Alpine A110 review – lighter in body and soul than a Porsche Cayman
Refreshed, but not reformed, France’s little sports car continues to shine in its own distinctive way
The Alpine A110 has been a fixture in the sports car class for a few years now, having transcended its troubled birth to become a new standard of excellence thanks in large part to its lightness, deftness and satisfying fluidity.
Now four years after it first appeared, the A110 has undergone a subtle refresh for the 2022 model year, with a collection of cosmetic and tech changes applied to both the base A110 and the A110S. A third series-production derivative, the A110 GT, has also been added to the range, combining the S’s more potent 296bhp powertrain specification with the base car’s softer suspension set-up.
The A110’s key mantra remains the same though, the whole car developed with an obsessive attention to minimising mass and a uniquely French approach to chassis tuning that manages to make the car both sharp and supple. The Alpine is still a genuinely different proposition to rival sports cars such as the Porsche 718 Cayman, and no less thrilling as a result.
Like lesser variants of the 718 Cayman, the A110 is powered by a four-cylinder engine, but while the turbocharged 1.8-litre unit might not seem exotic on paper, in a car weighing little more than 1100kg, and with sprint gearing, it makes for an impressive turn of speed.
Most remarkable is the way the Alpine goes down the road. Where many rivals batter the tarmac into submission, the A110 glides serenely over it, working with the surface rather than against it. Quick steering and that mid-engined layout engender real agility, while outright grip levels are high. And given the softness of the set-up it’s surprising how controlled the Alpine is... up to a point.
Perhaps crucially, it’s possible to forgive a few flaws when a car looks this good. Compact, delicate and with just enough injection of retro, the Alpine looks stunning in the flesh. And for the money, there’s little if anything out there that looks, drives or feels as good.
Alpine A110: in detail
- Engine, gearbox and technical highlights - Four-cylinder unit is sweet-revving and eager, and the twin-clutch transmission has sharpened up
- Performance and 0-62mph time - Low weight philosophy and short gearing means the rasping turbo four delivers strong straight-line punch. It's smooth and responsive too
- Ride and handling - Alpine follows Lotus’s lead by combining supple ride with agility. It gives the car a distinctive feel, but can feel scrappy at the limit
- MPG and running costs - Low weight pays dividends at the pumps, the Alpine getting close to its official figures on a run. Also means less wear and tear on consumables
- Interior and tech - Material and build quality is generally good, if not to Porsche standards. Tech is improved, but still lacking in MY22 models
- Design - No matter which way you look at it, the compact and retro-infused A110 looks stunning. A thoroughly modern design, but those in the know will spot the retro cues
Price, specs and rivals
A110 prices have gently been rising over the years, but not quite to the extent of its rivals, making it look like something of a low-key bargain in 2022. The base model starts at £49,905 – an impressive price considering the amount of bespoke engineering that’s gone into the project. Admittedly, the more powerful Porsche 718 Cayman does start a few grand below at £46,540, but throw in a PDK transmission (+£2000) and things almost even up.
Both A110 GT and A110 S models have steeper entry points of £59,355 and £59,955 respectively. These are comparable to a 718 Cayman S (£58,300 with a PDK), which again has a power advantage, but there is one thing to consider when comparing Alpines to Porsches: the 718’s prices are before options, meaning they’ll rise more than a little to match the Alpine spec for spec.
As a complete sports car the Cayman just edges its more expensive rival. Yes, the flat-four engines are a bone of contention, and their character and delivery aren’t as effervescent as the Alpine’s four-pots, but they hit harder and come with more resolved transmissions; in terms of performance this punchy powerplant is a definite step up.
Competing with the Alpine for style, if not ability, is the £58,820 Audi TT RS. Powered by the exceptional 394bhp turbocharged five-cylinder engine paired to Audi’s own dual-clutch ’box, it’s almost worth the price of admission on its own. Sadly, the chassis isn’t quite in the same league – it’s neither as agile as the Alpine’s (or Cayman’s), nor as supple.
If you fancy something a little out of left-field, then the new £45,795 BMW M240i could be well worth a look. More four-seater, two-door saloon than a traditional coupe, the BMW is an intriguing option until the full-fat M2 arrives on the scene. The new model isn’t anything like as sharp as the Alpine or its more dedicated sports car rivals on account of its weight and all-wheel-drive system, but as a more useable daily proposition it makes a strong case for itself. While we’re here, hot hatchback options such as the new and much more impressive Audi RS3, Mercedes-AMG A45 S and high-spec Golf R also float around the base A110’s entry price.
The Alpine is by no means poorly equipped for its outlay. One shouldn’t sniff at a low-volume, specially developed aluminium chassis with double wishbones at each corner for a start, but the company does understand that under-the-skin stuff only goes so far. Even in ‘basic’ Pure trim you get LED headlights and tail lamps, 17-inch alloy wheels, lightweight (and gorgeous) Sabelt one-piece bucket seats, selectable driving modes and a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment set-up. GT models add uprated brakes and the sports exhaust system, front and rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera, 18-inch wheels, a full leather interior, six-way adjustable seats, and a Focal audio system. The range-topping S receives further Alcantara-esque Dinamica fabric inside, as well as the stiffer chassis setup.