Full Alpine A290 details revealed: Is this the electric hot hatch we've been waiting for?

Still want that Mini Cooper?

Alpine, the French performance carmaker spun off from Renault, has revealed a new electric hot hatchback called the A290.

Sharing much with the cool new Renault 5 E-Tech electric hatchback, the A290 offers buyers a choice of more powerful electric motors and a more handling-orientated chassis set-up.

It is Alpine’s first performance hatchback since the marque was resuscitated in 2017 with the arrival of the current A110 coupé. That has been the brand’s sole breadwinner since, but Alpine is hoping to grow the range with the introduction of the A290, followed by a new electric SUV and a replacement for the now-seven-year-old A110.

Rivals new electric Mini Cooper

A rival for the new, electric Mini Cooper, the A290 takes the Renault 5 E-Tech design and adds some more aggression to the image, courtesy of a more muscular, aerodynamically influenced body that shrouds an overhauled chassis. For the A290, the R5’s wheels have been pushed 60mm further apart width-ways, and it gets its own bespoke suspension set-up.

According to Alpine, the air intake at the front, the wide side skirts and the rear spoilers and diffuser are all key in directing airflow and ensuring the car cuts through the air cleanly.

Yet despite that, Alpine has pressed ahead with its lighting signature for the four X-graphic headlights, which are a nod to the brand’s rally heritage. As are the snowflake patterns in the grille and the optional alloy wheels.

An interior inspired by F1

Inside, meanwhile, the car will take its inspiration from Alpine’s Formula 1 team, with a steering wheel festooned with switchgear. As well as the usual media and cruise control buttons, the steering wheel is also home to a rotary dial that adjusts the regenerative braking (which recuperates energy back to the battery when drivers lift off the accelerator, having the effect of slowing the car), and buttons for driving modes.

That wheel sits in front of a 10.25in digital instrument cluster in a driver-orientated cabin, which Alpine prefers to refer to as a “cockpit”. The Google-powered central infotainment screen, angled slightly towards the driver, offers Google Maps navigation and other Android apps, though of course iPhones can also be connected via Bluetooth.

The cabin also features sustainable materials, with environmentally friendly upholstery on entry-level models. Even range-topping versions, which get Nappa leather, use material sourced in Europe and tanned with more eco-friendly methods.

All this is something of a metaphor for the balance between performance and sustainability in the A290’s powertrain. Just as the cabin mixes sporty, more supportive seats with sustainable upholstery, the powertrain has to balance power, speed and range.

Relatively low weight

To help drivers do that, the A290 has a choice of driving modes that tune the characteristics to suit the conditions, while the four-setting regenerative braking system also offers drivers a chance to set the car up in a way that suits them while improving the range.

Alpine has designed the A290 to be light, keeping the weight below 1.5 tonnes, despite a hefty battery with a 52kWh capacity below the floor, as this aids efficiency, performance and handling.

How far it’ll go per charge depends on whether buyers go for a 178bhp or 217bhp version, with the electric motor taken from the Renault Megane E-Tech. The lower-power model will manage a range of around 235 miles on a single charge, according to the official test, though of course the range will depend on a number of factors including ambient temperature and whether the driver is wearing lead boots.

If you do want to push the A290 hard, despite not having especially powerful motors by modern performance EV standards, thanks to the weight-saving the 217bhp version is capable of 0-62mph in 6.4 seconds, which is just two tenths of a second slower than the current VW Golf GTI. The Alpine will feel especially sprightly up to 30mph, too, thanks to the instant response of the electric motor.

Bespoke tyres

Whether you choose the 178bhp or the 217bhp motor, the A290 will come with much the same chassis, incorporating suspension technology from the A110 sports car and a Brembo sports brake system.

The A290 also gets tailor-made tyres from Michelin, with Pilot Sport EV models on base cars and performance-orientated Pilot Sport S5 tyres on pricier variants.

And there’s an F1-style overtake button that provides up to 10 seconds of maximum power for use when overtaking or simply driving quickly. However, the button cannot be used twice in quick succession, requiring a 30-second cooldown before it can provide another 10 seconds of maximum power.

Unsurprisingly, over-enthusiastic use of the overtake button is expected to impact how far owner will be able to travel per charge, but Alpine has fitted a 100kW DC rapid charging system that the battery to go from 15 to 80 per cent in half an hour at maximum charge speed. The AC charging speed for home wallboxes is 11kW.

Alpine A290

But Alpine reckons the thing that will differentiate the A290 from its main rival, the Mini Cooper SE, is the comfort and usability. Although there’s clearly a focus on performance, comfort plays a part in the set-up and the company claims the A290’s agility does not come at the cost of an overly firm ride (which is one of Mini’s USPs).

More practical than the Mini

What’s more, Alpine has given the car a five-seat layout and five doors (the new electric Mini is three-door only for the foreseeable), and there’s a 326-litre boot (matching that of the Hyundai i20 city car).

Driver assistance technology features prominently, with 26 systems fitted to the car including driver attention monitoring and emergency lane correction. However, Alpine is clearly aware that these legally imperative features aren’t to every driver’s taste, so there’s a “My Safety Switch” that allows drivers to store their ideal settings and tailor them with a single buttons press every time they start the car. Renault was similarly alert to drivers’ desires when designing the new pure-electric Scenic, which has a related system.

For further customisation, Alpine has also given the car two different sound profiles, with an Alternative Sound for everyday driving, and an Alpine Sound for a sportier noise.

The feel of the car can also be influenced by the model specified by the customer. Although prices have not been announced, we know the range will kick off with the basic GT, which comes with the 178bhp motor, heated sports seats and adaptive cruise control, as well as the two-screen cockpit including a reversing camera and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity.

Several models to choose from

Moving up the range, customers can choose the GT Premium, which has the same motor as the GT but adds some luxurious features such as leather upholstery and an upmarket sound system, while the GT Performance gets the 217bhp motor and Michelin Pilot Sport 5 tyres, as well as red brake callipers and an on-board telemetry system.

There will also be a range-topping GTS model that combines the GT Premium and GT Performance equipment and gets the Snowflake-design alloy wheels.

At launch, customers will also be able to specify a GTS Premiere Edition model, which will be limited to 1,955 examples and comes with a choice of liveries, as well as some extra equipment.

The new Alpine A290 is expected to go on sale before the end of the year.

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