It might surprise some, but especially in one like this – less so in a 170R with its buzzy engine and the track suspension set-up and carbon bucket seats – you could absolutely tour Europe. That’s as long as you fit in the thing, which is a lot easier in a wide-chassis car with a lowered floor like the one we drove, than in the prettier narrow-body version.
The other benefit of the four-cylinder engine is that it gets a de dion rear axle, instead of a live axle, which helps to give it a more pliant ride than a lot of family crossovers.
Of course, you really buy a Caterham because all the controls are ultra-direct. That requires some recalibration to drive smoothly, but once it clicks, the raw sensations of the unassisted brakes and steering, straight-into-the ‘box gearchange and the feeling of the lightness are unmatched. It’s one of the great motoring experiences and one that is getting increasingly hard to find.
An Ariel Atom does a lot of the same things, but is more expensive, less usable and feels altogether more serious. A Morgan Super 3 dials up the retro vibe even more, and offers a less serious driving experience that’s just as amusing and engaging, but in a different way. A Mazda MX-5, as great as it is, feels like a Mercedes SL in comparison.
I drove the Caterham in the same week as the Genesis Electrified GV70 and Renault Megane E-Tech Electric, and the Seven was the perfect reset button. That’s not to detract from the two electric cars, quite the contrary – they’re smooth, quick, easy to drive and not unimportantly, have a radio. A Caterham is so perfectly opposite that as long as it’s not regulated out of existence, it would also be the perfect complement to a long-range EV in a future two-car garage.