Renault will launch its Alpine sports car, to be built in a joint venture with Caterham, within three years, giving the firm until the end of 2015 to finish the project it started in earnest last year.

Renault marketing boss Stephen Norman confirmed that the car would not take four years to appear, as had been speculated. He also hinted at the sort of character the car would have, describing it as “not soft”.

“It won’t be more hardcore than a Mazda MX-5,” he said. “What we do will not be soft, but not hardcore like a Peugeot 106 Rallye. You can’t betray the DNA of Alpine. That’s a third of what the car will be."

Norman described that DNA as French and not German. “It must be light and look different, and have a touch of French dash,” he said. “It’s not a car for dandies, though. We know who the buyer is: he’s either French or a Francophile. And the car has technical innovation as part of its DNA.”

The new Alpine will be a clean-sheet design and create a rival for the Porsche Boxster and high-performance versions of the Audi TT. It will be priced at less than £50,000 and will use a Renault engine with around 250bhp. 

Renault looked seriously at reviving Alpine in 2007, but the recession meant the project had to be shelved. By the time the market had recovered, the original design was considered too old.

Dan Stevens