Why did I buy an Alpine A110? Well, you could call it mission creep. Typically this describes a gradual shifting of objectives in a military campaign, the outcome more often than not being an unplanned long-term commitment. But it also sums up rather well how I came to be the owner of a brand new A110.
Having set myself a budget of £5,000 to buy a French hot hatch, I found myself only a week or two later putting down a deposit on a £50,000 sports car. At least I got its nationality right.
A LONG-TERM COMMITMENT
My car really is a long-term commitment, too. The finance package runs for four years and come the end of it, I’d love nothing more than to pay off the balloon and finally own the car outright. I’d like to keep it forever. We shall see. So why the creep? And why an A110 in the first place?
The first point is easy: the A110 turned out to be far more affordable on a PCP than I ever thought it would be. Not anything like as affordable as a £5,000 hot hatch, obviously, but still within budget when I had assumed it would be well out of my reach. The car’s very good residuals play a part in that, because with so much value retained after three or four years, the monthly payments can be kept low (the trade-off being the balloon payment will be very large). Once I realised I could make the numbers work, it was more a matter of when I ordered one rather than if.
Incidentally, the A110 boasts among the highest residual values of any car on sale today. After three years, my car is forecast to retain 65 per cent of its original purchase price. Residuals like that are almost unheard of.
A ONCE IN A GENERATION CAR
The Alpine A110 such as the one I bought is a once-in-a-generation car. Having spent a fair amount of time deriving various examples, I knew I’d own one at some point. What’s so clever about this little two-seater is that it reverses the trend for modern sports car becoming bigger, heavier, grippier, more complicated and faster – and with all of those things combined, less enjoyable to drive as well.
The Alpine is compact, it’s made from lightweight aluminium (and the attention to weight saving from nose to tail is obsessive), it rolls on relatively narrow tyres and it has an amount of power that you can actually deploy on the public road. All of those things make the A110 more rewarding to drive more of the time than most of its rivals.
Alpine also made a number of decisions during the car’s concept phase that ultimately made it more expensive to build (and therefore not so profitable) and less practical in a day-to-day sense. But while the cost of developing an entirely bespoke platform might have been eye-watering, and though the double wishbone suspension means there is less boot space, those are the things that underpin the very sophisticated way in which the car finds its way along a road.
Crucially, the car is the result of fresh rather than ingrained thinking. Perhaps that’s no surprise given the company behind it is entirely new, to all intents and purposes. Sure, Alpine was originally founded in 1955 by Jean Rédélé, but since 1995 the company has been mothballed. It was with an entirely new team of designers and engineers (but the very same production facility in Dieppe on France’s north coast) that Alpine was revived back in 2017.
Seems like the best of both worlds, doesn’t it? The heritage of a 65-year-old sports car company – complete with victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Rallye Monte Carlo – bundled together with new ideas and fresh thinking.
There are rather more pragmatic reasons for buying an Alpine A110 over any number of new or used £50,000 sports cars, too. Running costs is the big one, because although you could buy yourself a very lovely used Audi R8 for that sort of money (perhaps one with the stonking V10 engine), the cost of fuelling, servicing, maintaining, insuring and tyre-ing it would be catastrophic by comparison. My A110 has been averaging around 34mpg since I collected it five months ago, which is exceptional for a car with its performance. I’m covered by a three-year manufacturer warranty should anything go wrong, while the tyres are modest Michelins that don’t cost an arm and a leg.
What I didn’t know about the Alpine A110 when I bought it put my name down for one was that it would prove to be so useable day-to-day. Okay, it only has two seats and the front and rear luggage compartments aren’t exactly cavernous, but it’s much more comfortable than most comparable sports cars with a supple ride. Moreover, it isn’t noisy on the motorway and it’s a breeze to drive in town. With sat-nav, climate control, phone mirroring, cruise control and a DAB radio, it also has all the convenience equipment you could expect of a sports car.
And therein lies the genius of the A110. It is a very compact, lightweight sports car, but it doesn’t punish you with back-breaking seats or a bouncy ride because of it. And that makes it more or less the perfect sports car for me at this stage in my life.
The basic list price of an A110 Pure like mine is £47,810, on top of which I added the lightweight forged 18-inch wheels and uprated Brembo brakes, plus Thunder Grey paint, a Focal stereo and parking sensors. I wish I could have added the sports exhaust, too, but my budget meant I had to stop ticking boxes at some point.
All sunshine and lollipops then? Mostly, yes, but not entirely. The A110 does have the odd flaw, such as the rear windscreen heating element that’s close to hopeless. The DAB reception can be patchy and, for some baffling reason, the radio defaults to The Breeze whenever I restart it. Well, you can’t have it all.
I’ve covered around 3,700 miles in my A110 since late October when I collected it. I’m looking forward now to the weather improving so that I can plan road trips with friends and pile many more happy miles onto it. Seems mission creep needn’t always be a bad thing.
For detailed driving impressions on Dan’s A110, check out his post on our sister site, PistonHeads.com
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