it probably isn't the best system out there. The thing is, the gearbox is going to have to react based on the combination of engine use, traffic condition and your driving style and I'm not sure it knows how to do that. You're either driving quickly, driving quickly in sport mode, or driving slowly/normal speed in every day traffic but this transmission appears to have been finely tuned for speed and then adapted for use in traffic. It is snappy and quick and on point when you're driving fast and even more so when you're driving fast in sport mode. However, it does become a bit jittery and dim-witted when you're stuck in traffic. It feels like it's not exactly sure what it's doing, it shudders a lot and changes down unnecessarily whenever it thinks you're braking even though you actually aren't, when you're driving over a speed bump for example.
The faulty gearbox, however, is a minor concern in a world of positive things because the Alpine is just all-around amazing. It has a wonderful engine sound, especially in sport mode, it is easy to drive and because it's lightweight, it isn't scary or difficult. Some sportscars are capable of astounding performance but you're never going to use it because they become uncomfortable and feel threatening when you drive fast, this is different. It always keeps you in your comfort zone and you're going to use everything it has more of the time, which means you're going to have more fun more of the time.
Despite weight-saving measures and its sporty looks and soul, the attention to detail is satisfying and surprising. You can tell this car was designed by people who care. The car I used was painted blue (Alpine calls it Bleu Abysse) with 18-inch gloss black diamond-turned finish wheels and leather upholstery for the interior.
Visually, the infotainment system isn't all that great and there are no cup-holders and there's only one or two pockets in which you can place your wallet or phone while you're driving, including one underneath the centre console where you can also plug-in your phone and/or use AUX. Having said that, these things hardly matter considering what this car is for.
I like everything about. I love the brown leather with contrast blue stitching combination for the Sabelt seats and the steering wheel, I love the carbon fibre finish on the centre console, air vents and instrument panel. I even like, and I know I shouldn't, the French flags on the door panels and C-pillars to remind you that this car is, of course, very French.
It's planted and pointy. You don't need to be a superstar to drive this fast and have fun and if I were to nitpick, I'd say that handling on wet tarmac isn't stellar, the car felt a bit fidgety even under partial throttle on wet tarmac. Mind you, this is probably down to the tyres.
The 7-inch touchscreen display from which you can control the sat-nav and phone connectivity comes with the same sort of graphics you'd expect from a hot Renault, but it also comes with one more feature you access by pressing the big "A" at the centre of the screen. If you do that, you'll find more settings and dials regarding car performance, how much torque and hp you're using, gear ratio and so on and so forth. You're going to love this if you're into that sort of thing. Alpine calls it "Alpine telemetrics".
The Alpine has no competition. The Lotus Elise and the Alfa 4C are both spiritual rivals but the former is nowhere near as user-friendly as this and the latter is more expensive and harsher. If you're looking for no-frills, lightweight sportscar I suppose the MX5 is going to enter the conversation at some point but it is cheaper, less powerful and the engine is at the front. So when all is said and done, if you're looking for a mid-engined quick sportscar which won't break the bank, or your back, it's either this or GranTurismo PlayStation game, I guess.
It isn't the cheapest car in the world. Prices start at £46,905 for the Pure and £50,805 for the Legende spec. The version I drove costs €65,782 in Italy. You need to be reasonably well-off to buy this, let's not beat around the bush, but if you can afford to spend 50-something thousand GB pounds (or 60k euros or 70k dollars) on a 2-seater, you should definitely considering buying this.
I don't think we fully appreciate and understand how difficult it is for car manufacturers to build cars like the Alpine in the modern market and that has nothing to do with technique or engineering, it's all about regulations. Nobody wants to hear this but that's what it is. It takes a clear vision of what lies ahead because institutions, those that make the rules, hate sportscars that run on petrol. But Renault did it anyway.
They opened a drawer full of old and new ideas, built a new car with the Alpine badge and made it great. And I'm certainly glad they did. Excellent.