Even if your brain has already processed what separates this A110 from its famous Michelotti-penned forebear (the switch from a rear-engined to a mid-engined mechanical layout), your backside may beg to differ as you get used to the car’s gait and ride characteristics on the road.

That’s because there’s an unusual sense of softness about the A110’s rear axle springing that plays a large part in defining how it corners, how it rides and how it behaves on the limit of grip.

Richard Lane

Road tester
You can be resolved on a fast, tidy lap one minute and irresistibly out of shape the next. The A110 is too much fun to be fast.

It’s at once highly unusual in a sports car and, as we’ll explain, lends the A110 a truly distinguishing dynamic character.

If you didn’t know better, you’d swear a rearwards engine location could be the only thing to explain the car’s defining trait: that it seems to take sweeping corners more like an Ariel Nomad than anything else, leaning on its outside tyres with the confidence and balance of an elegant speed skater, and steering as much from the rear axle as it does from the front.

Truth be told, the A110 feels softer-riding at both ends than you expect it to be. Just as promised, the firm has delivered a car with a sufficiently low centre of gravity that it clearly doesn’t depend on particularly firm or short suspension springing for grip or handling response.

Top 5 Affordable sports cars

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

Although it feels as direct and naturally agile on turn-in as just about anything on the larger side of a Caterham Seven, it’s also quite supple over bumps and at low speeds.

Damper control isn’t as close or ultimately as sophisticated as, say, an adaptively damped Cayman’s is and body control isn’t as flat, either. But both are brilliantly honest telltales of how much grip and composure this car has left on any great stretch of B-road; and, from such a simple and effective driver’s car, you’ll want for little more.

The A110 is riotously rewarding on a dry track. The car’s moderate grip levels and permissive on-road body control are sufficient, on a circuit, to allow you to drive at what feels like full-blooded sports car pace when you want to. But when you discover what the car is really good at, pace isn’t what you’ll be interested in.

Having selected Track mode and fully switched out the ESP, you can explore what must be one of the most forgiving, exploitable and brilliantly immersive chassis that the sports car market has produced in decades.

The A110’s ‘yaw damping’ – the term dynamics experts most commonly use to describe a car’s ability to remain controllable in an oversteer slide – is quite spectacular. Unlike so many mid-engined cars, it’s happy to take plenty of attitude in a corner and then stays so true to the angle you’ve chosen for it as you exit that you feel as if drifting were the car’s natural state.

Alpine’s decision to go with electromechanical power steering, when rivals make unassisted racks work, would have been a contentious one. At times, the car’s steering rim does seem the merest bit too light and doesn’t have the vivid contact-patch feel you’d like at low speeds, although it weights up well as you go faster.

But in order to make the A110’s steering work at the gearing Alpine clearly wanted (just 2.2 turns lock to lock) and through a wheel that’s fairly small in diameter, you can’t help but conclude that power assistance was the right compromise.

With the possible exception of variable gearing that quickens a little bit too aggressively at the extremes of the rack’s travel, so much about the way this car steers is outstandingly good: its pace, weight, positivity and ability to filter out a bit of bump steer, when needed. Moreover, compared with the unassisted rack of a 4C, you’d choose this every time.

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week