It’s the sharp gust of arctic air with the ability to freeze your nasal hair that gives it away. That and the kind of unabashed sports car noise – made by schoolboys for decades – echoing off the low walls lining this road. Here we go again: gluttons for punishment. After our sub-zero adventure to the North of England, we’re Lotus ‘Seven’ motoring once more, sans sidescreens, only this time it’s a Westfield, and one with a new powerplant, too.
With the original Ford Zetec engine out of production and increasingly hard to find, Westfield has adopted the Duratec unit for its Sport 2000 model. This is bought in directly from Ford Motorsport, throttle bodies being the only modification; the internals are untouched. Even so, that’s enough for 190bhp at 6500rpm and a claimed 0-60mph sprint of 4.2 seconds.
The Duratec starts with a typical burble and coughs and spits amusingly on a trailing throttle. There’s plenty of meat low down in the rev range to lug such a light car (550kg), and a five-speed shift that’s slightly slower than a Caterham’s rifle-bolt six-speeder emphasises this less frenetic nature. Really gun it and it’s more ‘blare’ than ‘bwaarp’; a single, slightly featureless note that rises to a spluttering crescendo at the 7000rpm cut-out. So, on the one hand it’s flexible, its extra 200cc telling over a similarly tuned K-series by pulling cleanly from 1500rpm. But on the other, you do miss the sheer exuberant rortiness of a K – its eagerness to live off sky-high revs and bite your hand off should your foot so much as brush the pedal. No doubt that’s the sacrifice for leaving the engine internals stock.
They may be close on power and even look similar (with your eyes half closed) but that’s where this car’s similarities with a Caterham R400 end. True, there’s no shortage of grip from the Yokohama Advan AO48’s, but when they do let go you’ll need to be alert to mop things up. Steering that weights up significantly once half a turn of lock is applied doesn’t help.
Where the steering response on a Caterham seems telepathic, the Westfield requires a synapse of thought to travel from brain to shoulder. Where the R400 seeks full missile lock on an apex, the Sport 2000 can only carpet bomb around that spot of tarmac. We’re talking degrees of response and accuracy here, but however nimble the Westfield is, it always feels woolly in comparison. We also noticed a disconcerting hopping motion from the back axle over roads which shouldn’t have caused big problems to a car like this. Westfield boasts of adjustable dampers on the Sport 2000, so a Saturday morning spent tweaking your set-up may be required.
Our car was in a comfort spec, which means a bit of padded material here, some carpeting there, and inertia-reel seatbelts. Should you want aeroscreens and a single carbonfibre bucket, Westfield will oblige, and there’s also an extensive options list to raid. A fully built Sport 2000 costs £19,950, fully £10,000 less than a Caterham R400 which musters only 10bhp more.
Or, if you’d prefer, a winter’s experience of draughty garages, spanners and bleeding knuckles costs £17,250, with a sports car thrown in at the end as well.So, don’t go thinking this is a cut-price route to the sort of exacting, high adrenalin experience an R400 can offer. There’s neither the precision nor ‘edge’ for that. Instead, what you’re looking at is a featherwight 190bhp car which still goes harder and faster than most Ferraris up to three figures. Pretty good for something under £20k.