It’s no secret that the A110 is an exceptionally fun car to drive. It might, however, take you a moment or two to realise it in Blighty.
Potter along and electromechanical steering is light on road feel and the front axle likes to go hunting on the broad spectrum of British roads, whose surface is in need of remedial work. You don’t get the unrealistic but satisfying sensation that the contact patches of the tyres are at all times sitting perfectly flush with the Tarmac, as you do in a Cayman, and at the first it’s all a bit vague. You might even feel disappointed.
You’ll notice, too, that this car won’t corner as flatly as some rivals and that the damping isn’t as assertive as it might be. There’s a pervasive fidget, which is perplexing because the suspension set-up feels a touch soft. You might begin to wonder whether the A110 is simply ill-suited to life on this side of the Channel.
But something of a turning point soon arrives — once you’ve got your head around the proportions of the A110. Not that it feels remotely claustrophobic within, but the car is tiny. It is narrower that a Clio 220 Trophy, in fact, and considerably shorter than that car’s older brother, the new RS Mégane. You wouldn’t think it, given the sweeping Kamm-tail-esque rear end and the aluminium bodywork theatrically draped over the haunches.
Such modest dimensions encourage you to start using the road width to its fullest, to start carving lines within your lane and to exercise an intensely pneumatic-sounding engine that’s not notably tractable but likes to spin. Accompanied by snorting upshifts, you start to go quicker — not by a lot — and then the realisation comes that this chassis possesses such a sweet, sweet combination of control, roll and grip.
I'm not sure any other car currently on sale so surreptitiously gets you so instinctively straddling the limit of its adhesion. Second and third-gear corners are an utter delight, with the A110 feeling up on the balls of its feet and with a definite rear-biased, adjustable poise. At speed, the steering finally possesses some heft and the nose of the car likes to shadow the inner white line a touch more tightly than the tail.
That additional slack in the suspension, and the car's terrifically intuitive roll rate in relation to steering input, is key. There's a benign predictability to the rear-led manner in which an A110 crosses the grip threshold that you find yourself driving the wheels off the thing on almost any kind of road. Really get on top of it — as you surely will, such is the confidence you’ll take from this chassis — and the A110 can leave you frothing at the mouth.
There will be times when you won't want that, of course. And, no, an A110 isn't as cultured as a Cayman at a cruise, being louder and more agitated, but it's just about good enough to tour in and has luggage space in the back as well as under the bonnet. You're also unlikely to put your back out climbing into it, although it is quite a drop down into the quilted buckets. Over-the-shoulder visibility is extremely poor, mind.