A decade or so ago, it was routine for Autocar to take a Caterham Seven to our Britain's Best Driver's Car contest. Frequently there was little new about the Seven, so although the car was there, it didn't qualify to be judged. We took it as a handling benchmark. It showed what you could do with a car's handling if you only used half a tonne to do it.

This year, though, Caterham introduced a new variant of the Seven, the Supersport. Our contributors who drove it, loved it, and because it had been a while, when we made the phone calls to arrange the 11 cars for this year's 'handling day', one to Caterham was among them. And this time we wanted it as a proper competitor.

     Caterham Supersport beat many expensive rivals

For all the improvements that have been made to the Seven since its inception in 1957, it remains, by modern standards, unsophisticated. It runs a de Dion rear axle, is cramped inside and is too low to afford exceptional visibility. We thought it would do kinda-okayish.

It finished second.

That it was good on a track was in many ways predictable. The competition was very strong, but to learn that a 520kg lightweight is more entertaining than a McLaren MP4-12C or Aston Martin Vantage S should be no massive surprise.

The surprise was just how good the Seven is everywhere. It‚s so beautifully balanced and perfectly adjustable that taking a corner in a Supersport is an open book: pick a cornering style, and it will indulge you.

On the road, though, it was just as enjoyable. We wondered if its limited suspension travel, and the fact that a light body does little for a car‚s ride, would catch it out. But no, it was exceptional; a different class not just to many of today‚s other driver‚s cars, but also to other recent Caterhams. As I write we have an R400 on loan for another feature, and it is nowhere near as classy and honed as the Supersport.