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| First Drive | East Sussex, England | Caterham Roadsport SV 150 |
Kyle Fortune - 26 Jun 2008
Caterham's Roadsport SV 150 proves it needn't all be about power when it comes to motoring thrills. When your car weighs as little as 550kg then 150bhp is more than adequate to raise a large grin.
In the Metal
It's a Caterham right, so forget the usual banging on about styling details and the like and instead concentrate on its functionality. There is something beautiful about something that is so clear in its purpose. Nothing is superfluous; the only excess weight this Roadsport SV carries is my ample belly. Sure, the Superlight sheds a few pounds over the Roadsport cars, but I'd be better spending the extra money the Superlight commands on a personal trainer than going for the lighter version. Thankfully, the letters SV denote the wider chassis, meaning even my bulky frame fits in the tight interior. Broad shoulders mean the 'door' never stays closed; if it were mine I'd just take it (the door) off and leave it at home.
Unashamedly retro - not because it's designed to be that way but because its shape actually dates back 50 years - the 7 looks sensational. Whether it's the exposed front suspension, the side-mounted exhaust or the catches for the lift-off bonnet it's all so pleasingly simple, neat and focussed. And its focus is simply to provide you with thrills behind the wheel.
What you get for your Money
An engine, a chassis, four wheels and an instruction book how to put it all together. Still available in self-build form, the factory also sends them out to customers fully built. We'd take the latter option, as although we don't doubt there's plenty of fun to be had from building your own we'd rather just get on with driving it. Prices start at £16,995 for the Roadsport range, though unsurprisingly there are a number of options (including that SV wider chassis) that you can pick and choose from. Even in 125bhp guise it's able to sprint to 62mph in 5.9 seconds (the 150 managing the same sprint in five seconds dead), the sensation of speed massively heightened due to your proximity to the road and the lightning responses and raucous noise it makes. Just don't buy one with ideas of using it as an everyday driver, as unless you're a little bit unhinged it's strictly a weekend and evenings' plaything.
There really is very little else out there like driving a Caterham. Whether in 125bhp or 150bhp guise the Roadsport will fire you forwards with the sort of alacrity that even supercars struggle to achieve. Much of that is down to your location, as your bum is inches from the tarmac, your head poking out above the windscreen and your legs straight out in front of you. A Caterham is all about feel; you feel the heat from the engine and transmission; you feel the road's surface through your backside and the road surface and grip levels available under the bobbing wheels in front of you is telegraphed directly to your hands via the tiny steering wheel. It's a visceral, sensual, instinctive way of driving that encompasses all your senses.
The acceleration is vivid, the steering response absolutely electric, turn in happening as quickly as you input your demands to the steering wheel. The stubby short-shifting five-speeder snicks through its ratios with a quick wrist flick, the blaring exhaust adding to the sensual overload. And this is just one of the entry-level cars. If you're tired of driving, or find modern performance cars too detached or too anodyne then a drive in a Caterham is exactly what you need; it's driving hardwired to your input.
There are loads of options for personalising your Caterham to your exacting requirements. You name it and it's likely there's a solution. So if you want a full roll cage, cut out switch, removable steering wheel, aeroscreens and the like then it's all offered on the options list. What you'll not get is a car that's particularly spacious, or comfortable - especially if the weather is less than perfect. But Caterham buyers are aware of this, and the shortcomings of Caterham ownership are completely outweighed by the thrill of getting behind the wheel. Few cars are as much fun, or as fast for the money.
If motoring has gotten boring, or you want a weekend plaything for track and away days then a Caterham is just the thing. Forget the stupidly fast models though, as the Roadsport provides just as many thrills without the scary edge. Caterhams represent motoring in its purest form, and as everything else on the road becomes more remote they are ever more appealing. Buy one before the summer is over.
2008 Caterham 7 Roadsport specifications:
Price: From £16,695.
0-60mph: 5.0 seconds
Top speed: 122mph
Kerb weight: 550kg
Full technical specifications