What makes a great sports car? The recipe is deceptively simple, it has to be light weight, fast enough to be fun, small enough to fit down a B road, and place driver involvement above mundane considerations. You can sprinkle some garnish on top by adding an evocative name, killer looks, and putting the engine in the middle, which doesn’t sound that difficult, does it? Well experience shows that is is really difficult to get right, and there is no bigger let down in the automotive world than a half baked sports cars.
Of course, Alpine clearly has access to the same cooking book as Green Car Guide because the (new) A110 has serious heritage, killer looks, a bespoke mid engine chassis, and a scarcely believable kerb weight of just over 1100 kgs. We also happen to think that it looks great, walking the tightrope of referencing the original A110 whilst also remaining contemporary with aplomb.
So, does the Alpine deliver on the road? Yes it does. The lack of inertia is immediately felt, with incisive direction changes, but it also allows a relatively soft suspension set up which has multiple benefits. The ride quality is good but it also allows the A110 to cope with bumps and cambers that can be the nemesis of tightly wound sports cars. This allows the Alpine to work in the UK, in fact it feels like it was designed for our unique roads, and that allows you to explore the dynamic repertoire more often.
Any downsides? The 1.8 litre four cylinder turbo is effective but it lacks character both in the way it goes about its business and the sound it makes, but it delivers ample performance and is key to delivering the good fuel economy that makes the Alpine a real world proposition. Of course we would like the option of a manual gearbox but the 7 speed dual clutch automatic ‘box works well and has very well chosen ratios, so it isn’t a show stopper.
The only other foible is the flip side of the inherently nimble mid engine chassis; with 56% of the weight over the rear axle it exhibits classic mid engine characteristics, i.e. given half a chance it likes to swap ends. This is no bad thing if you are a. expecting it and b. experienced enough to use the balance to your advantage, but if neither apply think twice before switching off the stability control and build up to the limit.
The A110 is a breath of fresh air, in fact it is very close to the car that we would build if anyone was mad enough to give us the keys to a car company. The combination of UK friendly dimensions, suspension that works with the road rather than trying to steam roller it, very well chosen gear ratios, and a punchy and efficient engine make a compelling combination. It also happens to have a driver centered chassis which allows the driver to make the difference, which we thoroughly endorse.