To say that the Alpine A110 has been one of the most eagerly anticipated new cars of recent times would be an understatement.
It's not just the return of a legendary French brand after more than 20 years,but it's proof positive that there's plenty of mileage left in the concept of lightweight,mid-engined sports cars.
The design of the all-new two-seater is a breath of fresh air in a retro cool kind of way (if that's possible).It pays homage to the iconic Alpine A110 Berlinette (produced between 1961-77) which notched up many a motorsports wins including the 1973 World Rally Championship title and outright victory at the 1978 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Under the wing of its owner,Renault,the new car re-imagines the A110 for the 21st Century while incorporating twin headlights,seductive curves,a bonnet spine and wraparound rear screen – just like the original.
But it's not just a throwback,the Alpine (pronounced Al-peen) is loaded with plenty of modern tech and design features such as the flat underside,rear diffuser,LED daylight running lights and X-shaped LED tail-lights.
Available in either Pure or Légende trim (the Premiere Edition sold out in five days),the Alpine is priced from £46,905 to £50,805.
Pure is more 万博官网driver-centred,focusing on the 万博官网driver/machine connection and has a minimalist approach,while the Légende is slightly more luxurious.
Weighing in from just 1,080kg,the wide use of aluminium makes it one of the lightest cars in its class which includes the Porsche Cayman,Audi TT and perhaps the Jaguar F-Type.
To keep things simple,there's just the one engine – a 1.8-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox.
Developing 249bhp at 6000rpm,it's enough to catapult this featherweight from 0-62mph in 4.5sec and on to a limited top speed of 155mph.It's surprisingly economical too,capable of returning up to 46.3mpg and emitting 138g/km of CO2.
You sit low down and it's easy enough to find a comfortable driving position thanks to plenty of steering wheel and seat adjustment.
There's no traditional gear selector for the auto gearbox,instead there are three circular buttons and you simply press D,N or R.
Plant your right foot and it feels every bit as fast as its 0-62mph time and before you know it you've hit the national speed limit.
You're also immediately aware of its light weight.We've become so used to hardcore sports cars with firm suspension that almost shake your fillings out that the Alpine A110 is a revelation.Here's a nimble car that seems to glide serenely over the roughest roads.
Unlike some rivals,it has to make do with rear-wheel 万博官网drive,but even so,there's a surprising amount of grip.That said,I wouldn't throw caution to the wind in the wet.
Take it to its limits and it will become a little more unsettled,but generally it an exhilarating ride and it will definitely put a smile on your face.
It sounds the part too,especially in Sport and Track modes.Who can resist a throaty exhaust note combined with popping and cracking when you lift off,or the unique mid-engined experience of a turbocharged beast behind your ears performing mechanical miracles?
With light,precise steering and a punchy gearbox,which can be overridden with the steering wheel paddles,plus powerful brakes that are more than up to the job,it's a compelling package.
Inside,it's not what you'd call luxurious,but it's not without character either… in a minimalist sports car kind of way.
There's a modest 7.0-inch landscape touchscreen mounted in the middle of the dash with DAB radio,Bluetooth connectivity and sat nav,but it's not the height of sophistication or as loaded with tech as you might expect of a car in this price range.
Visibility can be slightly challenging thanks to the car's unique design features,but thankfully there's a reversing camera.
There's no glovebox or door bins – just a small area between the seats under the electronic handbrake and Start/Stop button.Being mid-engined it has two boots,with a combined 196 litres of luggage space (96 in the front,100 at the rear).
So,the Alpine A110 is not perfect,but because it's so beautiful and it's such a joyous car to 万博官网drive,any quibbles are forgiven.
Verdict:The distinctive,retro-looking Alpine A110 is full of character and an absolute treat to 万博官网drive and behold.Swift,agile and blessed with handling that inspires confidence,it's a tour de force brimming with joie de vivre.