This car, which has its origins in the 1950s, is the future; or it should be. Don’t get me wrong: EVs are brilliant as daily transport. Compared with the 2.0-litre diesel hack they’ll probably replace, they’re usually quieter, easier to drive, faster and more fun.
However, when it comes to having fun in a driver’s car, UK roads are narrow and busy and have bad visibility – and even though we have more liberal speed limits than many other countries, most modern performance cars really don’t come alive below 70mph.
Widening the roads and increasing the speed limits are not going to happen (nor should they, necessarily), so what you need is something that takes up less space and is exciting at lower speeds. The Caterham 170 does that like nothing else on sale today.
It’s just 1470mm wide. By comparison, the hardly massive Hyundai i20 N is 1775mm. A lot of the roads around where I live are the kind of unmarked country lanes where two cars can just about squeeze past each other. They look fantastic fun on a map but turn out to be too narrow to enjoy because there’s nowhere to go but the hedge if another car comes the other way. Not so in the little Caterham: every road becomes a wide open playground.
It also rides on 155-section Avon tyres – trailer wheels, basically. But because the sense of speed is so great, the relatively low level of grip never feels limiting. The 170 also benefits from a limited-slip differential, something that the old 160 never got and lets you make the most of the limited traction.