Motoring: The kryptonite factor

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's a super-fast French supercar. But what do our readers think of it? By Michael Booth

o, it's not a Ferrari. Or a kit car. And it isn't a Lotus either. So that's your three guesses. This is, in fact, the new Venturi Atlantique 300, France's belated attempt at a mid-engined supercar. But does it cut la moutarde? I'm afraid not, but before I plunge the knife in, an introduction.

Venturi is a low-volume manufacturer based in Nantes, from where it has been building high-performance road and racing cars for over 12 years. So far it has made little impact outside the pages of the motoring press, and even if you know what a Venturi is, you are unlikely to have seen one as only a handful make it across the Channel each year.

That at least ensures exclusivity. But what else might lure the potential Ferrari or Lotus buyer? Well, for a competitive (in supercar terms) pounds 63,000 (Ferrari's 355 is around pounds 100,000), a Venturi owner gets to tootle around with 302bhp, courtesy of a twin turbocharged mid-mounted, three-litre V6 engine. That's good for 174mph and 0-60 in 5.3 seconds. Originally a Renault unit, Venturi has uprated this engine to such an extent that it is allowed to call it its own - and it is a blissfully free-revving motor with buckets of power.

In reality though, there is probably only one stretch of road in this country where you would stand a chance of really pushing this car to its limits. It's called Silverstone. As far as day-to-day driving goes, the Venturi is an unholy pain in the backside, often literally - and its faults obscure whatever potential may lie beneath its unarguably pretty fibreglass body. Sole UK importer, Nicholas Mee, however, stresses that the car we sampled was the hastily built London show car and that future Venturis will be more polished.

My first and probably most serious moan, one that Mee was already well aware of, concerns the clutch, which required a Herculean effort to operate. The throttle pedal, too, was stiff and jerky, and its travel far too short. That exacerbated an appalling judder when accelerating through the higher gears (a phenomenon known as axle tramp). The brake pedal, conversely, was too soft and travelled too far before the discs had much effect. The Venturi's long throw, rubbery gear change needs work to bring it up to TVR, let alone Ferrari standards. Throw in atrocious visibility, dire ergonomics (half of the instruments are obscured by the non-adjustable steering wheel), and the absence of airbags, satellite navigation or a CD player, and that pounds 63,000 price tag doesn't look like such a "bargain" after all.

When Honda introduced its user-friendly NSX nearly a decade ago it transformed the supercar market. Even Ferrari soon realised that it was going to have to start making cars that ordinary (albeit monstrously rich) people could drive along ordinary roads. The Venturi remains mired in the Eighties (check out those pop-up lights), a time when supercars were masochistic machines for hairy-chested inadequates. As an impressionable youth I would have been consumed by its obscure glamour, after all, there was no danger that anyone would actually let me drive one. But in the cold light of maturity, I invariably found myself choosing the train rather than labouring through traffic in this cantankerous superfrog

The verdict

Jill Fennell, 42, probation service officer and PA to local MP, from Gillingham, Kent. Currently drives a Vauxhall Astra

"This is built for people with longer legs than me, I needed a cushion. I like the styling and interior, it seemed good quality, I'd have no doubts about reliability. But it is disappointingly heavy to drive and I had problems with the clutch, especially holding it down at the lights. I like the fact that although it's a sports car it has a short bonnet, which is good for pulling out of junctions, and you can turn it on a sixpence. I don't think I'll put it on my Christmas list though, I'd prefer a nice Mercedes."

Graham Lock, 50, deputy headmaster, from Chatham, Kent. Currently drives a BMW 5-Series

"It's certainly got all the power you need, nice acceleration, good brakes, visibility OK. I liked the steering wheel and driving position but the handbrake was awkwardly placed. I hadn't heard of Venturi before and I don't think I'd buy one. It's not worth the money and it would be a bit impractical for me. I'd want something that wasn't so low slung and difficult to get in and out of. Personally I'd go for a Honda Accord or Mazda 626, this would be nice on long drives though."

Malcolm Auge, 49, hairdresser, from Aylesford, Kent. Currently drives a Vauxhall Cavalier

"I hadn't heard of Venturi before driving this. But it's a very exotic car with wonderful road holding. It has great mid-range speed and it's very comfortable, the leather was beautiful. If I had a lot of money I might like one. They are different, understated, not too flash. I had a problem with the windscreen misting up, reversing is difficult and the gearbox takes a while to get used to, but the finish is nice. You can't see some of the dials though, which in a high-performance car is a serious problem. I'm over six foot but there was plenty of room."

Malcolm Richardson, 44, chartered surveyor, from Eynsford, Kent. Currently drives a BMW 3-Series and a Mercedes 230SL

"I like its understated quality. It's really nice looking, subtle, it doesn't shout money. I'm not sure about the white leather interior though. It was quick but the gearbox was notchy. The clutch was heavy too but you soon get used to that and the throttle pedal was a bit all or nothing, it needed more travel. It's difficult to drive smoothly in traffic, but on the open road it is easy to do very high speeds. The steering was direct but on quick bends it wasn't so fluid. You wouldn't know it was French, it looks more Italian."

Road test If you would like to take part in a test drive, write to The Verdict, The Independent Magazine, One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL, giving a contact phone number, your address and details of the type of vehicle, if any, you drive. For most cars, participants must be over 26, and have a clean driving licence.

Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
businessUber, Snapchat and Facebook founders among those on the 2015 Forbes Billionaire List
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
Homer’s equation, in an episode in 1998, comes close to the truth, as revealed 14 years later
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

    Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

    Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

    £26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

    Ashdown Group: PeopleSoft Developer - London - £45k

    £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: PeopleSoft Application Support & Development ...

    Day In a Page

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003