So this is it then. Time to strap evo’s Caterham long-termer to my back and go for a drive. At least the weather is looking more promising than the last time I squeezed myself into one of these torture devices. That was back in October 2006, in the Highlands of Scotland, and, of course, it was pouring with rain at the time.
It was a memorable drive all right, but not for the best of reasons. It left me wondering why Caterham doesn’t fit an extra set of wipers to the inside of the windscreen to complement the ones on the outside – the rain certainly didn’t seem that fussed about which side it fell onto. Oh, and a bilge pump might have been handy, given how much water was sloshing around my ankles.
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Today, though, the sun is shining and I’ve hijacked Henry’s Henri Lloyd offshore sailing coat for protection, so I’m ready to attack my favourite back-road route to the office. I reckon Henry – in tow in the Zonda – has the better deal, though. Come to think of it, how exactly did he get me to agree to this in the first place?
The first shock in the Caterham is its tiny steering wheel. I haven’t driven a car with a smaller wheel since my childhood pedal car! It instantly sets the tone: the Seven is a very different sort of driving device to any other car on the road.
The next surprise is how much travel the front suspension seems to have. The ride is actually quite good and I’m soon dialled-in to the brilliant front-end grip and making the most of the rev-tastic 150bhp motor. With the gear ratios so close you’re constantly up and down the ’box, the revs dipping just 600-700 revs between changes, but this suits the character of the car perfectly. You can sense precisely what grip the car can muster and, with such perfect vision and the car’s narrow track, there’s plenty of fun to be had stringing perfect lines through the corners.
The only disappointment for me is the engine in this 150 Superlight, for while it delivers plenty of go, the power delivery seems almost too linear. With such perfect steering response, brake feel and throttle action, what I really wanted was the challenge of a fiery top end to play with. Perhaps I’m being fussy, but if I’m going to put up with this much compromise in a car then I want to make sure it’s worth the effort.
I enjoyed my brief drive in the Seven much more than I thought I would, but the drive back home that evening in the Zonda was yet another stunner. If the point of this test was to prove that a Caterham can deliver the same driving thrills as a Zonda then I’m afraid it failed. It’s good, the Seven, but it’ll never be that good.
|Date acquired||December 2007|
|Costs this month||£0|
|Mileage this month||471|
|MPG this month||27.1|