Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The Caterham Seven range starts off with two models that share the same 660cc, three-cylinder turbocharged engine: the road-oriented 170S and the track-focused 170R. It produces 84bhp at 6500rpm and 86lb/ft of torque at 4000-4500rpm.
That might not sound like an awful lot of power in a world of 1000bhp supercars, but it’s important to remember that each Seven weighs less than half a tonne. In fact, the stripped-back 170R is technically the lightest production car currently on sale, weighing in at a featherweight 440kg.
So which Seven should you buy if you want a sports car that's fun on a Sunday morning blast but is also suitable for the occasional track day?
Well, we’d point you in the direction of the 152bhp, 1.6-litre four-cylinder 310R. With a 0-62mph time of just 4.9 seconds and a top speed of 127mph it feels like the Goldilocks model in the Caterham range – not too mad, but not too subdued either. It’s just right.
Indeed, the 310R’s natural territory is on twisting, undulating B-roads. That's where the Seven revels in brief blasts of acceleration followed by a dab on the brakes before it dives for the perfect line through corners. There’s a real joy to be had snicking the tiny gearlever up and down at speeds below the national limit, listening to the side-exit exhaust roaring away.
The steering is super-sharp, requiring only the merest hint of movement to make the car change direction. There’s loads of feedback too, so you’re acutely aware of exactly how well the front tyres are gripping as they bob up and down in the periphery of your vision.
All Sevens become a little more hard work in an urban environment. There's no power steering, so the steering wheel is quite heavy at low speeds, and the tiny pedals make stop-start stuff a real exercise in delicate footwork. We found ourselves constantly wishing we'd worn smaller shoes.
The motorway is also way out of the Seven’s comfort zone because the car is incredibly noisy and tends to wander around as the front tyres try to follow cambers in the road. The ride isn’t too bumpy on the more sedate versions, but if you go for a track-focused model, you’ll wince over every pothole.