The Ginetta G40R stands alone in offering balance and ability in a closed-roof, track-focused road car.

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Ginetta is in the midst of a revival. The word chequered could have been invented to describe the manufacturer’s mix of fortunes between the retirement of its founders retired in 1989 and the arrival of this G40R. Times were particularly turbulent in the 1990s, when it battled against recessions and failures, despite creating cars as exciting as the G33.

However, under the stewardship of the Yorkshire-based LNT Group, which bought the company in 2005, Ginetta is now going places again. It has found a niche as a producer of racing cars. Around 150 a year roll out of its Leeds factory, in ascending order of potency, G40 Junior, G40, G50 and G55 forms.

Now Ginetta has made a comeback as a road-car producer too, firstly with the G40R that we’re testing here. which the G60 grand tourer  followed to market. Unsurprisingly, as the name suggests, the G40R is a road-going variant of the G40 race car. And that’s a big gamble because plenty of big names have failed to make the transition from track to Tarmac.

Ginetta hopes to find 100 homes a year for a car that can be driven to, around and home from a circuit. That’s a modest number for what is a significant market led by iconic names such as Lotus and Caterham.

At around £30,000, the G40R is keenly priced, but it finds itself not short of track-special rivals to compete with. The question is whether its circuit beginnings have spawned a fine road car.



Ginetta G40 fuel cap

To our eyes, the Ginetta G40R is a pretty little car, one whose form has undeniably followed its racing car functions. It’s a well-proportioned, two-seat coupé with the engine at the front and the drive to the rear wheels, with an exterior shorn of superfluous detail.

It’s genuinely compact, too. The G40R is usefully shorter than a modern supermini, at 3748mm long. It’s only 1642mm wide and the top of its roof sits just 1145mm from the ground.

Given its size and racing pedigree, you’d expect it to be light, and although it is not disappointing in this respect, we were surprised that it tipped our scales at as much as 880kg albeit fully fuelled (the claimed kerb weight is 795kg). The reason is that its chassis, whose passenger cell is, in effect, a tubular steel roll cage that comes with full FIA approval.

At each end, the G40R is equipped with double wishbone suspension, with coil springs and adjustable dampers, and adjustable anti-roll bars. The whole is clothed in a glass-fibre body.

The G40R isn’t purely function over form, with neat sculpting on the sides breaking up the visual mass and a few pieces of carbon-fibre trim, most noticeably in the rear three-quarter panels and headlamp clusters. The bootlid sports a neat, upturned back edge, too. Ginetta doesn’t make any particular aerodynamic claims, but this should nip the air away cleanly at the back, reducing lift and drag. Seventeen-inch Team Dynamics wheels are the only ones on offer, because they’re the type the race-car variants use: the G40R has been set up to run with the 7.5x17in rims and 205/40 17 tyres.



Ginetta G40 dashboard

The interior of the G40R we tested is not yet finished. And, to be fair to Ginetta, it knows as much and is keen for you to know that the completed article will be an improvement over the one pictured here.

It won’t take much to turn what is a tatty but ergonomically sound cabin into something perfectly acceptable. We can live with the bare plastic seats because, even though they’re a pain to get into and the seatbelt latch is hard to reach, they offer excellent support and a fine driving position. We’d also keep the drilled aluminium pedals and their generous spacing, plus the high-mounted position of the gearlever and the reach- and rake-adjustable wheel. What needs work, however, is the finish on the transmission tunnel and centre console, and some material improvements at various points around the cabin.

What will remain the same, thankfully, is the relatively airy nature of this interior – and we emphasise the word relatively. If you expect Nissan 370Z levels of commodiousness or ease of egress from the G40R, you’ll come away disappointed. But there is adequate shoulder room for two, decent headroom once you’re ensconced in those hugging bucket seats and plenty of foot room near that pedal box.

The boot is large, too. Lotus founder Colin Chapman was an uncompromising man who gave short shrift to those who thought his cars could use more cabin room. Current Ginetta boss Lawrence Tomlinson is much taller than Chapman, but similarly uncompromising – except that he insists that his cars’ boots can hold two sets of golf clubs.


Ginetta G40 cornering

Through the middle of the G40R runs a drivetrain bought wholesale from Mazda, where it would normally be found in an MX-5 roadster. In the Mazda, it makes 157bhp, but here the 2.0-litre MZR engine produces a healthier 175bhp at 7000rpm, thanks to a Ginetta-specified ECU. The famously snickety gearbox, meanwhile, has six forward speeds and, because the powertrain donor is the MX-5 2.0i Sport, there’s a limited-slip differential at the rear.

Brakes and steering are unassisted (the steering rack is sourced from Ford, the brakes are ventilated discs front and rear), and the G40R is certified under IVA limited-volume approval, which allows Ginetta to register up to 300 of them a year. It has set itself the modest target of 100.

Ginetta has got the basics mostly right. The G40R’s engine fires to a promising idle, and although there’s a little hesitancy to small throttle inputs at low revs, it soon clears. There’s less refinement to the powertrain at mooching speeds than there is in, say, the highly polished responses of a Caterham Seven Supersport.

We’re loathe to criticise the Ginetta for that, though, because this, above all, is a car meant for larger throttle inputs, and it responds to those with all the enthusiasm and growl you’d hope for. Ask a lot of it, and it will pull strongly from around 2000rpm all the way to its 7000rpm limiter, from where a quick tug on the short gearlever will drop the engine right back into the meat of its rev band.

Ginetta claims a 0-60mph time of 5.8sec for the G40R, but with two occupants and a reasonable amount of fuel aboard, we were unable to better a 6.2sec time in one direction, and a 6.3sec average.

However, you should not infer from these figures that the G40R is not fast enough. We’ve no qualms about its straight-line or in-gear acceleration. It’s simply that it won’t reach the benchmark 60mph in second gear, and that start-line traction is compromised by Ginetta’s commendable decision not to equip the G40R with track-day special tyres, which would improve acceleration but might prove next to hopeless in the wet.


Ginetta G40 lightweight track car

The Ginetta G40R is an interesting car to drive, and an unusual one even among its peers. Its natural rivals are two featherweight roadsters with an advantage of weighing several hundred kilos less (the Caterham Seven and the Ariel Atom), and it’s clear that their lighter weight gives them easier, more responsive steering.

The G40R has heavier and slightly cumbersome steering at low speeds – heavier even than the Lotus Elise’s – which adds to an impression that it’s an uncompromised track car that has sought respite between a pair of number plates. As speeds rise, the steering lightens and improves in its response and the consistency of its weight and feel. The G40’s ride improves, too, higher speeds allowing its springs and dampers room to work at settling the body over lumps and bumps that, at town speeds, has occupants jiggling around the cabin.

If you’re thinking that there’s a pay-off for the low-speed recalcitrance when you start pressing on, you’d be right. The G40R is not so fast that its performance can’t be enjoyed on the road, where its minimal size and fine gearing make it a very rewarding steer across country roads. Body control is excellent and its track upbringing gives it a sense of purpose and security.

It is at its best, though, on a closed circuit, where it is less agile than a Caterham or Ariel Atom but, true to its roots, is very stable. It holds exceptional corner speed and offers little understeer or oversteer unless provoked.

The G40R’s brakes, which could use more initial bite, are excellent and immune to fade. It all adds up to the sort of car in which you could drive all day on a circuit, slowly chipping away at a lap time and having great fun into the bargain.


Ginetta G40

Purchasing what is fundamentally a race car for the road is not a practical decision but, for what it’s worth, the G40R requires fewer compromises than, say, a Caterham. An enclosed cabin, usable boot and Mazda’s proven powertrain all work in Ginetta’s favour. As do the low-volume production numbers, which should help to ensure exclusivity and strong used values.

Nevertheless, a host of factors may have you thinking twice about the prospect of Ginetta ownership. Not least among them is the fact that its starting price is marginally higher than that of the current Lotus Elise, which also improves on the G40R’s fuel economy (45mpg compared with 29mpg) and its emissions (149g/km versus 181g/km). Hethel has also had 15 years to improve on perceived quality, which could conceivably be an issue for Ginetta for some time to come.

Predictably, given the drive to reduce weight, much of the equipment fitted to our test car was from the options list, but a heated windscreen and push-button start feature as standard. Air-con is affordable, but metallic paint or Ginetta livery are alarmingly pricey.

However, incarcerated inside its FIA-approved roll cage atop those unadorned bucket seats, it’s clear that Ginetta is pursuing a hardcore niche audience that is likely to disregard such shortcomings in return for an engagingly raw driving experience.


4 star Ginetta G40

There is nothing else at the moment that quite does what the Ginetta G40R does. Most lightweight track cars offer a promise of open-air motoring that can, at times in this climate, prove just too open. Sporting closed-top alternatives, meanwhile, are just that: they are heavier and less able to consistently produce entertaining track driving without slowly cooking themselves.

The G40R has a few faults, but these are mostly related to its pre-production status and to fit and finish. Also it is slightly more expensive than an, admittedly less exclusive, Elise, particularly when factoring in a few choice options. And, unlike the Lotus Elise, the G40R is more of a weekend toy than something you could use as a daily driver.

Of its dynamic demeanour, we’d look to lend the steering a sense of purity and consistency that is contained within a Caterham’s or Elise’s rack. We’d alter little, though, about the G40R’s inherent balance and ability, which deserves to bring it all the success as a road car that Ginetta has recently found making racing cars.

Ginetta G40 First drives