Alpine's latest model is set to keep drivers guessing with its quirky mixture of retro, sporty and modern
Words by Erin Baker, Editorial Director at Auto Trader
This is the ultimate car for success on Tinder, or Bumble, or whatever online dating app it is you’re using these days. Forget selfies of you running up Mount Everest or doing a headstand on a beach; a profile picture with the Alpine will stop men in their tracks. Because not many men, and fewer women, know much about this car, but the few that do, understand that it is a proper driver’s car, lauded by the critics this year. It is also the revival of a forgotten badge, and not cheap. At the very worst, your date will buy you a skinny latte, while they figure you out.
It’s a funny mixture of retro, sporty and modern. The front end is bug-eyed and vaguely comical, while the rear shouts serious sports car. But there is a funky A for Alpine on the full filler cap, a small French tricolore badge on the side, a rare design on the wheels and our car was painted a very deep, sparkling navy blue (Abyss blue – £780, well worth it).
Inside, it’s lovely. Our test car had quilted, brown leather with matching blue stitching, and areas of exposed blue metallic bodywork. There’s not much space – the seat belts are a squeeze and you have to be a contortionist to get your hand below the transmission deck to where your phone can be plugged in and lie. But there are small cargo nets behind the two seats and a large funky leather cylindrical pocket with a proper lid for securing valuables (it has the same quilted fabric lining inside which is a really smart touch).
This is a very small two-seat sports car so there isn’t a great deal of stuff on board. As well as USB sockets, there’s a small touchscreen display for satnav, Bluetooth, DAB etc, with graphics which I haven’t seen before on any other car, and an optional rear parking camera displays its view in the small screen behind the steering wheel (worth it as the rear view is limited), where equally small graphics show you how much fuel is left and so on.
Behind the steering wheel, below the windscreen wiper stalk, there is Renault’s control pad for music volume (Renault is owned by Alpine), and also Renault’s groovy credit-card shaped key fob which also opens the rear boot (there’s a front boot too – see below).
This is a two-seat sports coupe, with the emphasis on performance rather than comfort. So you don’t get much space, width wise, and six-footers will struggle in the leg department too, but there’s plenty of head room.
And while you don’t get much storage space inside the cabin (no door storage, and limited between the seats), you do get two boots – a smaller one at the back – because this is a mid-engined sports car, which means the engine is actually situated behind the seats, for perfect 50:50 balance between the front and rear of the car. This makes a difference when you drive it very quickly round a corner, but not so much in Sainsburys car park. In fact, it’s mostly a pain at that point because the rear boot gets very hot due to its proximity to the engine, so you’d better put the ice cream in the front.
Here lies the magic of this car. It’s made almost entirely of aluminium, which makes it very light. The engine, then, is no more than a 1.8-litre four-cylinder job with 248 horsepower, albeit it turbocharged. But it feels, and sounds, like a monstrous V6, partly due to the light weight and partly, on our car, thanks to the optional sport exhaust system (£1,380, yes please). It’ll propel you to 62mph in 4.5 seconds which is solid sports car territory, but the joy to be had is from flinging the little car about country twisting lanes, the small steering wheel fizzing in your hands, the powered rear wheels jiggling over surfaces. This is the car for those who want a bit more attitude and respect than a Mazda MX-5 provides (also a fine car, by the way, but not as serious in its dynamic intent as the Alpine).
It’s not cheap, but see above – it will only add to the respect shown to you in the gym carpark by wanna-be petrolheads. The list price on the Alpine is £50,810, and our test car came in at £56,000 with the paint, exhaust, heated front seats (£420), Premium Focal audio (£552), folding wing mirrors (£468), high-performance braking system (£936), cargo net and storage behind driver (£468) and track telemetries for when you want to let loose at a circuit (£192). You also only get a 60,000-mile warranty: we’d want a bit more for a model with no recent ownership history.
Still, it’ll turn heads in a way that the Porsche Cayman, its nearest rival, won’t, and what price that?