Alpine A110 review: a lightweight, fun-to-drive, two-seater sports car
The Alpine A110 captures the magic of the 1960s original, offering road and track-focused models to challenge German rivals
The Alpine A110 is a brilliant sports car that rivals everything from the Porsche 718 Cayman to the Audi TT. The French firm had a lot of pressure on its shoulders when it tried to recreate the magic of the 1960s original, but the result is a sublime driving experience and stunning looks.
It feels like a special car out on the road and certainly delivers on the feelgood factor, although some may find the premium quality of its German rivals more appealing. That aside, there aren't many alternatives that are as lightweight, fun and immensely capable as the Alpine A110.
About the Alpine A110
The Alpine brand stretches back decades, and while a long hiatus in recent times means younger car enthusiasts might not fully understand its significance, the A110 is a hugely important car for parent company Renault. Not only does the latest car look quite similar to the classic A110, but it embodies much of that car’s lightweight, driver-focused ethos.
There’s only one body style, one engine (albeit in two different states of tune) and one gearbox. That means that whichever trim you go for, you’ll make do with a stylish two-door coupe body with a 1.8-litre turbo engine and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. They’re all rear-wheel drive, and all weigh less than 1,200kg, while power options include either the standard car's 248bhp, or the 296bhp output that comes with GT, S and R versions.
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The standard A110 version starts at around £54,500, and features part-leather/microfibre bucket seats and 18-inch alloy wheels, while the GT includes unique alloys, six-way adjustable leather-trimmed comfort seats and gloss carbon fibre interior trim. The top-of-the-range S and R variants are more performance-focused with individual chassis setups, with the R also featuring adjustable dampers, Michelin Cup2 track tyres and R-specific Brembo brakes. Alpine continues to offer special editions such as the S Enstone Edition, San Remo 73 and R Le Mans for buyers who are looking for more exclusivity.
Alpine A110 GT long-term test
Contributing editor, Steve Sutcliffe, certainly enjoyed the driving experience over seven months and nearly 8,000 miles behind the wheel of a GT trim Alpine A110, but it certainly wasn’t trouble-free.
Steve experienced some niggles during his ownership, from the sat-nav screen going blank just at the end of his journey when he needed directions, the odd interior rattle and squeak, plus some erratic behaviour from the gearbox as the car approached its 12,000-mile service. Happily, all the mechanical and interior trim issues were taken care of, at which point, Steve seriously considered buying an A110.
Engines, performance and drive
When Alpine – and parent company Renault – set about reviving the legendary brand, its main focus was to make a lightweight and engaging sports car. We’ve now driven a number of examples, both in Europe and the UK, and we’re pleased to report that they’ve largely succeeded. The Alpine A110 is a thoroughly engaging car to drive.
Tipping the scales at just 1,102kg, even the standard car is much lighter than rivals like the Porsche 718 Cayman and Audi TT RS. As there’s less weight to pull around, it can make do with less power, too – the dinky 1.8-litre turbo petrol engine pales alongside the Audi’s 395bhp 2.5-litre five-cylinder unit. The Alpine’s motor isn’t as characterful as its German rival, but it sounds great, and it’s more fun to rev than the muted flat-four in the latest Cayman.
That low weight has huge benefits when it comes to handling. The double-wishbone suspension and strong Brembo brakes help with engagement, while the rear-mounted engine offers perfect balance. There’s even a flat underbody, which makes the car more stable at speed.
There are three driving modes: Normal, Sport and Track, which alter the settings for the steering, exhaust, traction control and gearbox. You cannot change the settings for the suspension. But despite not offering adaptive dampers, the car flows beautifully over British roads. Grip is excellent, too.
While some may criticise the fact the Alpine isn’t available with a manual gearbox (all cars come with a seven-speed DCT transmission), the small sports car feels hugely sophisticated and very fast. And if you want something that’s a bit more hardcore, you can always consider the R. Thanks to the extensive use of carbon fibre, it sheds 34kg compared with the S model, slimming down to 1,082kg. That diet, combined with many aerodynamic tweaks, helps to improve the already brilliant handling, which feels like it could out-manoeuvre a laser-guided missile.
0-62 acceleration and top speed
The 1.8-litre four-cylinder unit is available with a standard 248bhp and 320Nm of torque, while the GT, S and R versions offer 296bhp and 340Nm over a broader rev band. Rivals offer more power, but make no mistake, this is still a mightily quick sports car.
Alpine claims the A110 with 248bhp should sprint from 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds, and our tests recorded a (0-60mph) time of 4.6 seconds. The previous S version with 288bhp is a tenth quicker at 4.4 seconds, while the upgraded GT and S cut a further two tenths from this time. The R manages 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds.
The Alpine’s low kerbweight means it is strong in gear, however. This also helps agility through tight bends. Every model is electronically limited to 155mph.
MPG, CO2 and Running Costs
By minimising weight wherever it can, Alpine has managed to make a sports car with incredible performance, which won’t cost the earth to run. Under new fuel efficiency and emissions testing, Alpine claims the A110 will officially do 35.1mpg (34.5mpg for the GT and R, and 34.0mpg for the S), and while we only managed 34.4mpg on our test, that’s much better than the latest Porsche 718 Cayman S (24.6mpg on test) or Audi TT RS (23mpg) could manage. That should equate to a big difference in annual fuel bills. CO2 figures are 152g/km to 160g/km depending on which version you opt for.
However, the high list price means you’ll pay a premium in annual road tax over lesser hot hatchbacks and fast coupes – although the Porsche and Audi rivals are liable for the same extra cost.
Insurance groups are high for the Alpine A110, but largely in line with rival models. It starts in group 47, far higher than the entry-level Porsche 718 Cayman, which begins in group 42.
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Expert data points to the Alpine A110 achieving strong residual values, with the standard car holding onto 60 per cent of its original list price over a typical ownership period of three years and 36,000 miles. The rest of the lineup falls a little behind, but not by much, and all versions still outperform the entire Porsche 718 Cayman range.
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Interior, design and technology
As this is a small, lightweight sports car, the Alpine’s cabin is quite compact. However, it comes covered in quilted leather, and there’s plenty of tech on offer.
Every car gets a set of digital dials, which change in appearance according to which driving mode the car is in. The optional sports seats offer excellent support without being too firm, while the raised centre console gives a sporty ambience and a feeling of being cocooned in the cabin.
The higher-powered A110 S is pricey, but offers Brembo brakes, an active sport exhaust and bespoke 18-inch black alloy wheels. Inside, you get those brilliant bucket seats, a Focal stereo and a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system. Sat-nav, Bluetooth and DAB are all included, with the 2021 facelifted model now including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The S version also includes interior flashes such as orange stitching throughout the cabin and aluminium pedals, but there is only one standard paint colour – Glacier White, so if you want to spec a different hue, you’ll have to pay for it.
For those that crave even more exclusivity, Alpine offers its Atelier personalisation programme where buyers can access new body colours and specific finishes for their car's alloy wheels and brake callipers.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The Alpine comes with a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system as standard. The display is responsive enough, although the menus in a Porsche 718 Cayman are more logical and the system is easier to operate on the move because there are more physical buttons. Every version of A110 does come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone connectivity, so you can bypass the somewhat clunky infotainment and utilise your phone for your navigation and audio needs.
A Focal stereo is standard for the S and R versions, producing a surprisingly good sound given its lack of outright firepower, while a DAB radio and Bluetooth are both included. The GT adds an upgraded Premium Focal audio system.
The neat-looking digital instrument cluster changes depending on which driving mode you’re in, with more or less information and driving data being displayed as required. The S version also adds Alpine Telemetrics, which enables the driver to access technical information such as fluid temperatures, acceleration measurement and lateral/longitudinal forces.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
Ok, so it’s unlikely you’ll buy a two-door sports car with high hopes for practicality, but the Alpine suffers both in terms of cabin storage and boot space. There are two boots, but neither is particularly big – offering space for a laptop bag or a weekend’s shopping.
Poor interior storage and a lack of cubbies let the side down further, although Alpine does offer the optional Storage package, which comprises a cargo net behind the driver seat and a storage case. The GT model adds six-way adjustable, leather-trimmed heated seats and is probably the best option for overall comfort. We ran a GT long-termer for seven months and 8,000 miles, and found it surprisingly soothing over longer journeys.
At 4,180mm long and 1,798mm wide, the Alpine is smaller than both the Porsche 718 Cayman and the Audi TT. Combined with good visibility, it feels easy to place and therefore very rewarding to drive, even on tight B-roads. The compliant ride means it’s easy to drive in town, too.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
The Alpine is a strict two-seater, so this section is largely irrelevant. However, it’s worth noting that the A110 is quite cramped inside, with the high centre console making things feel quite tight. Still, if you’re not the claustrophobic type, most adults should be able to get comfortable.
Despite having two boots, there’s not much room to carry bags or luggage. The front boot measures 100 litres, but it’s quite shallow and will only really stow a briefcase or laptop bag. The 96-litre rear boot is much deeper, but you’ll still struggle to carry more than a soft gym bag or a weekend’s shopping back there.
Reliability and Safety
Alpine didn’t appear in our Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, while parent brand Renault finished a disappointing 29th out of 32 brands in the makers’ chart. Still, the A110 will be sold from 16 Alpine centres across the UK, so will get its own dedicated dealer network of sorts.
Safety kit includes switchable ESP, emergency brake assist, hill start assist, driver and passenger airbags and LED lights. It doesn’t get the latest autonomous safety aids from Renault’s regular passenger cars, such as automatic emergency braking, however. Euro NCAP hasn’t crash tested the A110, and isn’t likely to, given the niche nature of the vehicle.
The Alpine A110 comes with a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty. That is the same set-up you’ll get on a standard Renault family car, with Alpine also offering buyers of the lightweight sports car the opportunity to take out extended cover at extra cost. It is worth noting that while the standard Porsche warranty is also three years, there is no mileage limit.
There are just 16 Alpine Centres within the UK, so servicing your A110 might prove a little bit trickier compared to a Porsche Cayman or Audi TT, as both these rivals have access to a much larger dealer network. However, Alpine does provide maintenance agreements to help spread the cost of any required servicing work.
Every version of A110 requires servicing annually, or at 12,000 miles, whichever comes first. A 718 Cayman requires servicing less frequently, at every 24 months or 20,000 miles.