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Car Review

Alpine A110 review

£49,295 - £90,790
910
Published: 20 Feb 2024
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A terrific car, a genuine exponent of light weight and something pleasingly different to drive

Good stuff

A genuinely different rival to the Porsche Cayman, and a fine advert for light weight

Bad stuff

You need to be as committed to the lightweight life as the A110 is

Overview

What is it?

It’s the Alpine A110. And in case you hadn’t heard (it's been around seven years, where have you been?) it’s something very different.

On the surface it’s perfectly straightforward: a compact two seat coupe in the mould of the Porsche Cayman and Audi TT. But underneath the A110 is perhaps the world’s best example of the virtuous circle approach to automotive engineering.

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Why's that then?

It’s light. Really light. Lotus light, yet with the creature comforts you need to make it a pleasing daily driver. How light? Circa 1,100kg depending on which of the many, many versions you choose. That’s 300kg, approaching 25 per cent, less than the PorscheAudi or indeed Lotus's own Emira.

So, how did Alpine (pronounce it Al-peen, not Al-pine, it is French after all) get to that featherweight figure? Firstly by designing the A110 from the ground up with little carryover, and secondly by sweating the small things. So it’s an aluminium bodied, aluminium chassis’d, aluminium suspended sports car that has a modest 1.8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine.

Depending on whether you go for the base A110, the sportier A110 SA110 GT or the full-fat A110 R (or should that be low-fat?), it develops either 248bhp or 296bhp. The base car gets 236lb ft, the GT, S and R 250lb ft, boasting a 0-62mph time in the low fours. If only someone had tested them side-by-side to work out which was best...

What else do I need to know?

The engine is mounted behind the seats and drives the rear wheels via a seven-speed Getrag double clutch gearbox – perhaps the only thing about the car that’s not the lightest possible option.

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“We have tried to follow Colin Chapman’s principle, which is still valid, so if we have low mass, we can have moderate power, so we don’t need super wide tyres or big, heavy brakes and so on,” says Alpine’s chassis technical leader, Thierry Annequin. “We have chased all grammes everywhere on each component and each system to achieve this weight.”

Everywhere you look you see this attention to detail. Take the rear wheel – there’s no secondary brake caliper for the electric parking brake (EPB), it’s now integrated into the primary brake itself. That saves 2.5kg. And getting Brembo to integrate their software into the Bosch ECU instead of bolting on a separate control unit and wiring has saved another kilo. And the brackets that hold the EPB cables and hoses are aluminium too. “This is unusual,” claims Annequin, “but it saves seven grammes here, 12 grammes there and it adds up.”

The Sabelt seat is a mere 13.1kg – half the weight of the Recaro seat in the last Megane RS; integrating the ball joint into the upper control arm instead of putting it in a separate housing saves 300g per corner.

And so it goes on. The message from Alpine, building its first car since the final A610 rolled out the Dieppe gates 22 years ago, is that light weight matters. Jean Redele, the man who founded Alpine in 1955 and named it for the type of driving he wanted his cars to excel at, would be proud.

Let's gloss over the fact that its next car is an all-electric hot hatch with a whopper of a battery...

What are the latest updates?

In 2022, Alpine revised the A110 line-up in anticipation of that new Lotus coming to eat into its 2,100 annual sales. And it worked; in 2023 sales rose to 4,328.

Fast forward to 2024 and there's an A110 R Turini version on the way and an A110 S Enstone Edition for anyone who takes their F1 outpost knowledge seriously.

Prices start at £54,490 for the entry-level A110 and rise all the way to £122k for the R Le Mans edition. Now that's an ascent worth of an actual Alp.

Our choice from the range

What's the verdict?

Want a sports car? This little French A110 is one of the very best ever made

The Alpine A110 does things differently. Whether that makes it better or worse than a Porsche Cayman depends on your priorities and perspective. But fundamentally it’s a terrific car, a genuine exponent of light weight that makes you question the claims of almost every firm that says they build light cars. Even Lotus.

It tackles difficult roads with unflappable poise and agility, it’s a non-threatening sports car that proves that you can reverse the trend towards bigger wheels, bigger brakes, more power and more weight and still have something capable and exciting. There’s not much that flows across country with so little effort and so little energy expended. That's why we'd stick with the £50k A110, instead of being tempted by the more powerful £60k A110 S or GT. The standard car is all you need.

Has Alpine changed the car enough since the arrival of the Lotus Emira? You could argue very little needed altering, and Alpine doesn't really have the budget to do so. The revised touchscreen phone pairing is very welcome and the simplified range makes more sense, but the Lotus offers stuff the Alpine never can: a V6, a manual gearbox, and more cabin space. Though the Lotus is bigger and heavier.

That doesn't detract from the A110's charm though: you just need to buy into what this car offers, not what it sacrifices. Want a sports car? This little French hero is one of the very best ever made.

The Rivals

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