It’s hard to imagine that Renault once made a supercar, and actually not so long ago.
But the chisel-nosed, composite-bodied V6 GTA, born in 1984 and dead in 1995, has slithered out of consciousness as easily as the Sport Spider and mid-engined Clio’s, not least because you hardly ever see these cars on the road.
The GTA was known as the Alpine A610 in its native France, but Peugeot’s ownership of the UK rights to the Alpine name (acquired when it bought Chrysler Europe and a fat portfolio of dead badges) forced a renaming for the UK, though it probably made little difference to the car’s prospects.
And for a period in the early ‘90’s, when you could find this sleek, low drag weapon arrayed alongside the Renault 5 in the company’s showrooms, those prospects were pretty good.
Despite being propelled by the V6 engine of the executive Renault 25, which sat so far rearwards that 63% of the GTA’s weight rested on its back axle, this car did the business on the road. With wide tyres – much wider at the rear than at the front – sophisticated, well-sorted suspension and plenty of development meant that the GTA was far less treacherous than that apparently perilous weight distribution suggested.
The Renault was impressively unwilling to slither even into the 200bhp turbocharged form, the theoretical potential for a spin triggered by a late-arriving slug of torque or a mid-bend bump almost never realised.
The GTA also rode well, its nose bobbing just like a Porsche 911’s, and if its fat rubber sometimes drummed up road roar, the distant hum and whine of the V6 sat far enough behind you to make this an excellent long-distance machine.
Inside the cabin you would find four seats. Renault was going through a period of ambitious dashboard design at the time, the GTA’s complex edifice nothing less than a shrine to the injection moulders’ art.
Its modishly hooded instrument binnacle was flanked by banks of switches and an elaborate Philips hi-fi that included a graphic equaliser and near dinner-plate dimensioned speaker grilles. It could pump out some wattage, too. Certain sections of this plastic edifice were a bit creaky, but it looked as impressive as the Renault’s sleek, low drag, 0.28 Cd silhouette and its flush-mounted electric door handles.
Renault reckoned the GTA was a better car than the 911, and while it couldn’t quite muster the precision delicacy of the Porsche’s chassis, it probably was the better all-rounder, especially as a daily driver.
These days you can pick up a tidy GTA Turbo in Europe, with history, for around £15,000. The normally aspirated 160bhp can be had for quite a bit less, which is extraordinary value for something this unusual - but you need to be able to find one. Data suggests there are less than 70 of all variants left on UK roads.
And now Alpine is back, its naming problems overcome, and the new A110 certainly does its ancestor justice, one of only two cars so far this year to receive the full five stars in our comprehensive roadtest.
Reasons to want one: It’s one of the cheapest, liveable supercars you’ll find, and so unusual.
Why you’ll run a mile: The creaking plastic, the lack of pedigree.