Ride and handling
That classic set-up of double unequal-length wishbones at each corner and a lightweight aluminium body and frame means the A110 has all the credentials to deliver ride and handling greatness. But even so, the way in which it flows across the ground, "breathing" with the road like only the best cars from Lotus did all those years ago, still comes as a very pleasant surprise.
The steering is light, delicate and accurate, but delivers genuine feel through the rim once you start to work the tyres, in all of its modes. You place the A110 to the nearest millimetre through most bends and have total faith in the front end because the turn-in response is so crisp, without being hyper-reactive. The lightness of the steering is initially a bit of a shock, given weighty setups are all the rage in performance cars right now, but the way it wriggles in your hands, gently following the contours of the road, is a refreshing characteristic. The S somehow improves on this, adding more weight and precision to the steering, whilst reducing body roll for calmer high-speed direction changes.
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This is a car that flows down the road, its minimal mass and soft suspension giving it a typically Gallic feel. You can hustle it, but it prefers to be caressed along, taking the line of least resistance. This is a sensation that’s enhanced by the ride, which soaks away bumps that others pummel into submission. Get it right and the Alpine manages the unique trick of both floating just above the surface and being intimately keyed into it at the same time.
It’s not without fault, though. The damping isn’t quite there yet in there standard machine, lacking the fine control that really engenders confidence and encourages you to really push on. It’s exacerbated by the perceived imbalance to the weight distribution, which feels as if the engine is set too high and too far back. Over fast flowing roads the Alpine takes on a subtle diagonal corkscrew motion as the weight of the car seems to fall over onto the outside rear wheel. It’s lovely at eight-tenths, but push on and it feels a bit flightier and less trustworthy.