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2021 Alpine A110 Légende Review: A Sports Car That Stands Out From Its Competition – HotCars

by Nov 3, 2022Blog0 comments

From lightness to style, the Alpine A110 is a breath of fresh air amidst the many sports cars on the market.
Alpine, a name synonymous with snowy mountain tops, representing a French sports car that has collected victories during the 1950’s Monte-Carlo rallies and more recently in Formula 1. Alpine is the name behind the new iteration of the '60s victorious A110, a modernized icon that almost would have never seen the day” according to Bernard Ollivier, ex-Alpine General Manager.
Bringing the A110 back to life was no easy task, and what started off as a joint Alpine-Caterham project turned into an in-house one after facing financial challenges. After surmounting countless obstacles, the Alpine A110 debuted in 2018. A successful launch followed with perseverance over the years led Alpine to its most successful year yet with a 74% sale increase in 2021. Yet the future of the Alpine A110 isn’t set in stone. Many new changes are to come for the Alpine brand including a collaboration with Lotus. In addition to that, when an EV replacement eventually come along, it will surely impact the A110’s legacy. All of this points at one thing: the importance of appreciating this French icon while it is still around.
The Alpine A110, in this specific case the A110 Légende Tulipe Noire Edition, brings novelty with its playful, charming, retro-modern spirit in a market where serious, record-breaking performance is on everybody’s agenda.
The Alpine A110 is perhaps most recognizable in its bright, vivid, and patriotic "Bleu Alpine" (Alpine Blue) paint. While this may be one of the more popular colors for the Alpine, a much broader color palette is available from Atelier Alpine, with each special color limited to 110 models. This Tulipe Noire paint on the A110 Legende absorbs the light of the moment. It turns to almost black under a blue morning light and transforms into a vivid purple under the bright sun. This specific model has gold "Serac" rims, showcasing the more elegant and sophisticated side of the A110. The customization possibilities truly allow style and sportiness to coexist under one roof and this versatility is impressive.
Perpetuating its racing heritage, the silhouette has kept its smooth, flowing, aerodynamic lines present in the older generation. The modern Alpine now has more air intakes, notably on the front grille and a more discreet one near the C-pillar, as the beautifully-curved window glass feeds air into the engine bay. Alpine has also kept its signature four LED headlight design, as well as the sharp, defining lines of the bonnet. While the new model exhibits an overall fuller figure than its predecessor, the aluminum-bodied A110 still classifies as a lightweight car, only weighing 1,130 kg or the equivalent of an Exige if you will.
The A110 very much keeps its racing philosophy alive, but it also manages to pay attention to all of the small details that make a car suitable for everyday life by integrating the washer fluid nozzles directly into the wiper blades instead their usual placement on the bonnet, for example. Not only does it help save 0.5 kg, it also keeps the fluid from spraying in all directions when trying to clean your windshield on a windy day. Though this is no new technology and is a seemingly unimportant detail, this is where Alpine scores points by bringing luxurious attention that positively affects both performance and quality of life aboard the A110.
To accentuate the French look, the car shows off French flags on each C-pillar and Alpine logos everywhere you look. The A110 shows off its unique personality through its curvy silhouette, making it a car with an impressive heritage that remains very much approachable and fun.
Related: Why The Alpine A110 Deserves More Attention
The same principles of style, practicality, and sportiness apply to the interior of the A110. What is perhaps most surprising about this interior is how Alpine was able to combine lightness with spaciousness. It is a roomy interior where neither the driver nor the passenger feels crammed, thanks to the design of the dashboard leaning away from the passengers.
Minimalism seems to be the main theme inside of the A110. There is a noticeable lack of distractions in the interior, with fewer buttons and a simple albeit slightly "laggy" infotainment system. Storage space seems almost absent from the cabin, except for a bit of space behind the seats if you move them forward and a triangular-shaped leather box located in between the seats. It is tall and large enough to fit in a few bottles of water, a camera, your wallet, a guide book, maybe even a baguette… Despite it being the only storage compartment available, it makes for one chic, orderly, and underrated space that almost displays magical properties when it comes to putting things away all in one place. You quickly get used to storing your belongings there and other manufacturers should perhaps take note of it.
Continuing on with storage, you get two trunk spaces at the front and the back, Cayman style. The wide front-trunk sits above the fuel tank, making it relatively shallow, but you can still manage to comfortably fit in two flat backpacks. The rear trunk offers a much larger storage space and despite the opening being rather small, the trunk itself extends from one wheel arch to the other. It may not seem like much, but once you start packing bags into the trunk, it becomes quite surprising how much both trunks combined can hold.
Now onto comfort. The Sabelt seats fitted on the Legende Edition are not the lightest option you could fit on an A110. Instead, these seats are adjustable, heated, and nicely padded to bring out style and comfort to each passenger. These are stylishly designed, with diamond stitching patterns and contrasting blue thread, combining two types of leather – smooth and grainy.
Not all inside of the Alpine is top-notch quality. You will find that the floating center console is a little shaky, and there are a few plastic bits that aren’t so visually-pleasing, but Alpine did such a great job at mostly using plastics where your eyes wouldn’t wander, that there is in the end very little left to criticize.
The A110 isn’t here to deliver hardcore, record-breaking performance numbers. In fact, the A110 takes a whole different approach in order to stand out in this intense competition that is the world of mid-engined sports coupe.
To get the basics out, the Alpine A110 sports a 1.8-Liter 4-cylinder turbocharged engine; the same one you’d find on a Renault Megane Sport. Being the base model of the A110 lineup, it delivers 250 hp to the rear wheels, achieves its 0-60 in 4.5 seconds and its mid-engine configuration is slightly rear biased with a 44/56 balance ratio.
Overall, the Alpine feels incredibly airy to drive as the steering feels light and you can sense that there isn’t excessive downforce applied onto the car. All of this is great for a relaxed drive in the city, but once you start opening up the A110 on some twisty mountain roads, this lightweight construction can create a certain disconnect with the car. The light steering feels slightly detached, the downshifts are soft and can even feel a touch "laggy" at times. The A110 being slightly rear-biased, chances are the back end will step out if taking a corner a little too enthusiastically, but no worries here as this is no muscle car and such moves remain very predictable and playful.
Yet the Alpine isn’t just a bubble of lightness and fun. As you switch from Normal to Sport or Race Mode, the A110 becomes more serious and grounded. The engine, the brilliant dual-clutch gearbox, the exhaust, and even the dashboard display sharpen up for an engaging drive. The car transforms from a calming cocoon to a playful and dynamic French rocket, and to keep it from flying off, Alpine has not only kept the center of gravity low, it also fitted the A110 with double wishbone suspensions all around. The suspensions counterbalance the body roll, while the tires of the A110 remain very much in full-contact with the tarmac, allowing you to take corners with confidence. It is also worth praising Alpine for their beautifully tuned engine, with satisfying exhaust notes and distinct pops and bangs at every downshift.
Heading back to urban environments, the Alpine goes back to its quieter, civilized state, demonstrating its abilities to adapt with incredible ease to your everyday life in the city. The driver-focused interior shows off how sophisticated, spacious and quiet it can be. Plus, the Alpine remains in all driving modes incredibly efficient and that is surely one characteristic no one will be complaining about.Related: 10 Things To Know Before Buying An Alpine A110
In theory, the A110 is a small, lightweight, mid-engined two-seater and there is nothing truly original about that. Yet in practice, the Alpine is nothing like its competition, as French cars have this “je ne sais quoi” that seems to make them stand out from the crowd. The looks are different and so are the driving sensations. The A110 isn’t just light, it’s airy. It doesn’t just drive, it glides. It is a car that can be serious, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously. There is, however, one question dividing Alpine fans, that is, whether the A110 should have offered a manual option. On one hand, driving the A110 makes you more curious to know what driving a manual Alpine would feel like, as it feels like it could help you get even more involved in the driving experience. But on the other hand, the car’s lightness, the soft downshifts, and the “everyday use” aspect of the Alpine make the paddle shifters more than enough for drivers to have a great time in the A110. It is also worth noting that the dual-clutch gearbox is slightly lighter than a manual one. Ultimately, it is worth saying it as it is: Alpine has achieved a remarkable feat by taking something old and adapting it to modern tastes. Lately, this is a field where manufacturers have seemed to struggle in keeping their own, distinct identity while successfully upholding their heritage. After a long hiatus, the A110 has brought a breath of fresh air to the automotive industry. And while no one knows what is next for Alpine yet, it is very much worth appreciating the A110 they currently offer. The A110 is not just a great car, it is an important one.
Automotive writer and photographer based in Tokyo, Claire has joined the HotCars team in March 2022. She is a coffee and whiskey enthusiast who enjoys creating beautiful imagery to illustrate her car stories.