Silly name, silly looks, surprising drive

What is it?

A 600kg, British-built sports car built on a spaceframe chassis and powered by a Honda Civic Type-R engine. So stop laughing and pay attention because this Marlin 5exi-R is half the price of an Ariel Atom 300 and yet claimed figures put it within 0.3sec of the popular Atom.

What’s it like?

It’s a surprisingly civilised thing to drive, but Ariel need not worry as the Marlin doesn’t feel anything like as visceral or rapid as an Atom. It is instead a none-too-tardy sports car that offers a usable, fun and responsive experience. Having such a small footprint and so little mass to throw around, plus a complete lack of any driver aids proves that you need nothing more than simple physics to make a great steer for purist drivers.

Turn in is sharp, grip is plentiful and the naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre VTEC engine has its usual pros and cons – bonkers at high revs and slightly uninspiring at normal road speeds. Well-judged suspension set-up also allows it to cover B-road asphalt without any severe jarring, with the lack of weight once again paying dividends for comfort and enjoyment.

Should I buy one?

This car is not helped by its looks nor its slightly ludicrous model name, but it’s easy to see why Marlin still gets a slow and steady stream of orders. Even so, such an obviously home-made car requires a certain kind of buyer. If you’re one of them, there’s no doubt you’ll enjoy it. If you’re not, Westfield and Caterham await.

Join the debate

Add a comment…
gathome 20 August 2009

Re: Marlin 5exi-R

I honestly believe that the 5exi is one of those cars that is seriously disadvantaged when viewed in two dimensions. It looks terrible in the photograph, particularly the side view.

The original had no doors, and while obviously less practical, looked better. However having seen the 5exi close up, and actually sat in one, I do think they look OK.when looking at the car rather than a photo.

123ABC 20 August 2009

Re: Marlin 5exi-R

You can also get one of these with a VW/Audi 1.8t engine with 300BHP which is 500BHP per ton..

How many cars can you buy for £20k that can claim that!?!

I drove one around a track recently and I couldn't stop smiling... Overtaking the likes of Lotus Exige and heavier stuff like Porsche 997s proved almost too easy. Very neutral and predictable handling, with unbelievable turn in and scary straight line speed.

Silly name - yes.. But go try one and you will realise that this is the best kept secret of 2009.

The Colonel 20 August 2009

Re: Marlin 5exi-R

sotw wrote:
5exi - Rs - think about it...

Heh. I once worked on a project where it was necessary to accommodate a bit of science kit. Don't remember what it was called exactly, or what it did (some kind of doomsday machine probably), but the acronym was ARSPIPES. Still amuses me around 8 years later. The scienticians never got it.

Well, at least the "badge" on the car appears to be no more than a sticker, so at least the embarrassed could remove it easily enough.