It's been a while since I last drove a Caterham Seven, and I am pleased to report that they are just as cramped, uncomfortable and hard work as ever. In case you didn't know, the Caterham is a much revised version of a 1957 Lotus Seven, though just those classic sports car looks being carried over from the original. Plus the philosophy that will always be associated with Lotus founder Colin Chapman – "adding lightness", and they are still doing that today.
There are three new Caterhams out, with varying degrees of raucousness. Topping the whole range out, by the way, is the 620R, which will take you from standstill to 60mph in under three seconds. Yes count to three, and you’re pushing the limits of Newtonian physics.
Well, I chose what I thought would be the softy of the range – the 270. This one has a 1.6-litre Ford “Sigma” engine, such as you would find in a Ford Focus, say. Except that instead of lugging round a ton of Focus, it has to be move just a few kilos of aluminium and a human being (me). Its brakes are superb, as is the handling. There are issues, though. I have no idea how fast this thing will go flat out, least ways not from personal experience, but I can safely say – in all senses – that it exhausts you at the national legal limit. I still have much of my own hair, and I was never sure that, driving in blustery conditions with the roof down, the elements would not tear precious strands from my scalp. I doubt a syrup would survive a journey.
The most annoying thing about the Caterham is the positioning of the ignition barrel so that you have to manoeuvre the key under and behind the dash. You see, I had pretensions to being like Patrick McGoohan in The Prisoner, playing that famous theme tune to myself in my head (no radio). What Number 6 never had to do was muck about with the key, looking very silly indeed. What else? There is a great big phallic exhaust running along the driver’s side, which complements the great big phallic bonnet, and you have to be careful not to burn your legs when clambering out. There is no lockable boot. No doors. No power steering or air con. No air bags. There is no…Well, the list goes on. Adding lightness, you see.
Engine Capacity: 1.6 litre petro
Power output: (bhp @ rpm) 180@7,300
Top speed: (mph) 122
Fuel economy: (mpg) n/a
0–62 mph: (seconds) 5Reuse content