Motoring - The Verdict: Plastic fantastic

The Noble M10 is feather light, frighteningly fast and a serious rival to that other quirky British sports racer, the Lotus Elise

No other country could make a car as spine-tingling, as idiosyncratic or as flawed as the Noble M10 and get away with it. These highly specialised sports racers are a uniquely British phenomenon. The Noble, made in Leicester, is the latest and one of the most ambitious.

Noble is a new company, which was founded by Lee Noble, an experienced designer and manufacturer of specialist track cars. He has an impressive CV, which includes helping McLaren with its F1 car.

The Noble's pedigree shows the moment you turn the key in the ignition and the mid-mounted, highly tuned Ford V6 springs to life. With 168bhp to power a featherweight 998kg car (the body is plastic), I'd expected a fright when I floored the pedal, and I was right. Nought to 60 comes up in 5.9 seconds, but it feels even faster thanks to the proximity of buttocks to Tarmac. The revs begin with a sound not unlike a washing machine, and soon you are piloting a 747. This is nothing short of a super-economy Lamborghini Diablo.

Of course, anyone can make a car go fast, but Noble has made the M10 ride and handle excellently too. It has also fitted brakes that work far better than those on the Lotus Elise. Its fold-down hood, meanwhile, is not just better than the Elise's shower cap, it is the best manually operated hood ever made (though you can't see a damn thing out of the back with it up).

It trumps the Elise on interior comfort too. The M10, though unforgivably shoddy (switches fall out, there's overspray on the stereo), has two-tone leather and carpets.

The projected sales target of just 15 a year seems pessimistic: for pounds 29,700 you are buying a car that is far more exclusive than an Aston Martin and makes a Porsche Boxster look like a starling. The ultimate litmus test came in the car park at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, where the Noble turned heads away from the Bentleys and Ferraris. Watch out Lotus.

Gillian Wotherspoon

52, PhD student from Castle Camps, Cambridgeshire. Currently drives a Peugeot 406

"I really enjoyed it. It was light and responsive and had good turning. I did have difficulty with the clutch and gears, and the seat didn't go near enough to the steering wheel. It seemed well moulded to the driver. Listening to the comments of people as we went along, it seemed that young males liked it - it's obviously not appropriate for a family. But exclusivity is important to me. I hate driving the same car as everyone else and I think this is terrific value. Given that TVR is doing so well, I think it has a future."

Louise Todd

35, freelance marketing consultant from Stansfield, Suffolk. Currently drives a VW Corrado

"That was a good drive. It was a hard ride. I felt all of the Fenland bumps but it cornered well - it was very responsive and go-karty. It felt safe and well built but the interior let it down. The trim is cheap and plastic. I also found it wandered a little on rough roads. It's the sort of car that gets looked at but I don't think it's something I'd buy. I'd prefer a Mercedes SLK. I was very impressed with the hood but the plastic rear window was a bit cheap and the spoiler on the back interfered with the rear view."

Neil Graham-Cameron

65, marketing adviser from Haddenham, Cambridgeshire. Currently drives a Honda Civic

"My first impression was that this is stunning; my second impression was how difficult it is to get in to. The seating was OK: being short legged I expected a problem but it was fine. It reminded me of the specials that were knocking around when I was a lad. The performance is awe inspiring - there's so much grunt. It's a 100 per cent driver's car. It's terrific fun on little twisty bits but I would expect the Lotus Elise to be better. I don't really think a lot of women would buy this, even though it's very pretty."

Stuart Stonehouse

51, head teacher from Little Downham, Cambridgeshire. Currently drives a Ford Mondeo

"I thought that it was sensational. I loved it. I could easily do a long journey in it, though it wouldn't be practical for a first car. It'd be lovely to rent for the weekend. The chassis wasn't too firm. It looks really good: it's very similar to a Lotus Elise but the Elise is much more spartan inside. This is more civilised. The acceleration is excellent, it makes wonderful revving noises and the gears are slick. I don't know if it's a good or bad thing but I couldn't see the speedo beyond 60mph, as the steering column obscured it."

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