All the Caterham magic and most of the thrills of the R500

Our Verdict

Caterham Seven Superlight

The Caterham Superlight scintillates with simplicity. There's little quicker or more focused for the price

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    Caterham R500

    Expensive, but worth it for an R500 that has improved in every respect
3 February 2009

What is it?

This is the Caterham Seven Superlight R300, the latest addition to the brutally quick yet feather-light Superlight series.

We’ve seen a Caterham Seven Superlight R300, but that was the old version with the 1.8-litre K-series Rover engine. This new Superlight R300 now uses the effortlessly torquey - and no doubt far more dependable - 2.0-litre Ford Duratec motor also found in the 263bhp R500 and the 210bhp R400.

In the Caterham Seven Superlight R300, the 2.0-litre Ford motor is detuned to produce 175bhp, so the R300’s acceleration isn’t quite as savage as in the R500. The R500 hits 60mph in a frankly terrifying 2.9sec, but the R300’s 0-60mph time of 4.5sec is still more than brisk enough - especially in a car where a windscreen is an optional extra.

But while the Caterham Seven R300 doesn’t get the extreme performance of its bigger brother (or the R500’s optional sequential gearbox), it still gets the same beefed-up front suspension and sticky, track-oriented Avon CR500 tyres.

What’s it like?

As you might expect, the Caterham Seven Superlight R300 behaves very much like a tamed version of the R500. The R300’s straight-line performance is exciting rather than explosive, but you’re definitely aware that you’re driving a fast Caterham, especially at higher speeds.

Unlike the 1.6-litre Sigma-engined Roadsport, the R300 still feels strong at three-figure speeds, and the R300’s 140mph top speed is testament to that - though it’s achieved through brute force rather than slick aerodynamics.

Like all Caterhams, however, what really stands out on the Superlight R300 is its chassis. The R300 doesn’t have the finesse and delicacy of a Lotus Elise SC, but it is every bit as involving.

You feel every movement of the tyres, compression of the suspension, every mechanical connection in the gear change through your body. Even the engine note arrives as a vibration as well as a sound.

Should I buy one?

If you want a visceral driving experience, that doesn’t scare you witless, then absolutely It’s the sense of connectedness that makes the R300 - indeed any Caterham - such an involving, rewarding experience.

Yes, the R300 is a bit point-and-squirt compared with a Lotus Elise, but it’s grippy fast and, in its own way, every bit as involving as an Elise. Maybe more so.

Matt Rigby

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