The 2019 Alpine A110 launched in Australia to rave reviews, and those of us at CarAdvice who had driven it overseas or domestically at launch loved it from the get-go. Soul and spirit are elements that seemed to go missing from vehicle manufacturing for a little while, but let me tell you they're back. And the Alpine A110 is at the head of the queue.
The Alpine A110 Premiere Edition we’ve tested here starts from $106,500, but what price exclusivity? That’s the argument you’re going to have as a buyer. Yes, circa six figures is still serious money, but exclusivity is something most motoring fans desire, and the Alpine certainly brings that to the table.
Read our Alpine A110 v Alfa Romeo 4C comparison review here. The argument when you discuss either Alpine A110 or Alfa Romeo 4C quickly turns to the tried and true, ‘why wouldn’t you just buy a Boxster?'.
You’d know from my own testing of the Porsche product that I love the mid-engined German. Always have. But even I can see the appeal in the more left-field French offering. Same goes for the 4C incidentally, which appeals for different reasons as you’ll discover in the abovementioned twin test.
Before we move on to the Alpine A110 specifically, the main difference between the French and Italian interpretations is in how they execute daily driver status. The 4C is immediately more stripped out, more hardcore and more on the edge. The A110 is a significantly less brazen execution of the same principle.
The minute you start driving it, you realise it has a refined edge, it’s quite insulated, certainly not harsh in any way, and no harder to punt around town than the average hatchback.
The Alpine weighs next to nothing in modern, tech and safety-laden terms – just 1094kg. That svelte figure is matched by its physical dimensions. It is nothing if not diminutive in the flesh, and cuts an attractive figure despite the compact exterior. I absolutely adore the styling. I don’t care that some people don’t like the rump, I do, and I love the way the snout harks back to the ’60s original. It’s a beautiful execution of retro design philosophy. Still, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and if you don’t like it, you don’t like it.
Mid-mounted, the Alpine features a 1.8-litre, transverse-mounted, turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which pumps out a smooth 185kW at 6000rpm and 350Nm from 2000rpm. Power is sent to a seven-speed DCT and then to the rear wheels for a 0–100km/h time of 4.5 seconds. Sharp enough for the fibre of what the Alpine is about.
The kicker with modern automotive technology such that it is, lies in the fact that the Alpine doesn’t feel especially rapid. It’s certainly not savage – not at a time when plenty of hatches boast numbers just as impressive.
It doesn’t slap you in the face the way real pace does. However, it promises a blend of balance and finesse that only a mid-engine, RWD layout can deliver when you find your favourite twisty section of road.
The A110’s cabin is neatly executed and finished with the attention to detail you’d expect for $100K. We didn’t love the fixed-back buckets in our test car, but not because of the seats themselves. They had been mounted up too high on the rail, and we’d have liked them down on the lower mounting locators, sunk further into the floorpan.
Seat mounting points aside, there’s precious little to complain about within the confines of the A110’s cabin.
Look at the photos and you can see that there’s a fluency of design to the cabin and an elegance to the way it is laid out. It’s sporty, but not for the sake of it. It’s comfortable, too, and easily a cabin you could live with every day.
It’s easy to get into and out of, doesn’t seem or feel as low slung as it actually is, the doors open wide, and it’s comfortable once you’re seated, too. There are none of the ergonomic quirks you’d expect from a vehicle of this type.
The switchgear and controls are all pretty logical and easy to use, too, with only the infotainment retaining a basic appearance. In short, for something that is unashamedly a retro sports car, the A110 is also unashamedly useful, practical and comfortable.
The Alpine is so easy to drive quickly, you’re instantly reminded of the purity, enjoyment and connectedness we so revere in sports cars of old. Sure, they were slow in modern terms, but they were so direct and pure. The Alpine manages to deliver on that sense of attachment while being rapid enough.
The steering is sharp, and you wonder why Alfa didn’t factor in power assistance with the 4C, such is the quality of the Alpine’s response.
The balance afforded by the mid-engine layout is brilliant, composed and assured, and the way the engine generates and delivers its power is almost seamless. The precision of the steering means you can tip it hard into a fast sweeper with accuracy, while the brakes bite hard and true, and we certainly never experienced any fade.
As is the case with any true sports car, the harder you work, the more significant the reward. That bodes well for buyers keen on track-day action or club-level motorsport. Crucially, the Alpine feels unbelievably well tied down up front, something not all rear-engine sports cars can claim – Porsche product aside.
The ride is worthy of mention, too. I was blown away by how comfortable it is around town, given the ability it shows at the outer edge of the performance spectrum. It’s firm, yes, especially with the added rigidity of the fixed-back bucket seats. But it is never uncomfortable. And it’s not so low that you have to pick your way over every hump and dip in the road.
The Alpine is covered by a three-year/100,000km warranty, which is an area that could be improved to compete harder with other offerings. Alpine also offers a conditional four-year roadside-assistance programme. Servicing is required every 12 months/20,000km, and the Alpine will average out to $780 per year for the first three years.
I have no doubt you could live with the Alpine A110 as a daily conveyance. Especially if you don’t need to carry a heap of gear to and from work.
It has storage, yes, but not enough if you take half your wardrobe or a store’s worth of sporting gear to and from the office. That aside, though, punting through traffic is no harder or more painful than any hot hatch.
You might be looking at the Alpine A110 Premiere Edition thinking, why would I buy it? Even after this review, as positive as it is. You might still be thinking, why? My response would be quite simply, why wouldn’t you buy it?