There’s even hydraulic power steering. As well as meeting the trad roadster criteria, the Elfin T5 is intended to be a car that can be used pretty much daily.
What’s it like?
At 3409mm the Elfin T5 is around 300mm longer than a Caterham 7 and, at 1794mm, around 210mm wider and most of the extra dimensions are evident in the cabin, which is considerably roomier than a Caterham 7’s; there’s a even clutch foot rest. Fit and finish could be improved, but ours was a pre-production car – the interior’s quite pleasingly designed, but with more interior trim comes the obligation to screw it together adeptly.
It’s quick enough too. The Elfin T5 weighs around 750kg, depending on spec, which is heavy for a car of this type, but not in the overall scheme of things: around 345bhp per tonne is enough by most people’s standards.
So the Elfin T5 gets away from the line at quite a lick, and keeps on pulling. Its engine has a wide and strong powerband; it doesn’t make a great noise, but it’s refined enough.
The gearbox is adequate rather than outstanding, but that’s not unusual in this type of car either; it’s as good as a Lotus 2-Eleven’s.
And it handles. Owners can choose how their Elfin T5s are set up. Our test car was mostly road-biased, so there was a bit of roll and surprising compliance to the suspension. Body control’s still quite tight though and this seems an inherently well balanced and adjustable car. There’s no traction, stability control or ABS and, on a track, it responds quite well to being thrown around.
What’s not so great is the steering. The last Elfin we tried – an early MS8 before Walkinshaw had been properly involved in the development – steered with an alarmingly slow speed. If anything, the T5 moves things the other way. The assisted set-up turns in with alarming sharpness and the turning circle’s relatively tight too. It’s okay once you’ve turned in (at a little over two turns lock to lock it’s not dissimilar speed to a Caterham’s) but there’s little feedback and it’s overly abrupt on turn in.
Should I buy one?
The Elfin T5 would certainly be an intriguing choice. The UK lightweight sports car market is very established, competitive and some might say saturated already, which will make life hard enough for the Elfin, so maybe it’s just as well it offers something that the others genuinely don’t: its ride is compliant and its interior is more habitable than most of the rest.
The Elfin T5 is not as sharp as anything that rolls out of Caterham or Ariel’s factories but maybe it doesn’t need to be: if I had one, there’d be times when it was cold and dark that I’d get into an Elfin but struggle to look at an Atom.