Caterham Superlight

A high price but the Caterham provides supercar performance and excitement

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

It makes more sense to buy the entry-level 1.6-litre Caterham and enjoy the raw two-seater in its most basic form. But if you're looking for supercar performance, the new R400 Superlight is a real thriller. It does without the suspension and chassis of the Cosworth-powered CSR, but still offers as much excitement as any car on the planet. Our only gripe is with the price, which still seems high for such austere transport.

While Peugeot's hot hatches have constantly evolved, there's one car that always seems to stay the same - the Caterham Seven.

Proudly sticking with the look of the Lotus-built Seven of the Fifties, the legendary roadster has nevertheless changed beyond all recognition under the skin - and has most recently benefited from the introduction of the flagship CSR and entry-level Sigma models.

But with range-toppers starting at £31,000, top-spec cars are out of the reach of many buyers. That's where the new Superlight R400 comes in, offering 210bhp from its tuned 2.0-litre Ford Duratec powerplant for a £25,995 price tag.

That sounds like a lot for such a basic machine, but check out the performance. This Seven roars its way from 0-60mph in 3.8 seconds and provides pace in any gear.

Commonly found in more mundane models, the Ford engine is responsive and easy to drive, but the cramped pedal box and stiff clutch - combined with near-unbearable heat from the engine - make town driving a real chore. Head out of the city, however, and all is forgiven.

The R400 name comes from the 525kg model's 400bhp-per-tonne power-to-weight ratio, and this car never feels like it's lacking speed. The side exit exhaust pops and bangs as you are thrust forward with incredible force. Slotting the stubby lever into gear and heaving at the tiny steering wheel makes every journey a memorable one.

Add amazingly direct steering and back-to-basics sports car handling, and this is one of the greatest additions to the Caterham range.

But is it worth the money? With limited weather protection and zero refinement, the R400 would be a challenge to live with every day. Yet for drivers who seeking a blend of ultimate thrills with performance that can match almost any supercar, there are few better choices.

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