The inspiration behind the Nomad is not hard to fathom. Every big-wheeled, lightweight off-roader that preceded it – an archive of misfits that includes everything from beach buggies to extreme sandrails – was about fulfilling that impulse to abandon the road’s well-trodden path and slither excitedly off into the dirt, dust and joy of the unknown.

Unsurprisingly, the idea of taking the Atom concept off-piste has been percolating in Somerset for quite some time. Ariel is not based in a town or city. Its factory is situated in countryside as verdant as a Thomas Hardy poem.

Outside of work, many of the firm’s staff can be found ploughing through it, aboard motor and mountain bikes or motley 4x4s. The leap, then, to remaking the Atom as a marauding byway muncher is not a monumental one.

But nor was it entirely simple or easy. Ariel began work on the Nomad at about the same time as it began to develop its motorbike and, for a small company, spreading its resources between the two must have been a stretch. It also found itself limited by its own perfectionism.

Rather than carry over as many Atom parts as possible and fit knobbly tyres for a bit of gravel road ability, Ariel incorporated a new Honda engine and experimented with hugely expensive (and brilliant) World Rally Championship-spec Ohlins dampers. As a result, the Nomad’s lineage is plainly recognisable, but this is a different machine from the one made famous by track days and TV shows.

That’s a good thing, because Ariel is entering a niche within a niche now and the Nomad’s tiny pocket of buyers will almost certainly be putting its muddy-stuff potential repeatedly to the test.

Moreover, because it still looks like an Atom and continues to drive the rear wheels alone, they’ll expect it to still thrill on the road. Covering all of those bases while continuing to travel at a suitably mighty clip is where the Nomad departs from practically anything that has gone before.

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Seat Ibiza
    Car review
    21 July 2017
    A model upon which Seat has staked its future, the new Ibiza must now deliver
  • Honda Clarity FCV
    Car review
    21 July 2017
    Honda’s fuel cell flagship reaches its second generation, but is the world ready?
  • Nissan Qashqai 1.5 dCi 110 N-Connecta 2017 review
    First Drive
    20 July 2017
    A UK drive in Nissan’s crucial crossover shows an update has not cost it any of that which makes it sell so well
  • Seat Ibiza 1.0 MPI
    First Drive
    20 July 2017
    The Seat Ibiza has wowed in other iterations, but how will the entry-level 1.0-litre MPI version stack up in the UK? We've been to north Wales to find out
  • Vauxhall Insignia Sport Tourer 1.5 Turbo 165 2017 review
    First Drive
    20 July 2017
    Mid-range petrol engine suits Vauxhall's new family-sized load-lugger well. Another refined, comfortable, easy-to-drive and attractively priced Insignia.