- Available for £48,000
- 1.8-litre petrol four turbo, rear-wheel drive
- Totally credible Cayman alternative
- Poor infotainment
- No horror stories yet
- Classic status guaranteed
Take yourself back to 2017. After a lifetime working for the man, you've decided that it's time for some fun, so you've put yourself in the market for a brilliant two-seater coupe. You've seen enough reviews of the new Porsche Cayman 718 to conclude that it's probably the one for you when bam! Along comes news of the new Alpine A110. Suddenly you're having to re-assess everything.
Now go back another few years from 2017. Would you have predicted at that point that a French mass manufacturer would come out with a genuine Porsche competitor? Probably not, unless you looked at it more closely. Then you might have seen it coming.
Alpine was a good brand that had been acquired by Renault in 1971 and then left in a dormant state, the snoozing punctuated only by niche cars like the Renault Alpine A610. That was another Porsche rival that could have been a world-beater were it not for its fragile, crude, user-unfriendly engineering.
By the time the first hints of a new, modern A110 began to circulate in 2012, however, Renaultsport had established itself as a highly credible performance offshoot. Suddenly, the marriage of that new engineering reputation with the evocative Alpine brand seemed entirely natural.
Alpines had always been powered by Renault engines, so that side of it was a no-brainer when it came to deciding on a powerplant for the new A110. The decision to honour the old one's styling was trickier because Michelotti's quirky design for the original fibreglass-bodied Alpine dated back to the early 1960s and had always been a bit Marmite. Recreating that quirkiness while keeping both customers and crash legislators happy was a tough ask.
The new Alpine also had to uphold its predecessor's sporting credibility. That was probably the toughest task of all because, irrespective of its looks, the old car had taken dozens of major rally victories in the 1970s, including the first ever World Rally Championship. Nothing short of dynamic excellence would do for the new A110, even though it was going to be a road car rather than a rally weapon. To make that happen, Alpine pursued the Colin Chapman theory of combining a lightweight body with more than adequate power, a seed first sown in an abandoned pre-A110 joint venture between Renault and Caterham Cars.
After some Alpine tweaking, the A110's mid-mounted transverse Renault-Nissan direct injection turbo four - a 1.8 just like its predecessor - sent 252hp and 236b ft to the rear wheels via a Getrag 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox and an electronic differential. Instead of steel for the chassis, the new car had aluminium. Instead of fibreglass for the body, it had more aluminium. That mix enabled a low kerbweight of around 1,100kg and pliant, old-school French suspension.
With 0-62mph times in the mid-fours and the potential to steam around corners at ridiculous speeds, road testers were impressed to say the least. Our own Dan Prosser had driven most of the tackle we all dream about buying with our lottery winnings but at the end of 2019 he signed up for an 8,000-mile a year PCP deal on a brand-new A110.
And that was having had time to think about it too. The car went on sale in the UK in spring 2018, one year after its rapturous launch at the Geneva show. Just one model was available at that time, the Premiere edition, 1,955 of which were built. They were £51,805 a go in the UK, priced right in the heart of Cayman country. Standard spec included metallic Alpine Blue paint, 18in alloy wheels, quilted leather Sabelt bucket seats and a reversing camera.
All 1,955 Premieres sold out. Two more models then joined the A110 offering: the 17in-wheeled base-spec 1,098kg Pure (which also had the Sabelt seats) and the more luxurious 1,123kg Legende with six-way adjustable seats in brown or black leather, 18in wheels, and an audio system that you paid extra for in the Pure.
In mid-2019 the S model was introduced. In terms of weight, it sat between the Pure and the Legende at 1,114kg, but that was offset by a larger turbo that added 40hp at a 400rpm higher peak of 6,400rpm. The torque was left unchanged to keep the 7-speed twin clutch transmission within tolerance, but the S had plenty of chassis mods. Reviewers weren't totally convinced by the S's £10,000 premium, as the on-road improvements seemed to be either negligible or even backward steps. But we're spoiling the plot. Let's get into that later.
There's an 'official' A110 buyer's guide put together by the Renault Alpine Owners Club but it's only accessible to registered members of that club. To register for membership, you need to quote the registration number of your A110, which means that non-Alpine owners who are thinking of becoming owners must look elsewhere for helpful info, like (hopefully) here. We'll do our best.
SPECIFICATION | ALPINE A110 (2018-on)
Engine: 1,798cc inline four petrol, turbocharged
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 252@6,000rpm (292@6,400rpm)
Torque (lb ft): 236@2,000-5,000rpm (236@2,000-6,400rpm)
0-62mph (secs): 4.5 (4.4)
Top speed (mph): 155 (161)
Weight (kg): 1,098 (1,114)
MPG (official combined): 35.1 (34.1)
CO2 (g/km): 152 (157)
Wheels (in): 17 (18)
Tyres: 205/45 (f), 235/45 (r) (215/40 and 245/40)
On sale: 2018 - date
Price new: £46,910
Price now: from £48,000
(Figures are for Pure spec cars: S figures are in brackets)
Note for reference: car weight and power data are hard to pin down with absolute certainty. For consistency, we use the same source for all our guides. We hope the data we use is right more often than it's wrong. Our advice is to treat it as relative rather than definitive.
ENGINE & GEARBOX
Taken in isolation, the 1.8-litre turbo four might not be the sort of engine you'd choose for its thrill value, but when it was installed in the featherweight Alpine it delivered a level of engagement way above what you'd expect from its conventional design. You got bags of urgency from as little as 2,000rpm and a willingness to rev right through to the 7,000rpm redline. Even though the turbo's main shove had faded by 6,000rpm, the A110's light weight meant that it was still worth hanging on to those top-end revs. Despite its extra 40hp, the improvement in the S's 0-62 time was minimal at 0.1sec.
It was also worth bypassing the Getrag's automatic mode in favour of manual shifting if you wanted to get close to the factory's 0-62mph acceleration claim of 4.5sec. The three driving modes were Normal, Sport and Track. For many drivers Normal became the mode they tried only once because Sport felt noticeably more alive, sharpening up shifts, holding the gears for longer and making the box more willing to downshift than it was in Normal mode. Track put the gearbox into manual mode and stopped automatic upshifts at the rev limit.
The Getrag was and remains a fine twin-clutcher although the Cayman's standard-setting PDK felt slightly faster, and of course you had the option of a manual on the Porsche. The A110 was engineered from the start to be auto-only with no prospect of a manual.
In terms of mechanical problems, you'd probably say that the Alpine's relative newness should exempt it, but most of the serious problems with any new car tend to happen in the early years so the Alpine's largely clean record to date is a more than decent achievement. There was a recall to fix an oil pressure solenoid problem, and as with many modern performance car, good battery condition is key to keeping the car running well, or at all.
WLTP testing regs came into force in September 2017 so particulate exhaust filters are par for the Alpine course. The active sports exhaust that was standard on the S became a popular and worthwhile option for the other A110 models as long as you liked cracks on upshifts and parping on the overrun.
The factory warranty was three years or 60,000 miles. For the first two years the mileage was unlimited up to that 60k mark, with the additional one year limited to that same 60k point. As far as we can see there are eight Alpine centres in the UK dealership network, only three of which are north of the Home Counties in Solihull, Manchester (highly recommended by several owners) and Glasgow.
Running costs were very acceptable for the performance. First services cost between £350 and £425 depending on where you went. Three quarters of that would be for labour. Even the S would easily hit its advertised combined fuel consumption figure of 34mpg, which was just as well as the tank held less than 10 gallons.
For most, the A110's handling was the main reason for purchase. Although its weight distribution was 44/56 front/rear, the centre of gravity was right under the driver's backside. The almost complete (96 per cent) use of aluminium for the A110's bonded and riveted chassis structure extended to the componentry for the all-round double-wishbone suspension. There was no limited slip diff, just an e-diff, Alpine having concluded that the integrity of the chassis dispensed with the need for any extra mechanical weight.
The S model had a 'Sport' chassis including retuned dampers, 50 per cent stiffer springs, 100 per cent stiffer anti-roll bars, a slightly lower (4mm) ride, bigger 320mm brakes and stickied-up Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres that had been specially developed for the car. In some ways it was the answer to a question nobody had been asking. For many, the S's extra stiffness took away some of the A110's B-road delicacy. Some UK owners who had specced the 18in wheel option on their Pures found themselves wishing they'd stuck to the standard 17s for the optimum balance of grip and comfort.
Reviewers often took the view that the A110's steering was the chassis weak point, but they were talking about different grades of stellar really. In Sport or Track mode the S's steering weight built up in a heftier and somehow less natural way that it did in the lower-powered variants. Our Dan had the geo of his Pure modded by Litchfield and reckoned it made a positive difference. For more on that have a dig through his PH Fleet reports.
Braking even on the standard small-wheeled, 296mm-disced Pure model was terrific. There was no ceramic option but few found that to be an issue. 18in grey diamond-cut Sérac or 18in forged Fuchs alloys were available as Pure options, but legende (sic) has it that a set of Pure-spec 17in ten-spoke alloy wheels and tyres would be lighter than a similar set of 18in Fuchs forged wheels and tyres. That could be down to the 17in tyres being heavier though. It's a nerd point.
The actual Legende had its own retro-Alpine look 18in diamond-cut four-spoke (ish) alloys in black, while the S had GT Race 18in wheels in matt black, contrasting nicely with orange brake calipers.
The styling of those competition-spec Alpine A110s of the 1970s was individual to say the least. Some might say ugly. That's a matter of opinion. So is the statement that Renault did a more than excellent job of honouring the original car's unique look in the modern A110 while giving it its own distinctive identity, but you'll probably get more general agreement on that one.
Like its dad, the new A110 definitely had a 'once seen, never forgotten' quality to it. Bumping into one on the road could take you by surprise because it didn't look all that special on the screen or on a piece of paper, but in the flesh it had the same sense of delicious compactness as the old car despite its not-insignificant overall width of nearly two metres. Compare its 1.98m girth to the Audi TT's 1.83m and you could see why the Alpine needed watching in tight environments until you got used to it. Mind you, the Cayman GT4 was even wider at 1.99m. Way of the world innit.
Irrespective of the model you had, all four front A110 headlights were LED units, as were the taillights with their dynamic indicators. Front and rear parking sensors were an option on the Pure but standard on the Legende, where they came with a reversing camera. Those sensors could drop back into the bodywork, triggering bogus beeps when motoring in town. To fix it you had to jack the car up and remove the appropriate wheel and arch liner, or try and claim it was Alpine's fault and get them to do it.
There was some nice detailing on all models, for example the French flags on the C-pillars, but for some reason you had to shell out to have a blue Alpine logo put onto the steering wheel of either the Pure or Legende. A glossy carbon roof was an option for the S.
The default A110 interior incorporated a matte carbon finish on the centre console, air vents and instrument panel visor, a less than brilliant 7in touchscreen for the multimedia system (DAB, sat-nav and flaky Bluetooth, but no Apple or Android availability, just a poor smartphone app), and those lightweight Sabelt bucket seats in black leather and microfibre. Spend a few hours in one of those fixed-backers and you'll know you've been in there even with the height and reach adjustability of the steering wheel. Still, anyone who has experienced the Cayman GT4 equivalents will tell you that the French car wins that long-drive comfort battle.
Talking of comfort, Legende cars had six-way Comfort seats in black or brown leather, with heating as an option. They also had a posher finish on the interior trim bits. No A110 was short of headroom, thanks to the low mounting of the seats and the 'double-bubble' roof design.
All cars had cruise, stop-start and hill start assist. The stop-start could be a bit glitchy, but a factory patch sorted it. An infotainment patch was made available to anyone who complained about poor DAB reception and/or touchscreen lagginess.
Aluminium pedals and an aluminium passenger footrest were options on the Pure. The ally pedals were standard on the Legende and both were standard on the S. You paid to have either of the two Focal audio systems put into your Pure, but the lower-spec (and fairly terrible) four-speaker system came free with the Legende. The S interior was leather and 'Dinamica', Alpine's version of Alcantara, with orange stitching and orange flags to match the external ones.
There were two boots, one (shallow) front and one (small opening) rear. The rear one could get quite warm, so you didn't leave your Brie and Stilton sandwiches in there for too long if you valued your hooter. Hard cases to fit the spaces were available in some dealerships. Alpinistes who didn't manage to snaffle the official cases found alternatives in the shape of overhead storage flight cases from firms like Cabin Zero.
You needed to plan your packing quite carefully as gloveboxes and door pockets were conspicuous by their absence. There was one cupholder, but it wasn't very deep. This could lead to singeing of the nether regions if you enjoyed quick exits from Starbucks. You could take your golf clubs in an A110 but only by telling your passenger to walk.
The air con was not super-butch and took a little while to reach a comfortable level of coolness on a hot day. The heated rear window was similarly weedy. Rattles from the Sabelt seats and from the hard (and, in the Pure, annoyingly reflective) plastic dashtop area could be bothersome.
You could in a roundabout sort of way say that the A110 broke all records for the length of time that passed between a car's first phase and its second one. It was worth the near-fifty year wait though because the modern iteration is an absolute belter with not much negative stuff being reported by owners and dealers already using the phrase 'future classic' in their ad copy.
Certainly, if you took the decision to buy a new A110 you'll probably be congratulating yourself now, not just because they're lovely cars to drive but also because depreciation hasn't really touched them. A look at new versus used prices is quite illuminating. A brand new 292hp A110S will now cost you £67-£68k, while a new 252hp Legende might be only £2k-£3k cheaper depending on spec. Having said that, there are zero-mile Legendes being advertised for £60k, with new Pures sitting at the £59k mark.
On the used side, 248hp A110s start at around £50k and run up to £63k or so for the lowest-mileage 2021 cars in special 'Atelier' paint finishes. The cheapest S we spotted was a 2019 2,700-mile car in grey at £55,000. Not much of a cash difference between new and used, then, but there is a difference in the waiting time. You can march into a dealership and buzz straight out again in a used A110, but you can't do in a new one unless you're prepared to take whatever might be available in your possibly not-so-local dealership.
If you're happy to have any used model, which you should be as there's very little to choose between them as regards the driving experience, you could quite reasonably base your decision solely on price. We've seen a 2018 Premiere with 7,000 miles at £48,245. As if to make the point about price compression, here's another 2018 Premiere with under a thousand miles on it for £55,950. Or for a bit less money but a few more miles you could be into this 292hp S. This 4,000-mile 2019 Pure takes us back below the £50k mark.
Earlier this summer (2021) there were rumours circulating about the closure of the Alpine factory at Dieppe, but it has since been reprieved until at least 2023, which is the planned review date for the A110 line. Nobody knows what may happen then, but if the A110 does go down the tubes then that 'future classic' status is surely guaranteed. Get one now, enjoy it, and cash in later - if you can bring yourself to do that anyway.
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