Lightweight thrills in a classy package

When the Alpine A110 was revealed back in 2017, it took the motoring world by surprise. Here was a car that was lighter, more urgent and more back-to-basics than the sports cars we’d become used to, undercutting all of its closest rivals when it came to its approach to lightness.

Fast forward to the present day and, in truth, things have changed very little. Alpine introduced the more powerful A110S recently, giving the French two-seater a little more grunt and sharpness. This car – the Legende – represents the middle ground of the line-up; it’s a version of the Alpine that veers more on the comfort-orientated side of things, contrasting the bare-bones, entry-level Pure version. We’ve been finding out what it’s like.

Mechanically, very little is different here. Alpine has resisted the urge to fit the Legende with the more powerful engine or the stiffer springs that you’d find in the S version, instead focusing on making it a far plusher affair than before. It’s why we’ve got a cabin that features a host of extras – though we’ll get to that in more detail shortly.

Photos: PA Media

The A110 has always been a car focused on the relationship between driver and car, which is why many of the key aspects of this Alpine have been left well alone. The steering wheel, for instance, is still perfectly shaped while all of the major control weights feel pleasantly spot-on.

Plonked in the middle of the A110 sits a turbocharged 1.8-litre petrol engine – the same you’ll find in Renault’s Megane R.S. hot hatch, in fact – which kicks out 248bhp and 320Nm of torque. Sent to the rear wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, that power enables the A110 to go from 0-60mph in just 4.4 seconds before heading onwards to a top speed of 155mph.

However, thanks to the A110’s low kerbweight of just 1,123kg – a Ford Fiesta weighs around 1,285kg – it’ll return up to 44mpg combined. The Alpine’s CO2 emissions aren’t too bad either, sitting at a respectable 156g/km. It means that despite the enlivening performance it delivers, the A110 is a car that isn’t going to prove crippling to fuel over long distances.

The fitment of more luxurious seats and high-end materials do little to change just how good the A110 is to drive. It’s a car that responds to inputs like few others on sale today, with a sense of urgency and flow available at nearly all speeds. The steering is quick and light too, which only doubles down on the A110’s dart-like character. We’d just like the seating position to be slightly lower, as it feels ever-so-slightly perched.

The suspension is refreshingly soft, too, and far softer than you’d expect from a car of this type, in fact. Yes, it does mean that the A110 often rolls through corners, but the by-product of this is a ride that soaks up the inevitable imperfections that you find on the UK’s roads.

It allows you to exploit more of the road and this is only helped further by the car’s compact size. The engine is torquey and gutsy too and though many enthusiastic drivers may lament the lack of a manual gearbox, the dual-clutch transmission is good enough to put these thoughts to the back of your mind.

This Alpine has a classic-inspired look that harks back to the original A110 from the 1960s. The twin-light design looks great both during the day and at night when the car’s distinctive light signature gives it an appearance like no other car. More than anything you notice just how compact the A110 is – far smaller than any other sports car – which makes it stand out more than anything else.

A particular highlight is the special Legende wheels fitted to this model. They feature wider, more intricate spokes than the regular alloys and they look great.

It’s inside that you’ll notice the bulk of the changes being made for this Legende model. The beautifully supportive Sabelt bucket seats are now trimmed in brown, soft leather and give the car’s cabin a far more elegant appeal, while their quilting is particularly appealing. The seats in our car were also heated – a £420 option extra. In truth, you could probably manage without the heated element – the A110’s cabin feels perfectly warm and cosseting without them.

The leather is mirrored by a stitched dashboard, while our car also featured an optional leather storage ‘bag’ in between driver and passenger which, at £468, seems a touch steep. The remaining storage is, as you’d expect for a car of this size, rather limited. There are 100 litres of space in the front boot – though this is rather shallow – backed up by 96 litres of space in the tiny rear. There’s enough space for a few soft weekend bags but, in all honesty, not an awful lot more. You’ll have to leave the golf clubs at home.

As a stripped-back, lightweight-orientated sports car, the A110 has never been overburdened with equipment. That said, the Legende does come with a Focal audio system and it did provide an impressively clear sound. The bass response was particularly good, in fact.

In the centre of the dash sits a seven-inch colour touchscreen infotainment system with satellite navigation and media function. When the Alpine first arrived we could almost forgive the system’s laggy and unresponsive operation, but given how good even those infotainments fitted to more budget-focused models are, it’s starting to become more of an issue. Even pairing our phone was a head-scratchingly difficult process.

The A110 has, in our book, always been superb. It’s the type of sports car which reminds you just how driving should feel. The engine, chassis balance and performance all fuse together in a melting pot of feel, resulting in an experience that few will be unable to enjoy.

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