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Caterham Seven 420R 2016 review

Naturally aspirated Caterham Seven 420R sits below supercharged range toppers, but is still fun to drive

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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Like every Caterham, involvement is at the heart of the Seven 420R’s driving experience. However, with this naturally aspirated 2.0-litre it isn’t quite as scary as the supercharged range toppers, but still offers incredible performance. It might be pricey and not very practical, but that’s missing the point – there isn’t much around that can match the raw thrills served up here.

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Since the crazy 620R and 620S models ­­­joined the Caterham Seven range a few years back, the naturally aspirated halo has been held by the still potent 420R. And we’ll cut straight to the chase – it’s something of a sweet spot.

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While the supercharged 620 models are great fun, you need to be bold and brave to tame the 310bhp sports car in anything other than bone dry conditions. The 420R, however, is an old school Caterham that needs revving to feel the thrills. 

The 210bhp 420R is still incredibly rapid, sprinting from 0-60mph in a scant 3.8 seconds. With maximum power produced at 7,600rpm, if you push hard the Ford-sourced 2.0-litre four-cylinder rewards you with a fruity snort from the side-exit exhaust and incredible pace.

There’s 203Nm on offer, so the engine’s larger capacity (compared to our 1.6-litre 270S long-term test car) is certainly noticeable. This solid slug of torque gives ample mid-range punch thanks to the featherweight 560kg body, while the engine crescendos to a rampant top end.

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But it’s not just straight-line speed where the Seven’s talents lie. With firmer springs and dampers from the R pack, the 420 hard wires you into the experience.

The fast steering and small steering wheel give the Seven incredible agility. It’s full of feedback too, so fixed into the composite bucket seat by the race harnesses you can feel everything that’s going on beneath you.

It inspires confidence and so do the grippy semi-slick tyres, letting you place the car accurately and adjust its cornering line deliciously with the steering and throttle. Providing it’s dry, that is. 

With no ABS or stability control you still have to watch it in the wet, but that’s the 420R’s big draw – it’s a challenge to drive.

There’s another challenge, though, and that’s the price. Factory built, the 420R costs £33,990, which is a lot of money for an occasional indulgence on the right road or a track. But if you can afford the expense, the 420R is brilliant fun.

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Sean’s been writing about cars since 2010, having worked for outlets as diverse as PistonHeads, MSN Cars, Which? Cars, Race Tech – a specialist motorsport publication – and most recently Auto Express and sister titles Carbuyer and DrivingElectric

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