This is an unashamed love letter. From the moment I first laid eyes on the Alpine A110, I was smitten. It was December 2017 and I was in France for the international launch of the reborn Alpine brand.
My first glimpse of it in the metal evinced all kinds of physiological reactions. Weak-kneed, sweaty-palmed and heart racing, it was like the moment you know you fell in love for the first time.
Eleven months later, in the lead up to CarAdvice’s Winners Circle, I was concerned I’d romanticised the Alpine A110, that my love for this car was based on an all too short flirtation in an idyllic location on the other side of the world, more holiday romance than meeting your soulmate. I needn’t have worried.
Reunited with the Alpine A110 in Australia and from the moment I saw it again, I knew it was love. I think I may have hugged it. (We can confirm he hugged it - Ed.) And that’s before I got behind the wheel.
So what, apart from its looks, and I’ll concede they are polarising, do I love about it? Simply, it’s a car that demands to be driven and driven hard.
Alpine’s philosophy has always been about creating lightweight and agile cars. It’s a philosophy that remains a core principle today. Weighing just 1100kg, give or take a couple of kegs depending on spec, and powered by a turbo 1.8-litre inline four with power outputs of 185kW and 320Nm, the Alpine can complete the dash to triple figures in just 4.5 seconds.
It’s properly quick then. And having spanked it on a race track in the south of France, I can attest that 4.5-second dash is no bogus claim.
But, it’s not just about speed. The Alpine’s real trick are its superb dynamics, thanks to double-wishbones on all four corners and a weight distribution of 44:56. There’s a tactility to the way it holds the road; you can feel every little movement underneath you, in a good way. The Alpine is entirely predictable in its handling, even when you’re pushing at your limit. The steering too, is razor sharp, responding kindly and immediately to even the most minor inputs.
I was fortunate to drive the Alpine in its natural habitat, around the backroads of Provence in the south of France. Those roads, twisting and winding their way through the mountains, provided the perfect canvas for the Alpine’s artistry.
Better yet, a day-long session at the charming little Grand Sambuc Racetrack, really brought home just how quick and perfectly balanced the A110 is.
It’s not without its flaws, though, but then who amongst us is perfect. Practicality is a not strong suit, with a tiny boot, a smaller ‘frunk’ and not even anywhere to stash your smartphone in the cabin. And there’s no rear-view camera. But you know what? As soon as you hit the starter button and that glorious soundtrack of snarls and crackles fires up behind your ears, you just don’t care about mundane everyday practicalities.
Instead, you’re left with the certainty that this is a car meant to be enjoyed in the finest tradition of automotive enjoyment – by being driven hard at the limit.
Am I still in love almost a year later? Without question. Is it a rational love? No, but then, when has love ever made sense?