Motoring: Hours of fun; practicality be damned: A Westfield roadster is the first product of relaxed regulations. Brett Fraser assesses its performance

KIT CAR. An expression not often heard in polite motoring circles. Conjures up visions of awkward glass-fibre monstrosities and grubby weekends spent in dingy lock-up garages, attempting to squeeze cannibalised parts of clapped-out Ford Cortinas underneath the plastic shell.

However, there is another side to the kit-car industry, where the manufacturers are genuine engineers, the workshops qualify as factories, and the cars make the pulse race. With certain makers the term 'kit' is a misnomer - a customer's role in the construction can sometimes amount to little more than bolting the wheels on.

So, why not sell fully built cars and be done with it? 'Type approval', that's why not: a set of regulations to which all new cars sold in Britain must comply. It governs everything from the specification of the glovebox hinges to the way a car must crumple in a head-on, 35mph accident.

But last year the Government came over all kind-hearted towards low-volume car makers and excused them the more costly parts of type approval. A lot of kit-car makers then changed the sign on their doors to 'specialist car' manufacturer.

Westfield, a Midlands-based specialist car maker, has become the first to benefit from the new low-volume type approval regulations. Its ZEi two-seater roadster is now in a handful of showrooms. The other models in its range remain the self-assembly variety.

If the Westfield's shape looks familiar, it is because it is based on that of another low-volume maker, Caterham. And the Caterham (a version of which will soon have type approval of its own) is a copy of the Lotus 7, a feature of The Prisoner television series. The main difference between Westfield and Caterham is that the former has bodywork made from glass fibre, while its rival has an aluminium body.

The Westfield is small, low and light and does not need a thundering great engine. (Though Westfield sells a model with an earth-shaking 300bhp V8.) The ZEi uses an off-the-shelf Ford unit, the 130bhp 1.8-litre four-cylinder 16-valver that powers the Escort XR3i and the new Mondeo. Full marks for convenience, fewer for refinement and aural satisfaction. Ford still cannot replicate either the zingy smoothness of a Japanese engine or the passionate growl of an Italian unit - either would do, the Italian preferably.

Fortunately, the Westfield's light weight means that working the engine hard is not a prerequisite of ample performance on the road: there is plenty of scope for scaring yourself down deserted country lanes using only 5,000 of the 7,000rpm available to you. Throttle response in the low-to-middle speed ranges is swift and eager. The sensation of speed is heightened by sitting so near the ground: the road zooms by when you are almost able to reach out and touch it. So, too, do trees and fields above and around you - cars like this should ideally be driven only with the top down. Besides, the Westfield's hood is so fiddly to erect, and so claustrophobic once you are beneath it, that you end up using it only in emergencies.

Making full use of every inch of your side of the road by exploiting the car's compactness and the accuracy of its steering is an essential part of the Westfield experience. But before you rush out to buy one, bear in mind that the Westfield comprises only an engine, gearbox, four wheels and a couple of seats. The only luxury electrical item is the heater fan. Getting in and out is a test of dexterity. And long journeys are noisy, breezy and chilly. Everyday transport for the dedicated maniac, then. No compromise, terrific fun.


Westfield ZEi pounds 14,688. Engine: 1.8-litre, 16-valve, fuel-injected four-cylinder. Power: 130bhp at 6,250rpm. Torque: 119 lb ft at 4,250rpm. Five-speed manual gearbox, rear-wheel drive. Performance: Top speed 110mph, 0-60mph in 6.7 seconds. Fuel consumption: 34-44mpg on unleaded fuel.


Caterham 1.4 K-series pounds 13,254. The car on which the Westfield is modelled. Has an aluminium rather than glass fibre body. Its 1.4 litre Rover engine more refined than its rival's Ford unit. A kit car at present, but should soon qualify for low volume type approval.

Mazda MX-5 pounds 15,780. Not as fast or as nimble as the Westfield, but infinitely more practical and refined. Enormous fun, shame about the price.

Peugeot 205 CTI pounds 14,195. A different class of car entirely, but has some similarities to the Westfield - the top comes down and it's nippy.

(Photograph omitted)

Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the iWatch for you? Well, it depends if you want for the fitness tech, or the style
Astronauts could be kept asleep for days or even weeks
scienceScientists are looking for a way to keep astronauts in a sleeplike state for days or weeks
  • Get to the point
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

    Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

    £18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

    £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own