Silly name, silly looks, surprising drive

What is it?

A 600kg, British-built sports car built on a spaceframe chassis and powered by a Honda Civic Type-R engine. So stop laughing and pay attention because this Marlin 5exi-R is half the price of an Ariel Atom 300 and yet claimed figures put it within 0.3sec of the popular Atom.

What’s it like?

It’s a surprisingly civilised thing to drive, but Ariel need not worry as the Marlin doesn’t feel anything like as visceral or rapid as an Atom. It is instead a none-too-tardy sports car that offers a usable, fun and responsive experience. Having such a small footprint and so little mass to throw around, plus a complete lack of any driver aids proves that you need nothing more than simple physics to make a great steer for purist drivers.

Turn in is sharp, grip is plentiful and the naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre VTEC engine has its usual pros and cons – bonkers at high revs and slightly uninspiring at normal road speeds. Well-judged suspension set-up also allows it to cover B-road asphalt without any severe jarring, with the lack of weight once again paying dividends for comfort and enjoyment.

Should I buy one?

This car is not helped by its looks nor its slightly ludicrous model name, but it’s easy to see why Marlin still gets a slow and steady stream of orders. Even so, such an obviously home-made car requires a certain kind of buyer. If you’re one of them, there’s no doubt you’ll enjoy it. If you’re not, Westfield and Caterham await.

Join the debate

Comments
10

19 August 2009

Yes silly name, and odd looks. But otherwise a great toy. send it to a design school for the students to re do the body. they should be able to come up with something that works, still attaching to the hard points so no structural changes would be needed, and hopefully a new name! Even if that added a few quid to the price it would be worth it. How many cars did Ariel sell just because of the fabulous looks before, people discovered it drove well too?

bol

19 August 2009

Classy combination of Mk1 Fiesta and Rover Metro on the inside. I'm guessing that there are still lots of great fun kit cars out there to be had, offering silly performance, unusual handling and a relatively low price. Not sure why this one has turned up in Autocar? Maybe it's to make the finish in the Noble, also featured today, look a Bugatti's?

19 August 2009

I'd read about Marlins before but had never seen a review of one - great to know how they finally drive as I'm never likely to get in one myself.

stlll work to do in the looks and name dept though.

Good work Autocar, please give us more of this interesting niche stuff rather than hundreds reviews of mid range diesel people carriers that drive identically - we already have What Car? for that.

19 August 2009

Why has no-one mentioned that this is a Strathcarron (spelling) re-mastered (I may be mistaken).

This, if my memory serves me correctly was conceived 15 years ago. Went bust, and was bought.I actually think the original design looked a bit gawkey but worked to some degree, this however.............doesn't.

The model name is like an agent putting forward Cherie Blair for the role of Tomb - Raider 4 and changing her name by deed poll to Angelina Jolie, thinking people wouldn't notice the lack of looks.


20 August 2009

If they do a lightweight(?) or more powerful version will it be called the 5exi - Rs - think about it...

20 August 2009

I nearly bought one of these a year or so ago (when they first came on to the market). Cracking engine coupled with a light weight chassis and a usable cabin. The one thing that put me off were the looks!

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

20 August 2009

I think my computer screen cracked when I clicked on the pictures...;)

20 August 2009

[quote sotw]5exi - Rs - think about it...[/quote]

Heh. I once worked on a project where it was necessary to accommodate a bit of science kit. Don't remember what it was called exactly, or what it did (some kind of doomsday machine probably), but the acronym was ARSPIPES. Still amuses me around 8 years later. The scienticians never got it.

Well, at least the "badge" on the car appears to be no more than a sticker, so at least the embarrassed could remove it easily enough.

20 August 2009

You can also get one of these with a VW/Audi 1.8t engine with 300BHP which is 500BHP per ton..

How many cars can you buy for £20k that can claim that!?!

I drove one around a track recently and I couldn't stop smiling... Overtaking the likes of Lotus Exige and heavier stuff like Porsche 997s proved almost too easy. Very neutral and predictable handling, with unbelievable turn in and scary straight line speed.

Silly name - yes.. But go try one and you will realise that this is the best kept secret of 2009.

20 August 2009

I honestly believe that the 5exi is one of those cars that is seriously disadvantaged when viewed in two dimensions. It looks terrible in the photograph, particularly the side view.

The original had no doors, and while obviously less practical, looked better. However having seen the 5exi close up, and actually sat in one, I do think they look OK.when looking at the car rather than a photo.

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