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Alpine A110 test drive

The sensation of movement inside a modern car can sometimes feel a little sterile. The protection we get from the outside world and the clever onboard technology creates a little cocoon, disconnected from the road and with little steering feel.

However, as I’m driving along a brief straight in the Welsh countryside with trees verging on autumnal everywhere I look, the Alpine A110’s cockpit is painted with light. It creates an atmosphere similar to a fighter jet soaring through faint clouds on an almost clear day as the high-gloss, interior body-coloured panels become speckled with brightness.

The layout of the Alpine forges an intense feeling of control. The balance is perfectly weighted around my hips, and while others want to put the seat back further and can’t, my dainty proportions for once match the car’s.

For its size, the 1.8-litre engine seems a bit overzealous too, especially as it’s turbocharged, but the pairing is an absolute delight.

From the driver’s seat, the noise from the four-cylinder 16-valve engine creates a glorious rumble that progresses to a smooth roar and completes a perfect driving package.

Personally, I still can’t decide if I think this car is classically designed or futuristic. When it arrived at our Snowdonia location, the iconic shape resurrected images in my mind of snowy alpine hills littered with fir trees and a rally-spec A110 cruising the icy roads.

However, the styling still looks bold. The curves are strong, and the round lights give an unmissable glare – particularly as the dark clouds swoop over and the rain begins to pour.

In my eyes, the greying backdrop only brings out the glamour in this car, too. It’s subtle when it needs to be and raucous when you want it.

From inside, yes, it does still feel like a Renault. It has all the key trademarks of the famous French brand, but enough special touches to make it feel different. The Alpine logo in the centre of the steering wheel is enough to put a grin on your face, while the stripped-back bucket seats beckon you to go racing.

The twists and turns of these roads are no match for the Alpine (it’s pronounced “Al-peen”, by the way) as I’m constantly reminded on our road trip. Its small proportions allow it to get away from the other cars with ease, most of the time not touching the limit of the 250hp it’s harbouring within.

It’s easy to feel deceived as we’re slicing through twisty bends like butter. Input into the A110 is so direct, you feel it’s unnecessary to put it into ‘Sport’ mode to feel you’re getting the performance that it’s capable of.

With one push of that big red button though, the dials come to life, the engine noise fires up a note and you can really feel the power firing through your foot.

All of a sudden, the way that Welsh hills like to, the roads will open up and there’s enough space to enable you to really put your foot down.

Alpine A110 road test | The Car Expert
The A110 is extremely light in weight (PA)

At this point, I realise I’d been occupying the lower echelons of what the Alpine can do. There’s one experience that can without a doubt put a smile on my face, and that’s pushing my foot to the floor and feeling the kick from the engine behind me send me flying down the road.

While the A110’s history suggests oiled-up mechanical parts and skilled driver input, one of the fantastic things about the 2018 model is that it’s incredibly easy to drive. Yes, there are a few hairy moments on a wet Welsh road when you’re pushing it particularly hard, but as everything is so direct and analogue, driving feels close to the limit but never out of control.

In the same vein, the automatic gearbox is so fast you’d never put it into manual for anything more than the fun of some flappy-paddle action and proving to yourself you know how to take a corner properly.

With tricolour badges emblazoned across the inside and outside of the Alpine, it’s got Parisian passion seeping through its fuel lines. The car feels alive, it wants to go and it wants to go fast.

Similar cars

Alfa Romeo 4C, Audi TTS, Porsche Cayman

Key specifications

Model: Alpine A110
Price (on-road): £50,900
Engine: 1.8-litre petrol, four-cylinder turbo
Gearbox: Seven-speed automatic
Power: 250 hp
Top speed: 155 mph
0-60mph: 4.5 seconds
Fuel economy (combined): 46 mpg
CO2 emissions: 138 g/km

Rebecca Chaplin
Rebecca Chaplin
Articles by Rebecca Chaplin are provided for The Car Expert by PA Media (formerly the Press Association). They include test drives of the latest new cars and features on various aspects of automotive life.
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