The French Fling

The French have a reputation for building quirky cars that have gone on to adored by Francophiles the world over. Think Citroen 2CV, Citroen DS (my friend’s parents had one of these and as I child I thought it looked like a frog) and the original Alpine A110 from 1962.

So when Renault-Nissan presented their modern take on the Alpine A110 at the Geneva International Motor Show in 2017 it was no surprise that the motoring world fell instantly in love with this petit French sports car. But for me, I did not like the look of it at all; I thought those central front headlights were ugly and I didn’t like the side or rear profiles either.

Fast forward two years and with the Alpine 110 sitting in my driveway my opinion has changed 180 degrees. Some cars don’t look good in photographs in magazines and on the internet, but when you see them in person they just look so much better; this is how I felt about the A110.

My appreciation for the Alpine A110 was also garnered by the opportunity to drive it for myself and see if all the plaudits that have been bestowed on the French sports car were really deserved. The short answer to this question is ‘yes they were’.

The simple recipe of a small, rear wheel drive, lightweight, mid-engined sports car with modest power results in a sweet little car for you to really enjoy driving. The 1.8 litre turbocharged engine produces 185kW at 6,000rpm and 320Nm of toque between 2,000-5,000 rpm and this propels the 1,094kg Alpine from 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 250km/h (electronically limited). Official combined fuel consumption for the Alpine A110 is 6.2l/100km and for my weekend fling I achieved a modest 8.9l/100km.

There is not a lot between you and that engine so it also feels quick and like you at one with car. The experience is very enjoyable and very French like eating a rich slice of Camembert while drinking a glass of your favourite French Champagne on a romantic weekend getaway.

But if you were taking the Alpine with you on that getaway you would have to pack light because storage space in the Alpine A110 is at a premium. The ‘frunk’ has a 96 litre/40kg capacity and would be best suited for a soft overnight bag, while the rear trunk has a 100 litre capacity, is quite shallow and about one metre wide.

There is next to no storage space within the cabin of the Alpine and it doesn’t even have a glovebox; the car manual is stored behind the driver’s seat. At the rear of the centre console there is one drink holder and just to prove how French this car it, the cup holder was fitted with a removal ash tray and adjacent to this was a 12V outlet.

Under the bridge style centre console, which is somewhat reminiscent of the Ferrari 458 Italia design, towards the front of the car there are two USB ports, one AUX point and one SD card slot to keep your devices charged and your travel music playing.

The multimedia system features a seven inch touchscreen with satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity for your phone and Alpine MYSPIN, which offers smartphone mirroring for iOS and Android devices via a dedicated app. But the best bits of this system are accessed either by pressing the Alpine symbol on the centre of the touchscreen or the Mode button on the bottom of the column-mounted stalk on the right hand side of the steering wheel.

This brings up nine screens of various performance data from the A110 including things like brake application and steering angle, turbo pressure and intake temperature, a bar graph for torque and power outputs, acceleration times and graphs, a G-meter diagram, an oscilloscope with steering angle, and a stop watch with current lap time, last lap time and best lap time.

However, my favourite of the nine screens would have to be the diagram of the dual clutch 7-speed gearbox, which shows the current gear you are in and what gear is preselected for you to go into next. It would be great for entertaining your other half on the way to that romantic getaway.

The Alpine A110 has voice control prompts for phone, media and navigation. The voice control works well for phone and media, but like in the Renault Megane RS I could not enter a destination in the sat nav using it.

I really liked the quilted leather inlays in the doors combined with the red, white and blue inlay. The leather quilting is carried on to the sides of the microfibre Sabelt lightweight bucket racing seats that weigh just 13.1kg each and offer plenty of lateral grip for when you are enthusiastically driving along a nice windy road. The seats only have forward and backward manual adjustment, but are quite comfortable to sit it and I was easily able to find my ideal driving position.

There are three driving modes to choose from in the Alpine; Normal, Sport and Track. I spent the majority of my time in Sport mode, which meant the engine felt more tort and ready to pounce when I pushed the accelerator. There was also a wonderful noise as the engine rushed to the 6,700rpm red line of air being sucked into the engine right behind your ear, something a petrolhead like me really enjoyed!

In Sport mode the fully electronic driver’s dash has a sleeker version of the taco and speedo and it also gives a readout of the live Newton metre and horsepower output of the engine as you are driving along.

The ride in the Alpine A110 is firm, but not back breaking and the front and rear double wishbone suspension provides great road handling for attacking your favourite corners on those special roads we all know and love.

The dual clutch gearbox can either be in auto or full manual mode. If you take over in auto mode and change gears yourself the Alpine will revert back to auto mode in six seconds. To engage full manual mode you have to press the ‘D’ button on the centre console twice so that the letter next to the gear indicator on the electronic dash displays an ‘M’. The gear box really was fantastic and did everything I asked of it without hesitation. The only thing I did not like was the column-mounted gear shifters as I’ve spent the vast majority of my time in cars that have wheel mounted selectors, so it took a bit of getting used to especially when I was punting the Alpine hard.

As the Alpine at its heart is a sports car, the list of driver aides is short because there are none. You get standard cruise control and rear parking sensors only, not even a reversing camera. So extra care is required when you are parking this Frenchy so you don’t kerb the wheels.

The Alpine A110 Premiere Edition in Alpine Blue costs $106,500 excluding dealer delivery and statutory charges, which is cheaper than a comparable Porsche Cayman, the car that the Alpine has been most compared to. I can only compare it to a Lotus Evora and I think the Alpine has a better interior finish and gear box, but it is not quite as quick as the Evora.

The hard thing for someone keen to purchase the Alpine would be getting hold of one, as there is currently only the one official dealer and they are located in Melbourne – Brighton Alpine. Alpine Australia did advise they are working through some plans to potentially open a second Dealership in another state. 

If you don’t live in Melbourne and want to experience the Alpine firsthand for yourself there is one based in Sydney for people to test drive and Alpine Australia have also ran events in other states. 

When an Alpine has been purchased and the vehicle is available for collection, the interstate customer can either choose to be flown to Melbourne (at Alpine Australia’s expense) and then drive the car home, or Alpine Australia will cover the cost to transport the vehicle to a particular Renault dealership in their state, and a representative of Brighton Alpine attends the collection for the handover process.

As well as Brighton Alpine there are Renault dealerships in NSW, QLD and WA that have the knowledge and tools to service the Alpine A110 so the customer does not have to return the vehicle to Melbourne to do this. The Alpine A110 has a three year/100,000km warranty and a 12 months/ 20,000km service interval. The first three services are capped to a total price of $2,340, but some additional service items are charged above this rate.

If you are looking for a two seat sports car that’s just a little bit different to your everyday offerings, I suggest it is worth the effort to seek out the Alpine A110 and take a look at it in the flesh yourself. I think you will find that this cute little French number has plenty to offer and it’s more than just skin deep.

Pros Cons
Great little sports car Limited dealer network
Lovely engine note Lack of driver aides
Exclusivity Lack of storage

Photographs by Driven Women Magazine.