Caterham Seven review – the iconic British track car is still going strong

Put simply, the Caterham Seven is one of evo's favourite cars

Evo rating
from £17,725
  • The absolute definition of a sports car
  • Can be pricey; not the last word in usability

The Caterham Seven is about as close as you’ll find to a car that represents what evo is all about – the thrill of driving. From the moment you squeeze yourself into its racecar-like form to the point you climb out, windswept and possibly a little uncomfortable but grinning like a Cheshire cat, you’ll have experienced one of the most exciting cars on the road.

> Best track cars

Subscribe to evo magazine

Subscribe today to have every issue of evo delivered straight to you. You'll SAVE 39% on the shop price, and get evo for its original cover price for a whole year!

That the Caterham Seven is still almost identical in concept to the Lotus Seven launched in 1957 is a testament both to Colin Chapman’s original idea and to the constant, small but important tweaks that Lotus and later Caterham have made. Engines have changed over time, different variants have improved the car’s appeal and there have been improvements to quality and reliability, but broadly the idea itself has remained constant – maximum driver interaction.

In a world where every car has traction control, stability control, airbags, electric power steering and an infotainment screen the Seven is an anachronism, but what it sacrifices in usability it will always retain in the kind of driving purity that very few other modern cars can offer.

The Seven is far from perfect and it’s not a car many are likely to use every day thanks to some fairly glaring limitations, but as a vehicle to squirrel away in your garage to enjoy on a sunny weekend, there’s little better. Choosing a favourite model is very difficult indeed, thanks to Caterham’s wide range of options. Whether you want to blast along B-roads or dominate at trackdays, you’ll probably find something to suit.

Caterham Seven in detail

Performance and 0-60 time – Light weight means all Caterhams are quick, but the most powerful examples are terrifyingly so. Top speed of all models is limited by 1950s aerodynamics.

Engine and gearbox – Plenty of choice here, from the entry-level three-cylinder Suzuki with its notchy manual shift, to highly-strung Ford four-pots on individual throttle bodies paired with racing-style sequentials.

Ride and handling – All Sevens handle beautifully. Behaviour ranges from the Goodwood Revival-style four-wheel drifts of the skinny-tyred 160s, to insane levels of grip with semi-slick-shod 620Rs. The ride is firm with all models, but not as bad as you’d expect.

MPG and running costs  Outright economy varies from model to model – the 160 is very frugal indeed – and many other costs (brakes, tyres, servicing) are kept relatively low thanks to the car’s light weight and simplicity.

Interior and tech – Not much of an interior or tech to speak of, but provided you physically fit, it’s not a bad environment from which to drive. It’s actually worse with the tent-like roof up.

Design – The basic design hails from the 1950s, but still looks great to us, whether in retro Sprint and SuperSprint form or the bright colours and trackday tyres of R versions.

Prices, specs and rivals

Seven pricing begins at £17,725 for the 160. The 270 is priced at £22,410, the 310 at £23,910, the 360 at £25,910, the 420 at £28,910, the 620S at £46,410 and the 620R is a hefty £51,405. The limited-run SuperSprint is £29,995.

However, all those prices are effectively the DIY rates. Get the factory to build your car and you can add £2500 to those numbers (aside from the 620 models and the SuperSprint, which are all factory-build only), while Caterham’s various options and packs add further costs. Specify the road-orientated S trim and you’re looking at £3495, and R pack cars with limited-slip diffs, uprated suspension, race seats and harnesses and the like add £4495 to the base price of relevant models.

> Lotus Elise review

Choose a wide-body car and you’re adding £2500, a six-speed ‘box and it’s £2495, and a dry-sumped engine (standard on the 420 and up) is £1550. A windscreen, hood and side screens comes to £1250, and a long list of other features, from roll cages to shift lights can add hundreds more. Some of the options are quite tempting, so it’s safe to assume you can take the base price of any model with a pinch of salt.

The good news is that Sevens depreciate slowly, and some – like the retro Sprint and SuperSprint special editions – are likely to actually rise in value, as each has been produced in such a limited run and both sold out within hours of their respective on-sale dates.

Rivals? Take your pick – the Seven’s pricing structure puts it up against various vehicles in purely economic terms, though chances are the specialist nature means you’ll be considering other sports cars, and specifically British ones like the Lotus Elise, Ariel Atom or Morgan 3-Wheeler as rivals.

More on 7 convertible

Caterham 7 convertible

Caterham Seven SuperSprint review – only the essentials for pure driving fun

The Caterham 7 SuperSprint has the potential to be one of the most entertaining Caterhams you can buy
3 Mar 2018
Caterham 7 convertible

New Caterham Seven SuperSprint special launched at Goodwood Revival

Complete with retro livery, Caterham’s latest special edition Seven SuperSprint harks back to the brand’s long history. And costs £30k
7 Sep 2017
Caterham 7 convertible

Caterham Seven Donington Edition review – the best Caterham you can buy?

Cherry picked components and a few bespoke parts make this one of the best handling Sevens there is
25 Jul 2017
Caterham 7 convertible

From Lotus Seven to Caterham Seven - the lightweight legend turns 60

We drive a range of Sevens, from an early Series 1 Lotus to modern Caterhams
21 Jun 2017
Caterham 7 convertible

Caterham Seven Sprint review - A thoroughly retro car

Does the limited edition Sprint feel as old as it looks?
4 Nov 2016
Caterham 7 convertible

Caterham Seven Sprint – Retro model sells out in seven days

Caterham’s latest model harks back to the Seven’s roots
21 Sep 2016
Caterham 7 convertible

Caterham Seven 310R review – How does the most powerful 1.6 fit in the Seven range?

Can a subtle new look and more power transform the old 270R?
4 Aug 2016
Caterham 7 convertible

Caterham tries bicycle chassis tech to shave weight from Seven

Trio of British companies finds a way of making Caterham's flyweight Seven even lighter - using bicycle technology
30 Mar 2016
Caterham 7 convertible

S Pack boosts Caterham Seven 620’s capabilities

Wider body joins the options list, while a windscreen is now standard
11 Jan 2016
Caterham 7 convertible

Watch – Original Caterham Academy footage on series’ 20th anniversary

Video footage surfaces of the series' first-ever race, 20 years ago
2 Oct 2015
Caterham 7 convertible

Caterham Seven Superlight Twenty celebrates 1996 original

Latest special edition matches the power-to-weight ratio of the Seven 270
11 Sep 2015
Caterham 7 convertible

Watch - evo Track Evening in association with Sky Insurance

Jethro Bovingdon pushes the Caterham Seven 420 R on Bedford's fast flowing South West circuit
2 Sep 2015
Caterham 7 convertible

Caterham Seven review - 270, 360, 420 and more tested

Simplified range, but none of the Seven magic has been lost
29 Mar 2015
Caterham 7 convertible

Caterham Seven - three new models join 2015 range

New models slot between the basic Seven 160 and hardcore Seven 620
27 Mar 2015
Caterham 7 convertible

Caterham R500 production ends

The last of the line Caterham Superlight R500 has rolled out of Dartford
7 Aug 2014
Caterham 7 convertible

Caterham Seven Kobayashi edition launched

Caterham has unveiled a new Japanese special edition Seven model, named after Caterham driver Kamui Kobayashi. Details here
9 Jul 2014
Caterham 7 convertible

Caterham Seven 160 vs Morgan 3 Wheeler track video

Turbo Caterham Seven 160 takes on quirky Morgan 3 Wheeler in our latest track battle video
28 May 2014
Caterham 7 convertible

Caterham 620R review, price and track test

The Caterham 620R is even more powerful and lairy than the R500 it replaces. Review, price and specs here
12 Dec 2013
Caterham 7 convertible

Caterham reveals new bikes

Caterham has revealed two new e-bikes, and an off-road motorcycle as part of its new business plan to diversify. Pictures and details here
6 Nov 2013
Caterham 7 convertible

Caterham Seven 160 review, price and specs

The Caterham Seven 160 is the much-hyped entry-level 7, with a turbocharged three-cylinder engine. Review here
22 Oct 2013
Caterham 7 convertible

Radical RXC review, price and specs

The Radical RXC adds a closed roof and gullwing doors to the company's track-focused mantra
21 Oct 2013
Caterham 7 convertible

Caterham AeroSeven Concept sports car

The Caterham AeroSeven concept is a bold preview of an even more extreme future for the British sports car maker
20 Sep 2013
Caterham 7 convertible

New Caterham Seven goes turbo

Caterham's 40 year anniversary is marked with a back to basics Seven sports car with a 660cc turbo Suzuki engine
2 Sep 2013
Caterham 7 convertible

New Caterham 620R replaces R500

The new Caterham 620R is the most extreme road going Seven yet, and it replaces the R500
9 Jul 2013