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Caterham resets Seven range for 2016

Two new Caterham models make eight Sevens for Australia.

If you like your automotive fun small, light and exceedingly rare, you’re in luck – because now you can buy it cheaper than ever.

The tiny English-made, Malaysian-owned brand Caterham makes not even a dent in the local sales landscape, but nonetheless the retro-styled roadsters are now available in a wider range of flavours to suit all palates.

Originally known as the Lotus Seven, the rights to the design of the distinctive cab-back two-seater sportster were sold to Caterham in the 1950s, with cars being sold in both kit form and pre-built guise.

A steel space frame is built up with an alloy skin and fibreglass nosecone in the company’s factory in Dartford, Kent in the UK, while suspension parts that are directly related to an open-wheel race car adorn each end. Engines range from a 100kW Ford 1.6-litre engine from a Fiesta, right through to a storming 177kW 2.0-litre Duratec unit poached from the Focus.

A Caterham lapped the 27km Nurburgring faster than both a BMW M2 and an Alfa Romeo 4C.

And if the power output doesn’t tingle the tailbone, the fact that a Caterham on average weighs around 700kg – or half the weight of a Volkswagen Golf GTI  – should change your mind.

The base 275 even manages to return 6.2 litres per 100km on fuel, exempting it from luxury car tax.

There is barely a skerrick of electronic intervention to be found, other than compulsory electronic stability control, and cupholders, gloveboxes and vanity mirrors are nowhere to be found.

If you think the 1950s frogs eyes-and-fenders look precludes them from the temple of cool motoring, consider that a Caterham lapped the 27km Nurburgring faster than both a BMW M2 and an Alfa Romeo 4C.

Kicking off at $69,850 for the largely unpainted, very basic 100kW Seven 275, the new Seven 355 ups the ante with a 127kW 2.0-litre engine for $86,900 (plus on-road costs).

Caterham’s 127kW CSR is touted as the marque’s most comfortable rig, with an adjustable pedal box to suit drivers from 160cm all the way through to 185cm. Independent rear suspension also replaces the DeDion rear axle, along with inboard front suspension.

The Seven 485 S, meanwhile, is the gateway to 177kW of lightweight oomph in a more track-focused package, which includes a dry-sumped 2.0-litre engine, adjustable suspension and anti-roll bars, limited slip diff, carbon fibre front guards and upgraded brakes for $114, 400 plus on-road costs.

At the top of the tree is the 485 R, which scores high-spec dampers, carbon-look leather trim and more, at $127,000.

There’s no doubt that the Caterham is a throwback to a previous era of motoring when it comes to comfort and convenience, but the driving experience dates back to a time where light weight meant true performance – and there are few machines on the road today that can lay claim to having been designed by Lotus founder Colin Chapman himself.

Does the Caterham still have a place in the world of modern motoring? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Tim Robson
Contributing Journalist
Tim Robson has been involved in automotive journalism for almost two decades, after cutting his teeth on alternative forms of wheeled transport.  Studiously avoiding tertiary education while writing about mountain bikes in the 1990s, Tim started with Motor magazine in 2001, moving on to edit Auto Action and Motor before joining Top Gear Australia in 2010. Tim formed his own company, 032Media, in 2014, building up a freelance business that supplies leading news outlets like CarsGuide and GoAuto, as well as Evo Australia, Motor, 4x4 Australia and The Robb Report. He's also a skilled photographer, practicing videographer, presenter and editor. He’s also recently returned to his roots, currently editing Australia's oldest and most prestigious mountain bike magazine, Mountain Biking Australia. Tim lives in Wollongong, NSW, and is married with three double-digit age kids… two of who are learning to drive. One’s already learned to race, with 16-year-old Max helping Tim to build and run his only car – a track-registered Honda Civic EG. You can check out Tim’s bike collection, race car failings and more on his Insta feed or Facebook.
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