This is not because the 160’s handling is pin-sharp. Because, well, it isn’t. Rather than the de Dion suspension of the more powerful Caterhams, the 160 gets a simple Suzuki van axle (Suzuki Van Axle: brilliant name for an Eighties action hero, no?) at the rear. With no differential to help its cause, this means the skinny-tyred Seven loses grip at the rear a) very early and b) somewhat haphazardly. But, really, that’s OK, because – with your posterior parked right between those slipping rear wheels – you feel you’re operating right at the ragged edge of handling, whereas in reality you’re barely nudging double figures around a gentle corner. The world needs more of this. Modern performance metal, with its torque vectoring
and adaptive suspension and stability control, is astonishingly good at convincing you that everything’s fine, right up until the moment
physics butts in to bluntly inform you that you’re doing 90mph into a hairpin and you don’t have the talent to get out the other side. The Caterham is the opposite, always keen to remind that catastrophe is but a moment away. Might not sound like a compliment, but truly it is.
Even so, after a day cheerily belting the Seven round Britain’s twistiest countryside, a thought troubles me: if a Chinese manufacturer without
a grand sports-car history proudly unveiled the Caterham 160, proclaiming it the future of lightweight excellence, would it be roundly mocked? I fear so. Because, on very many levels, the Seven is either woefully outdated or simply woeful. Look at those rear lights, which muster all the cutting-edge sophistication of a toddler’s Duplo efforts. Or the leathery, popper-lined roof, the fitment of which requires several hours, half a dozen bloody fingers and, inevitably, a full Basil Fawlty-style branch assault. Those of us blessed with conventional human feet rather than pointy goat hooves will struggle to depress the clutch without mashing the brake (and, sometimes, the accelerator for good measure) with our left boot.