GRR

The Alpine A290 is an A110-inspired EV hot hatch

13th June 2024
Ethan Jupp

Alpine’s hotly-anticipated Renault 5-based A290 hot hatch has been revealed, heralding a new dawn both in terms of Alpine’s electric future and indeed the future of Renault-based performance cars, following the resting of the RenaultSport brand. Therefore, there’s a lot riding on this little car’s sturdy, broadened shoulders but don’t worry, the A110’s legacy looms large. Here’s everything you need to know about the new Alpine A290.

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Design

So important for this car is that it is differentiated from the Renault on which it’s based; it is an Alpine, not a Renault with an Alpine version. That starts with the design. Happily and entirely unsurprisingly, the Renault 5’s retro-modern proportions have taken well to a bit of inflation. Enlarged it is, too, with a 60mm wider track and puffed, wheel-filled arches to indicate as much.

From any angle and a good distance, it is unmistakably the Alpine, not the Renault, with bespoke lighting front and rear. We especially love Alpine’s rally-inspired quad X light signature, which does a greeting dance when you approach it. 

A110 obsessives will notice the distinctive ‘Alpine swoosh’ ahead of the front wheels, as well as the floating roof with the French flag signature. A110 inspiration is thankfully, a running theme throughout this car. There are a couple of options wheel-wise, with standard 19-inch items inspired by the A310, or ‘Snowflake’ wheels inspired by the Alpine brand’s origins, available in a variety of finishes.

Has some of the Renault’s contemporary coolness been lost in the pursuit of bravado? Not a bit. It’s premium with a punch, without verging on ‘Renault 5 that’s pirouetted through les Halfords de Dieppe’. All in, it’s a fabulous-looking thing – perfectly calmed-down from the Beta concept.

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Performance, range, and specs

We’ve known more or less what it’s going to look like, since the reveal of the Beta concept car last year. But what constitutes it underneath has been a mystery, until now. 

One look at the specs and all the A110 reverence reveals that the Alpine A290 is decidedly a hot hatch, rather than a supercar slayer in civilian clothes; more Abarth 500e and Mini Cooper SE, than Hyundai Ioniq 5N. That’s a great thing by our book, abating worries of a doubled price point compared to the car on which it’s based. So, what have we got?

Well, for starters, a choice. The Alpine A290 comes in two flavours, with either a 183PS (135kW) motor (in GT and GT Premium specs) or 224PS (165kW) motor (in GT Performance and GTS specs) nestled between the front wheels. Software is all that divides the two, with the hardware coming courtesy of the larger Megané E-Tech. 

The motor is fed by the same 52kWh battery as comes in the top-spec Renault 5, which, as you might expect, means range is a little bit down by comparison. The stated 234-mile figure is achieved by the 183PS (135kW) car that does without sticky Michelin PSS5 tyres. Like the Renault 5, it’ll charge at 100kW and go from 15 to 80 per cent in 30 minutes. It can boost its range at this speed by 93 miles in 15 minutes.

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The 0-62mph sprint happens in a decidedly warm 6.4 seconds for the highest-powered version. It’s claimed that performance is ‘easily repeated’ by comparison to key rivals too, even when the state of charge drops. Torque is 300Nm and is deployed gradually, with an Alpine-specific upstream torque management system designed to best ICE on response, but not be an unmanageable tyre ravager like some EVs that deploy the full glob of torque instantly. 

There’s launch control and a gaming-inspired overtake function, which can give max power and torque in 10-second bursts – yes, there’s a fun countdown and animation on the dash – when the button is held down. Don’t confuse it with overboost, though. It’s just instant access to the car’s maximum power, regardless of what your throttle position is.

More adjustability comes with the regenerative braking, which can be set to four different levels of aggression from the Manettino-esque RCH rocker on the steering wheel. Starting from a free-wheeling zero-regen’ setting, you progress up to level 1 for an A110-esque engine braking sensation, with level 2 and 3 increasing from there.

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Weight, dynamics, and sound

The RenaultSport Clio was arguably this century’s 205 GTI in that it was small, fast, fun, and served it all in decidedly French globs. 30 years on and the Alpine A290, like the era from which it comes, is fundamentally different, being electric, and as spacious and safe as a modern car should be. But, while it isn’t a featherweight at 1,479kg, it’s not exactly a curb-warper either. 

For context, it’s less than 300kg up on the very meatiest of the old 182s and some 200kg down on its chief rival, the Mini Cooper SE, which for a spacious, five-door EV with competitive range, isn’t bad. The power, performance, battery, and consequently, the weight and the range, have evidently been carefully specified.

There’s serious stuff going on underneath to give the Alpine A290 a fighting chance of being fun, too, and justify its full-on Alpine billing. There’s a bespoke alloy motor subframe, hydraulic bump stops, a multi-link rear suspension setup, bespoke anti-roll bars, and recalibrated A110 four-pot brakes. The 224PS (165kW) GT Performance and GTS-spec cars will also come with bespoke Michelin Pilot Sport S 5 tyres, too. 

It does use brake by wire, but that’s in part a move to ease the unification of the regeneration and the disc-on-pad braking sensations, with the A110 once again the benchmark in terms of feel and travel. 

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There’s consistent talk throughout the dynamic package, from the suspension, to the throttle, to the steering, to the chassis overall, of A110 DNA. This is a car that’s meant to be sporting yet compliant, so Alpine says, exactly as the A110 is. And we all know there’s bottled lightning in that car’s road manners. They even talk quite a bit about lift-off oversteer, and tripoding.

Distinguishing the A290 is its electric powerplant, accompanying which is a bespoke Alpine driving sound. Contrary to what you might think, the A290 shirks the prevailing trend of ICE imitation, instead using a manipulated, nipped, tucked soundscape based on the sounds of its very own motor, for a more authentic soundtrack. And it sounds pretty good, if a little more serious than the Jetsons soundtrack of the Mini or ‘twin-air over a walkie talkie’ sound of the Abarth 500e.

The Driving Sound is available in two flavours, with a more bassey, sporty soundtrack the default, and a lighter, more ‘agile’ sound an alternate option. Both can also be turned up or down depending on your preferences and indeed, the driving mode. There’s a bespoke Alpine soundtrack for outside the car, too, at up to 30kMh, per legal requirements.

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Interior

Inside, the A290 has received a similar glazing of Alpine flair. That is to say, the fundamentals are Renault 5 but with sporting accoutrement and appointment. So yes, that wheel has ‘F1-style’ buttons for the driving modes, aforementioned RCH, and boost. All the mandated warnings and ADAS are present but can be switched off with ease.

There are A290-specific retro-sporty seats that offer style, support, and comfort while also being upholstered with sustainable materials, with less eco-friendly Nappa leather coming in higher-spec cars. Naturally, there’s more contrast stitching and ‘A’ logos in here than you can wave a French flag at. We like the ‘A290’ signature lighting ahead of the passenger, too.

There’s also plenty of sporting French flair in the software and UI, with lots of mountain-like triangles and bold type faces, for a driver’s display that’s more like a digitised training shoe. Le Coq Sportif indeed.

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There are also plenty of gimmicky games and features. Alpine Telemetrics delivers three services comprised of Live Data, Coaching and Challenges. Live Data, as you’d imagine, shows data like timing, G forces, power usage, tyre temperatures, and brake temperatures. It’ll link to your Alpine Telemetrics smartphone app, allowing you to record your track session via your phone with an Alpine performance overlay.

Coaching is very cool, with Gran Turismo licence test-esque lesson plans. These go through various driving techniques, from throttle control and driving lines, all the way to managing drifts, with helpful blurb and a fun animation accompanying each.

Finally, Challenges is as you’d expect - a series of road and track-focused challenges around your driving, from performance-based ones for acceleration, braking, and cornering, to efficiency-based ‘Endurance’ challenges. The A290 wants to turn you into a faster and better driver, both in general and of EVs specifically. Is it all a bit gimmicky? Yes. But it’s good fun and the effort to shoot the A290 through with that, from this to the hardcore hardware, is appreciated.

Practicality is worth a mention. Alpine are very proud that the A290 sports a best-in-class boot and a spacious cabin. Paired with polite road manners and manoeuvrability, this comprises the usability of the A290 - that’s almost as important as how fun it’ll be.

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Pricing, features, and release date

It’s claimed the A290 will start from around £36,000 when it goes on sale, for the basic ‘GT’. But for that, you get plenty of gear, including heated seats, radar cruise, Nappa leather on the wheel, the full infotainment suite, and all the visual and technical goodies that make an A290 an A290.

The range is diamond-shaped, starting with the GT and splitting upwards to GT Performance and GT Premium. Performance boosts the standard car to 224PS (165kW) and adds the PSS5 tyres, while Premium keeps standard power, but adds the likes of Nappa leather throughout the cabin and the new specially-developed nine-speaker Devialet sound system. 

GTS adds the power, tyres, and toys together for the most A290 money can buy, unless you get the Premier Edition, of which just 1955 will be made with a special plaque and the option of a Beta-inspired livery. Pricing for the higher-spec models has yet to be announced, as has when the car will be available in the UK.

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Summary

So, what’s the TLDR? It looks great, the cabin’s nice, the toys look fun, and the numbers are encouraging. But most importantly, how much Alpine has referenced the A110 in its introduction of the A290, as a benchmark and as a legacy, is so encouraging. As is all the talk about oversteer. 

A proper French hot hatch should be a car for all occasions - as at-home parked outside a row of terraced houses as it is alongside hypercars in the sprawling collection of a billionaire; as comfortable on Alpine switchbacks as it is in traffic on the school run. From the looks to the claimed dynamics, to even the practicality, it looks like the A290 could pick up where bygone greats left off. We can’t wait to drive it. Long live proper French hot hatches, whatever they’re powered by!

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