Ariel Atom 160bhp

When Ariel suggested we tried its new 'user-friendly' Atom, we were a little confused. After all, this car looks like an electricity pylon on wheels, so practicality is never going to be its strong point.

Less power barely dents the Atom's performance - but now the chassis is more usable. One of the UK's smallest auto makers goes from strength to strength.

When Ariel suggested we tried its new 'user-friendly' Atom, we were a little confused. After all, this car looks like an electricity pylon on wheels, so practicality is never going to be its strong point. But instead of fitting a roof or making the vehicle any less exciting, the company has looked at the engine instead.

The Atom now has a detuned version of Honda's manic i-VTEC unit, giving out 158bhp - 62bhp less than its more muscular brother. Yet the car is still ridiculously fast. The claimed sub-five-second 0-60mph time is entirely plausible, but in reality you can rarely exploit this potential on the road.

With the engine less revvy than the 220bhp unit and a low 500kg weight, first gear is short, yet snatching second is no hassle with the slick five-speed box. Suspension is now non-adjustable, the tyres are road rather than track-biased, there's less grip and the ride is still far from comfortable, but the 160 does feel more civilised than the 220. At less than £20,000, it represents fine value for money. As a car for summer fun, there are few better options.

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