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Alpine A290 revealed to battle MINI’s future Cooper JCW Electric

Small, powerful and stylish, the compelling new A290 hot hatchback is about to take Alpine mainstream

The next step in Alpine’s modern era has been revealed in the form of an all-electric hot hatchback with concept car looks and a feisty front-wheel drive chassis. Called the Alpine A290, the new MINI JCW-rival takes much of its technical underpinnings from the Renault 5, but features more power and a wide range of chassis updates – all while channelling the style and stance of Renault’s iconic R5 Turbo. 

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It may share much of its technical layout with the Renault 5, but Alpine has swapped that car’s electric motor for the more potent unit found in the larger Megane E-Tech. The powertrain is available in two states of tune – 178bhp and 217bhp – and Alpine says that while the hardware is mostly shared with the Megane, the software has been totally redesigned.

Powertrain and performance

The motor is fed from a 52kWh battery pack that Alpine says is good for up to 235 miles, only slightly down on the equivalent Renault 5 as fitted with the same battery. Peak charging speeds are capped at 100kW on a rapid fast charger, and it’ll top up from 10 to 80 per cent in around 30 minutes. Also like the R5, the A290 features bi-directional charging and Vehicle-to-Grid, which can sell energy stored in the car’s battery back to the grid during high-demand periods of the day. 

Performance for the fastest iteration is rated at an impressive 6.4 seconds for the 0-62mph sprint –  something aided by the A290’s comparatively light weight figure of 1,479kg - 200kg less than an equivalent MINI Cooper SE. 

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But to appease those who might be worried that this is nothing more than a modified Renault 5, Alpine has gone to some extensive lengths in the development of the car’s chassis. This includes the use of a new front cradle for the electric motor, plus comprehensively redesigned suspension that supports a 60mm wider track. 

Some of that extra width comes from the wider 19-inch wheels, but most is derived from the suspension itself, which has redesigned knuckles, plus new spring and damper rates. It also features stiffer anti-roll bars, and the same clever hydraulic bump-stops that were introduced in the Renaultsport Megane. 

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The multi-link rear suspension is toughened and updated, and engineers say it could one day be adapted to fit a second motor. For now, though, the A290 will remain front-engined and front-wheel driven, with a 57:43 weight distribution front-to-rear. 

There’s no form of mechanical differential, unlike in cars like the new Abarth 600e or Alfa Romeo Junior, yet Alpine has developed software that is able to quell excess wheelspin from the inside wheel before the traditional traction control needs to be called in. 

As with all modern EVs, there are various drive modes to choose between in the Alpine A290, with a further Boost mode activated via a button on the steering wheel. With this button held down, the A290 is able to produce its maximum power and torque on a more aggressive throttle map, giving the feeling of more performance regardless of the pedal position. 

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There’s also adjustable regeneration from the brakes, with the strength able to be actively tweaked via a rotary switch on the steering wheel. All but the base Alpine A290 model feature a set of 320mm front brake discs with four-piston Brembo calipers - incidentally the same as found on most Alpine A110 derivatives. 

Exterior and interior design

As alluring as the performance is, though, the Alpina A290’s appeal is just as centred on its unique design. Alpine’s head of design, Antony Villain, mentioned: “This for us was all about fun, and we could go a little bit crazy with lots of elements. We made lots of little and impactful decisions, like the unique rear doors which are meant to reference the R5 Turbo. We could do this as it's just a standard R5 door with an extra pressing or two, so the doors didn’t need to be made bespoke.” 

The extra 60mm of width doesn’t go unnoticed, either, with flared arches and aggressive lower bumpers that all look more track focused and aggressive. Villain went on to say: “Unlike the R5 which is a little meek, we were able to just go for it, and we think it looks great, like a concept car.”

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This extends to the interior, too, with retro-styled seats finished in a variety of leather or technical fabrics, but always featuring blue highlights and contrasting materials. The centre console is new and vastly different to the Renault, featuring the same gear selector as the A110 mounted on a similarly designed console. 

Also unique to the A290 is a new sound system engineered in collaboration with French hifi brand Devialet. As well as acting as normal speakers for the familiar touchscreen-driven sound features, it is also responsible for playing one of two different augmented engine notes that the driver can choose between. It works in a similar way to the setup found in the Abarth, but changes pitch and volume based on road speed, acceleration and load. This should make it sound much more natural than the somewhat one-dimensional Abarth

Specs and prices

The Alpine A290 will be launched in a base GT spec with a 178bhp motor, with an optional Premium pack available on top. For those not bothered by the Premium’s extra kit, you can then specify a GT Performance model which features the 217bhp motor option, the high-spec A290 GTS tops the range by combining the lot. Above this will sit a limited-run Premier Edition, which will come with a few unique finishes, as well as the option of one of three additional liveries, including one based on the A290 Beta Concept car. 

UK prices have yet to be confirmed, but the entry-level Alpine A290 will start at the equivalent of around £32,345 in France, or right on target for the MINI Cooper SE and upper-levels of the Abarth 600e. 

Click here for our list of the best electric cars...

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Senior staff writer

Senior staff writer at Auto Express, Jordan joined the team after six years at evo magazine where he specialised in news and reviews of cars at the high performance end of the car market. 

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