7 things we learned during a weekend with a Caterham

When Caterham chucks you the keys to a 310R for the weekend and tells you have some fun, a weekend pootling around the South East seems a bit of a waste. A plan was formed – a cross-country blat towards the Severn Estuary, where we’d meet a local with another Caterham, and cross into Wales for some tomfoolery.

This is what we learned…

The lights are… temperamental

Caterham hasn’t changed the Seven much over its 40-odd year history, but a recent development is the introduction of LED headlights – an £800 option, debuted on the 310. Our test car had them fitted, and we were looking forward to trying them out – Caterham Sevens aren’t known for their excellent lights, after all.

Friday teatime, getting into the car as the sun was setting and looking forward to the weekend, we flick the lights on, hit main beam (ah, that’s what that switch does…), and a fuse is blown leaving us without headlights. A friendly AA man changes the fuse, but it blows again as soon as we try flicking off mainbeam. Verdict? Don’t use the lights.

Harnesses are a pain in the rear

Because the Caterham Seven is proper track day, yo, it shuns conventional seat belts in favour of four-point harnesses. While these do a great job of holding you in when the G-forces increase, the rest of the time they’re just a frustration.

Want to jump out of the car and taking a phone pic to brag on social media? That’ll be at least five minutes getting in and out. Need to reach for the card machine at the Severn Bridge toll? Same again.

It is kinda practical

It is kinda practical

Luggage capacity isn’t even a figure Caterham provides on the spec sheet for the Seven – practicality isn’t what this track car’s about. But giving a friend a lift home from Wales we found that two people plus luggage for a weekend away could fit in the Caterham. Just.

Admittedly the passenger needed to wear a few extra layers, and the full boot meant we couldn’t remove the roof without leaving it behind, but we managed.

You have to visit a lot of petrol stations

You have to visit a lot of petrol stations

It’s not that the Caterham is thirsty – not that we ever bothered to work out its fuel consumption. But even after driving several miles on empty, the most we ever got into the tank was £20 worth of petrol. Apparently it has a 32-litre fuel tank, but driving a Caterham on a road trip is stressful enough without worrying about how much petrol you’ve really got left.

It makes every other car feel like a Routemaster bus

It makes every other car feel like a Routemaster bus

The steering wheel in the Caterham is tiny and the whole driving experience is different to any other car. After driving it for the weekend, we jumped into a Bentley Bentayga and found that the steering wheel felt huge. And then we tried a Vauxhall Astra, and found the same.

You sit very low down; anyone driving a MINI Countryman seems to dwarf you. But the trade-off for the slight feeling of vulnerability is an analogue driving experience that even much faster, more expensive supercars can’t provide.

Everyone loves it…

Everyone loves it

Whenever we drive an eye-catching supercar, we notice how reluctant many people are to give it attention. People glance before diverting their gaze, determined not to boost the ego of whoever’s behind the wheel. And that’s before we even come close to trying to get out of junctions.

The reaction to the little red Caterham is infinitely more positive. Kids love it – it looks like a proper racing car (it is a proper racing car) – and their dads have plenty of questions.

…Apart from one angry man

That is, apart from one angry man who lives on a lovely road in South Wales. We cheekily used the end of his driveway to turn around, and he was furious. Threatening to use his paintbrush to add some extra stripes to the Caterham (he was painting his house at the time), he described the Caterham as a ‘boy racer car’. I don’t think he likes the Caterham. Or us. Sorry, mate.

We’ll be writing a full review on the Caterham Seven 310R soon – keep an eye out on MotoringResearch.com.