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Road Tests

Caterham Seven 160, motoring review: This car is a joy - just add sunshine and a spare £15k


PRICE: From £14,995
ENGINE CAPACITY: 660cc 3cyl turbo petrol
POWER OUTPUT (BHP @ RPM): 80 @ 7,000

The thing about reviewing a Caterham Seven is that you can't stop checking the weather forecast the week before. Planning a drive requires planning ahead, plotting a route that follows pretty country lanes instead of polluted dual-carriageways and then checking the long-term forecast.

It's a bit like when you get tickets to Glastonbury. You spend weeks beforehand checking the weather in some form of very British religious observance. This is especially true if you're trying to convince your passenger to opt for a weekend of camping in Essex in a car without a watertight roof.

Thankfully, last weekend the forecast turned, the sun came out and my passenger clambered in for a run from Caterham's office in Sussex, across Kent and into the temporarily sun-drenched lanes of Essex.

Until recently all the Sevens I'd driven, had frankly, been rather unhinged with monstrous engines stuck on the front of what's essentially a 1950s design. Unsurprisingly the result on the road is as exhilarating and it is unnerving, especially when it rains.

This new model is very different though. It gets a rather modest 80bhp Suzuki engine, which in its normal home of a city car I'd describe as "sufficient". In this 500kg sports car though it sips petrol lightly and offers more than enough poke to trundle along, enjoy the limits of traction and be just a little silly while still remaining well within the speed limit.

That's right; this is a sports car that you can actually use on the road without wrapping it around a fence or setting blue lights flashing. Technically it will do 100mph but you'd be mad to when on a pretty derestricted country road 50mph feels like four times that speed. The popping and delightful fizzing of the exhaust add to the fun too.

Not that it comes cheap. The list price is close to £15k but by the time you stick on ultra-modern luxuries, such as a heater, it will set you back a wallet-busting £21,225.

In a world where even "sensible" family cars will top out at 130mph, yet are joyless to drive, that could just be the price we pay for back to basics motoring. Now, all I need is some guaranteed sunshine and a sympathetic bank manager.