Inside, the A110 is almost entirely as before, save for the Dinamica (synthetic suede) upholstery and door plaques that were once mini tricolores (quite cool) but now provide a flash of orange and carbonfibre. Very light Sabelt seats combine with plenty of adjustability in the steering column to give a driving position that still feels a centimetre of two too high but is otherwise good. However, just to nitpick, given this is a track-ready take on the A110, why is only the upper portion of the wheel trimmed in Dynamica and not the whole thing?
On the outside, the A110 is still a fine-looking thing. Orange brake calipers and black badging will tart the car up too much for some, but the curvaceous shape and edgy stance say much about the driving experience: it doesn’t take itself too seriously but, equally, is ready for serious drivers. And this is where it gets interesting, because once you’ve fired up the throaty 288bhp 1.8-litre turbo engine, it takes all of about three Welsh corners to know beyond doubt that the A110 and the A110 S are surprisingly different in character.
Blunty, those two-thirds of A110 owners will be better off with the non-S car. The S’s steering is usefully more direct and when these little mid-engined machines are at their wonderful best, elegantly taking apart B-roads, you’re also far less likely to ground the diffuser vanes, but on the road the firmer suspension diminishes the outstanding fluidity of the base model – arguably the A110’s defining characteristic.
The difference isn’t all that subtle, either. Although the S does eventually gel beautifully, the energy needed to get the chassis into its sweet spot of pliancy and control doesn’t so much require you to flirt with the speed limit, as is the case with the A110, but leave it in tatters. There’s also less roll oversteer with the stiffer setup (in Alpine’s case, roll oversteer being a good thing) and in the wet you’ll generally get more understeer.
Admittedly, that all sounds like a lot of negatives, but they’re only small negatives observed in the context of the brilliant – and plainly more road-focused – standard A110. The S is still very much a car you could drive all day and not get bored, and one that demonstrates that moderate performance needn’t detract from the fun and can, if you have the right priorities, actually add to it. We know that from front-wheel-drive hot hatches, and the Alpine, even in S form, does the same for mid-engined rear-drivers, and does so like nothing else.