Out-and-out, no-frills small sports cars with stunning acceleration, handling but limited comforts all at a low price -that’s Caterham. The latest model is the Caterham Seven Roadsport 150, which is a budget model. Still you get a lot of performance for your money. The CSR is the most expensive Caterham, which has even more thrilling performance.
It is 50 years since Caterham Cars bought the licence to manufacture and market the Lotus Seven from Colin Chapman at Lotus Cars. To celebrate, Caterham has introduced the Caterham Roadsport 150, powered by a Ford engine, like the original Lotus Seven, but with about three times as much power!
The Caterham Roadsport 150 is powered by Ford’s all-aluminum four-cylinder 1.6 liter engine, tuned to develop 150 bhp. Doesn’t sound much does it? But the Caterham Roadsport 150 weighs only 1,210 lb (550 kg), which is half the weight of the Mazda Miata/MX-5.
The result is stunning acceleration with a power-to-weight ratio of 270 bhp per tonne, enough to get the car to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds. That is very quick, up in the supercar class, and a full three seconds faster than the 2.0-liter Miata/MX-5.
Like the original Lotus Seven, the car has a multi-tubular steel frame, now mostly laser cut and robot welded. It has been refined over the years to improve stiffness and safety. In fact, Caterham Sevens have been crash tested and meet international regulations on crash performance. The latest frames are also 12% stiffer than a few years ago.
Early Caterham Sevens had wishbone front suspension at the front, and beam rear axles. The front suspension, in which the arms of the anti-roll bar are part of the top link is retained on most models. Quite some time ago, though, the company switched to a de Dion axle, located laterally by a Watts linkage a long time ago. The advantage of the de Dion axle is that the suspension geometry is similar to that of a beam axle, so the legendary handling balance of the cars remained similar.
The Caterham Seven is one of the lowest cars you can buy – it is only 44.9 inches high with roof up – so it has a very low center of gravity which ensures very high cornering power despite the fairly narrow 185/60R14 tires which sit on 6-inch rims – the car does not need any more rubber on the road the handling is so good.
Many companies have copied the design of the Caterham Seven – not just in the UK, but in several other countries – but Caterham’s wide grille, cycle-type mudguards and simple form is the classic, still retaining the proportions of the original. You now get a folding fabric top and sidescreens.
In wet weather the sidescreens are vital, believe me. Without them, the water from the front wheels hits the rear fenders and splashes into the cockpit.
But the heart of this new Caterham Seven is Ford’s 1.6 liter Sigma engine. It is modified by Caterham to give 150 bhp at 6,900 rpm, with maximum torque of 120 lb ft (162 Nm) at 5.600 rpm. The air intake system is revised, and the engine management system remapped giving plenty of power from about 4,000 to 7,000 rpm, with the ability to run smoothly at low speeds. The engine is coupled to a five-speed gearbox as standard, but Caterham’s six-speed box is available as an option.
This is fantastic value, since you can buy the car in kit form and assemble it yourself for £17,495 (about $34,000), and yet you get this tremendous performance.
For those seeking a trackday version, there is the Superlight model, which weighs just 1,100 lb (500 kg) and produces eye-popping acceleration, thanks to its power-to-weight ratio of 300 bhp per tonne.
Caterham Cars has a whole range of Sevens, and the range-topper is the CSR, a completely new model introduced not long ago. It features a new frame with new double wishbone front and rear suspension, and is powered by a Cosworth-Ford 2.3 liter engine producing 200 or 260 bhp. This engine has an aluminum block and head, and so is not very heavy.
Owing to the new design, the car is not much heavier than the Roadsport 150 at about 1,270 lb (575 kg).
The CSR looks a little different, too, thanks to a small chin spoiler at the front, an air outlet from the radiator in the hood, and reshaped carbon fiber front fenders. The sharp corner at the rear evidently reduces drag markedly.
Because the suspension is completely different, with inboard lever-operated springs at the front, and a five-link system at the rear, a much stiffer frame was needed. The frame of the CSR, which is wider than the traditional Sevens, is much stiffer, as a result of computer aided design. At the rear, the double wishbones have an extra transverse link each side to maintain precise toe-control. With the de Dion axle, the rear wheels remain parallel to one another at all times, of course.
With the ultra-stiff frame and precise suspension and steering, the CSR behaves a little differently from other Caterhams and has very good traction, despite the extra power.
0-60 mph in 3.7 or 3.1 seconds
Even with the 200 bhp engine, the CSR races to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds, and with the more powerful engine and the less weight of the Superlight, 0-60 mph takes only 3.1 seconds. The power-to-weight ratio, like the acceleration is matched only by supercars costing ten times as much!
In fact, in a series of tests conducted by a British magazine, a Caterham has consistently proved the fastest production car in the world from zero to 60 mph to zero again. So if you want stunning performance that you can actually use on the road,the Caterham Seven CSR is the answer. Thanks to the low-emission specification, the 200 bhp model is available in Europe and many countries elsewhere.
How much? From £31,000 (about $60,000).
|Price:||£17,495 (about $34,000) [CSR: from £31,000 (about $60,000)]|
|Layout:||Two-seater open-wheeled convertible|
|Main dimensions (L x Wx H):||130 x 66.3 x 44.9 in (3,300 x 1,685 x 1,140 mm)|
|Wheelbase and track:||Front engine/RWD|
|Kerb (curb) Weight:||1,210 lb (550 kg) [CSR: 1,270 lb (575 kg)]|
|Engine and transmission|
|Type:||Four-cylinder aluminum construction, four valves per cylinder|
|Displacement:||1,595 cc [CSR: 2,261 cc]|
|Power output:||150 bhp @ 6,900 rpm [CSR: 200 bhp @ 7,000 rpm or ,260 bhp @ 7,500 rpm]|
|Torque:||120 lb ft (162 Nm) @ 5.600 rpm [CSR: 165 lb ft (224 Nm) @ 5,750 or 200 lb ft (270 Nm)@ 6,200 rpm]|
|Transmission:||Five-speed manual, six-speed option|
|0-60 mph:||4.9 seconds [3.7 or 3.1 seconds]|
|Top Speed:||130 mph [140mph, 155 mph]|