What is it?
A special edition of Caterham’s entry-level 125bhp Roadsport model, with a colour scheme inspired by the Monegasque flag. Other than black highlights and the full-length red and white strip, the bodywork is unpainted aluminium. The interior gets black leather seats as standard and red carpeting.
While it’s true that those aren’t exactly sweeping changes over the standard car, the Monaco doesn’t come with a premium price. It is actually cheaper than a factory-built 125bhp Roadsport, which costs £21,200. The Monaco’s official price is £20,995, but the first 20 cars are being sold for £19,995.
What’s it like?
While Caterham’s more extreme Superlight models are all well and good when you have a track at your disposal, for road driving I’ve always preferred the slightly tamer versions. The 1.6-litre Ford Sigma engine has plenty of low-down torque, which means you don’t have to work the engine so hard, plus the clutch is lighter. Which might sound like I’m wimping out – but the reality is, in a Caterham you don’t have to be travelling quickly to enjoy yourself.
In fact, if you’re simply out to enjoy a favourite stretch of road, the Monaco’s 227bhp per tonne is not far off the performance sweet spot. Enough propulsion that you have to think about what you’re doing, but not so much that you can’t use full throttle for more than five seconds.
With the Monaco’s special edition pricing comes a few restrictions; that the options available are more limited than usual. Sticking with the standard five-speed gearbox isn’t a great hardship; the spread of ratios work well with the engine’s powerband, and the shift is satisfyingly slick.
However, that you aren’t able to option a limited-slip differential seems a shame. Because even the Monaco’s modest 125bhp is enough to test the Avon ZV3s' adhesion exiting slower corners. And without a diff the results are a bit hit and miss.
Should I buy one?
In truth, the Monaco is little more than clever marketing. But if you like the colour scheme, the pricing makes it an excellent first step into Caterham ownership.
And beyond the fancy name, the Monaco is a timely reminder that the basic Caterham remains a brilliantly simple and satisfying product.
Caterham Seven Roadsport Monaco 125
Price: £19,995 (first 20 cars); Engine: 4cyl in line, 1598cc, petrol; Installation: Front, longitudinal, rear-wheel drive; Power: 125bhp at 6100rpm; Torque: 120lb ft at 5350rpm; 0-60mph: 5.9sec; Top Speed: 112mph; Weight: 550kg; Gearbox: 5-spd manual