First Drive: Caterham 270R

Reviews

What’s new?

Caterham’s Seven has been around for a while of course but for 2015 the range has been sensibly rejigged and renamed to make things a little clearer. There’s five models to choose from, each wearing a three-digit number that reflects their power-to-weight ratio; in short, this tells you how fast they are.

Once you’ve chosen your model you can then add an S pack to add road-car elements like comfier seats or an R pack for sportier set-up. This 270R model has a 1.6-litre engine offering up 135bhp, and the R kit includes lowered suspension and a wider track, a limited slip differential, adjustable anti-roll bar and a host of other bits.

Looks and image

The Seven hasn’t changed a great deal visually; it’s still a gloriously simple thing to look at with the skinny wings, slender body and bug-eye headlamps. There’s four basic paint colours to choose from but you can go crazier if your wallet can take you there so there’s no excuse for failing to create a handsome Seven. Finished in white with green details the 270R looks superb, adding a modern touch to the classic shape.

Space and practicality

Practically speaking a touch of realism is required when considering the Seven’s accommodation. It’s a snug fit to say the least, even if you choose the wider body, and if your hips are beyond a certain width you simply won’t be able to sit down. But that’s the payoff for a car that weighs virtually nothing and can change direction like a hummingbird. It’s also worth mentioning that if you don’t have the roof stored in the rear compartment you can actually fit quite a bit in there; five bags of shopping is a realistic amount.

Behind the wheel

As fun as taking the 270R to shops is, it’s also a waste of its talents. Even starting it up tells you how responsive and immediate it is; you squeeze the tiny throttle to rev it and there’s no slack or delay in how the engine spins. The same sensory bombardment continues as you drive away, as you feel every gearshift meshing and every nub of the road surface through the tiny steering wheel.

The 270R comes with 15-inch wheels as standard but 13-inchers are a no-cost option. Take it, because it steers even more sweetly and the balance between grip and power is just about perfect. No other car at any price delivers the same level of intimacy between you and the road. It’s fast too – 122mph flat out isn’t exceptional but 0-62mph in 5 seconds flat most certainly is.

Value for money

So the 270R is a thrill machine for sure, and in this respect you have to say it’s good value. No, you don’t get airbags, ESP or electric windows, but you do get a car capable of out-sprinting sports cars costing twice as much. You get the basics you need for good fun but the options are pretty much the price you’d pay if you got them from the shelf yourself. Best of all if you’re a keen spannerist you can save £3,000 by building it yourself.

Who would buy one?

A certain amount of commitment is required when you buy a Seven. If you’re young, single and probably male you could use one every day, but for the rest of us living in the normal world it’s an occasional car. But you’ll be seeking any excuse to jump in it and blat out of the garage. Getting into it with the roof requires a fair degree of flexibility, but other than that this is a car that anyone of any age will enjoy.

This car summed up in a single word: Sensorial

If this car was an…: alcoholic drink it would be a double shot of vodka straight in the eye. In a good way.

FACTS AT A GLANCE

Caterham Seven 270R, £27,490 fully-built

Engine:1.6-litre petrol unit producing 135bhp and 121lb/ft of torque

Transmission: Five-speed manual gearbox driving the rear wheels

Performance: Top speed 122mph, 0-62mph in 5.0seconds

Economy: 35mpg combined (est)

Emissions: 190g/km of CO2 (est)

Caterham

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