From £25,995
Expensive and lacks CSR’s sophistication, but fast, fun and strikes a good balance between road and track

Our Verdict

Caterham Seven

The Caterham Seven is a stripped-down sportscar offering one of the most pure driving experiences available. It is a true classic and available in nine iterations

14 September 2005

Caterham technical director Jez Coates doesn’t look happy. He wasn’t particularly pleased about adding a windscreen to his 495kg Superlight (an £855, 14.4kg option), but add my, ahem, 100kg-ish bulk and its 283bhp per tonne drops to under 230.

No matter, this is still a very quick car, though not in the universe-rearranging manner of the loonier R400s and R500s. Also different to more extreme Caterhams are the tyres. The 13in rims look tiny, but 175-section rubber provides just the right amount of grip to exploit the Superlight’s delicate balance. Talk of oversteer and understeer is largely irrelevant, because with adjustable spring seats and anti-roll bar means it’ll do either depending on your individual setup.

If it looks familiar, that’s because the Superlight was first introduced a decade ago, but as more powerful versions arrived the basic car dropped off the price list. With the R400 and R500 replaced by the new CSR, demand for a cheaper trackday Caterham has returned, and so has the Superlight.But it’s not a clone of the original. A stock 1.8-litre K-series replaces the old car’s tuned 1.6. The headline figures are little altered –140bhp and 124lb ft plays 138bhp and 118lb ft - but where tuned K-series lumps often tend to cough and stutter around town, this one feels docile and tractable as a base-model MG TF’s.

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The ride, too, is surprisingly friendly. The basic car runs a less aggressive anti-roll bar than R versions, so its surprising compliance means you don’t need to fret about scarred roads and can concentrate instead on the tactile immediacy of the steering, brakes and six-speed gearbox. But drive it really quickly over a bumpy back road and the back end does skip across the tarmac, highlighting the limitations of the Superlight’s de Dion rear axle compared to the new CSR’s double-wishbones.

As for the cabin, it’s familiar narrow-cockpit Caterham fare - fine if you’re under 5ft 10in, less so if your height begins with a six. Good news for the more generously built is that for £1500 you can also get a wide-cockpit Superlight SV. Coates frowns - bad news is that it weighs an extra 20kg. Now there’s an incentive to go on a diet.

Alastair Clements

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