The A110’s 1.8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine isn’t like most of the motors that owners of compact sports cars may be used to.
It doesn’t have the operating range and linearity of response of a Porsche’s flat four, the building crescendo and crackling sonic drama of a Lotus’s supercharged straight four, or the combustive richness of a multi-cylinder BMW or Audi.
But it does have character – and plenty of it.
Pace, too: thanks to the car’s lightness, it makes for a performance level that bears comparison with a greater number of more powerful rivals than you might imagine. Most alike to the turbocharged four-pot to be found between the axles of a 4C, the Alpine’s engine sounds waspish and whooshing.
The 236lb ft of torque it makes feels like plenty when it fronts up, in responsive fashion even to moderate pedal inputs, from just 2000rpm. From there on out all the way to the engine’s 7000rpm redline, the A110 revs keenly, nicely avoiding the marked deterioration in flexibility you’re expecting of a motor that passes peak power with 1000rpm of the rev range still to go.
There’s a metallic, gravelly quality to its tonal performance that isn’t exactly music to the ears but, overlaid with the fizzing and hissing of the car’s turbo, it remains an energetic-sounding audible treat.
Although we missed Alpine’s official acceleration claim for the car on a day dry enough to have given it every chance, that’s perhaps to be expected of something fairly light carrying two occupants and a full tank of fuel (which is how we test every car).
Alpine’s claim is for 62mph from rest in 4.5sec. In practice, we saw 0-60mph in 4.7sec, although only once we’d identified the tendency of the car’s transmission to hang onto first gear for slightly too long when in automatic shift mode and during launch control starts, and realised that manual mode is quicker.
For 100mph to come up takes 10.8sec and 30-70mph in fourth gear 6.0sec. So in two ways out of three – and most clearly in terms of in-gear acceleration, which remains really relevant to real-world driving – the A110 is quicker than the 718 Cayman S manual that we performance tested in 2016. Anyone who thinks £50k is too much to ask for one should clearly consider that.
Would we rather it came with a sweet, snickety manual gearbox instead of the creditable but occasionally tardy seven-speed paddle-shifter that Alpine fits? At times, yes – but at other times, the car’s gear ratios (which would likely be differently spread in a six-speed manual) feel perfect for it.