There was nothing like the original A110 in the ’60s, and there’s nothing like it today.
Few people would have banked on Donald Trump becoming President of the United States, or Leicester City winning the Premier League; even fewer would have bet on one of the most anticipated cars of the decade being a £50k Renault.
But that’s where we find ourselves thanks to a joint project between the French firm and Caterham, started in 2012.
The Brits pulled out two years later, leaving Renault to shoulder the costs and associated risk of reviving a brand and creating a new sports car from scratch – and it’s a gamble that has well and truly paid off.
For a start, there’s the way it looks. Unlike most retro revivals, the reinvention of the A110 is a design masterclass, seamlessly integrating the berlinette’s iconic features in an ultra-modern shape that’s unlike anything else on sale.
The quad lamps, curvy rear screen, side scallops and roofline are there but, far from a pastiche, Alpine’s designers have created something unique, beautiful and, above all, desirable.
Beneath that sumptuous skin, the A110 is a technological tour de force featuring a mid-mounted, 1.8-litre turbo ‘four’ with a dual-clutch seven-speed ’box, controlled via wheel-mounted paddles.
Incredibly, the Alpine tips the scales at just 1103kg thanks to extensive use of aluminium throughout the body and chassis, hollow anti-roll bars, and a host of other weight-saving such as the slender yet beautifully sculpted bucket seats that dominate the purposeful interior.
As a result, every one of its 248 horses is felt when you plant the throttle: 60mph comes in just 4.7 secs, while the top speed is electronically limited to 155mph.
But the spec sheet is only half the story: where the Alpine truly excels isn’t in straight-line speed, but in its ability to cross the country at pace and in comfort.
The secret lies in the combination of featherlight weight, 44:56 front-to-rear balance and a low centre of gravity, resulting in superb grip and cornering ability without resorting to the firm spring and damper rates of its heavier rivals – making the ride softer and more compliant and the handling more progressive at the limit.
Even in ‘Sport’ and ‘Track’ modes the ride comfort belies its abilities, and when you’re not emulating Jean-Luc Thérier, ‘Normal’ mode serves up relaxed and well-timed fully automatic gearchanges.
Reviving a historic name; creating an all-new car; and entering a competitive sector against the Porsche Cayman: all pointed to potential disaster.
But against the odds, Renault has played a blinder.
For a car to come from nothing and be breathtaking to look at, brilliant to drive and utterly unique is rare indeed, and makes the A110 an instant classic.
Add in superb build quality, exclusivity and Gallic flair, and you have the makings of a legend. Again.
Images: Will Williams
- Engine 1798cc 16v turbo ‘four’; 248bhp @ 6000rpm; 236lb ft @ 2000-5000rpm
- Transmission 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox
- 0-60mph 4.7 secs
- Top speed 155mph
- Mpg 46.3
- Price £51,805