If the 160’s sole purpose is to permit access to the Seven’s unique and characterful driving experience for as little money as is possible, it must be considered a roaring success.
So much of what a Caterham is and ought to be – chiefly, the raw and unconstructed feeling of driving rather than being driven – is laid bare here for even the most stubborn layman to enjoy.
Our test was not conducted in the dry (certainly the conditions it will predominantly face), but previous experience of the 160 tells us that it can be driven flat out on the road without significantly challenging the adhesive limits of its Suzuki-donated back end.
Were that sentence describing a hatchback, it might translate as inescapably dull, given the limited pace already mentioned, but this is a Seven, meaning that the experience of flat out remains an unplugged handling ballad to the senses.
There is an unfamiliar lightness to the steering and considerable travel to the softly sprung suspension, but there is no loss of clarity or awareness. This is a Seven swaddled in a shroud of usability, not dialled back to the point of being nondescript.
In the wet, the 160’s limits appear as early as winter in the Shetlands. The power oversteer unavailable in the dry due to the three-pot’s horsepower shortfall is suddenly deployable in abundance.
Elsewhere, such a manoeuvrable rear end would probably appear brooding, but the 160 does its thing at such low speeds and telegraphs it so obviously through the Seven’s spaceframe that responding to the result of a prodded throttle with the still ultra-fast steering rack feels about as organic and foreseeable as it’s ever likely to get.
However, an awareness of what’s happening does not automatically signify accuracy or elegance. Dressing a delivery van’s axle in Caterham finery does not a princely proposition make.
Without a limited-slip differential or the coercion of a Seven’s normally serious suspension and the brawnier front-end grip of wider tyres, the 160 will not enter and exit a deliberate loss of traction without grumbling at the disparity of what’s occurring at each corner.
Certainly, it is not a hooligan or the sideways tearaway that its skinny tyres suggest. Well, not without the helping hand of a downpour, anyway. Suzuki’s solid rear axle and open differential are not components meant for finesse in extremis, a fact that will be made clear if you lean on them with track-based conviction.