Caterham’s latest pocket rocket
Caterham’s new model – the Seven 170 – is the lightest yet and is great fun to drive. Chris Carter reports
British car marque Caterham has introduced its lightest model yet. That’s no mean feat given that “these titchy two-seat sports cars have never been ripe for fat shaming”, says Rowan Horncastle on Top Gear. The new Seven 170 is “edging on anorexic”. It weighs just a little over 440kg, “which is about two times as heavy as the heart of a blue whale” or half that of an Alpine A110, a car held in high regard by automotive weight watchers. It is “ridiculously light” and this at a time when cars tend to be getting ever heavier.
The Seven 170 follows in the tracks of the simple Caterham 160 of a few years ago, and follows the same Japanese Kei car (the smallest road-car category in Japan) principles. Under the aluminium sardine-tin bonnet is a Suzuki K-car 660cc, three-cylinder unit, boosted by a tiny turbo. “In a world of 600bhp super saloons and 2,000bhp EV [electric vehicle] rocket sleds, the 170’s power and torque figures look like typos: 84bhp and 85lb ft, respectively.” Nor will you find anything in the way of driver assistance. “None. Zip. Nada.”
But it is precisely this paucity of power and weight that is the “ultimate expression of the brand”, says Curtis Moldrich for Car. It has the power-to-weight ratio of a daddy-long-legs. “It feels frantic and chaotic – but never slow.” But what the 170 lacks in horsepower, it makes up for in “visceral communication and fun”.
This is also Caterham’s least-polluting car, delivering 58.4mpg and 109g/km of carbon dioxide, “which, given that it can hit 60mph in less than seven seconds, shows what saving weight and reducing frontal area can do for you”, says Matt Prior in Autocar.
The 170 comes in two flavours. There’s the S version that comes with the standard weather gear, heater and carpets. And there’s the more racey R, with its sports suspension pack, carbon fibre dashboard and composite seats. The S will set you back £22,990 (£1,000 more for the R) if you build it yourself. Caterham will do it for you for £2,395.