by Deiondre van der Merwe
Possibly the most basic sports cars on the road, the Caterham Sevens are made up of five core models, with the Seven 360 located bang in the middle. With Ford's naturally-aspirated 2.0-liter Duratec engine driving power to the wheels, the nippy little car manages the run from 0-60 mph in just 4.8 seconds. This may not seem particularly fast until you realize that you're putting all of your trust into a roofless speedster that's smaller than a Black Rhinoceros. The 180-horsepower Seven is the epitome of a fun drive in a way a Mazda MX-5 Miata simply can't match. The gutsy 360 offers not even a hint of technology that modern performance enthusiasts enjoy; you won't even be able to tune into your local radio station. The Seven 360 forces its pilot to connect with it and the road, and values its dedication to the driving experience above all else.
Having been around since 1957, the Caterham Seven has slowly evolved over the last few decades. From the engine to the chassis, most of the car has been re-engineered so vastly that it only gives an aesthetic nod to the Lotus Seven.
2.0-liter Inline-4 Gas
Based on a Lotus design that dates back further than 60 years, the Caterham Seven 360 of today doesn't look significantly different. A long hood with a prominent grille and round headlights are a throwback to styling cues of yore, while a roll bar is all that separates the occupants from the outside world. A boxy rear-end is home to a small trunk. You have the option of ordering a fully-built Seven or a kit. Yes, you can order your Seven 360 and it'll arrive in boxes, waiting to be assembled. Caterham: the Ikea of tiny sports cars.
The measurement in which the Seven 360 shines doesn't lie with its poky size as much as its ridiculously light curb weight of 1,235 pounds. The rest of the numbers are pretty impressive, too. The Seven 360 can be had in two chassis sizes. With the standard chassis, the Seven measures 122 inches from its nose to its rump, and has an 87.6-inch wheelbase. It has a width of 57.87 inches and stands at just 42.9 inches tall. With the large chassis option, length is increased to 131.8 inches, and width follows the trend at 66.3 inches. It's also slightly higher and stands at 43.8 inches tall.
While most naturally aspirated 2.0-liter motors aren't typically responsible for producing fear-inducing power, the 180 horses that the Duratec produces have a much easier task of getting the Seven going thanks to its compact size and absurdly light weight. It comes hooked up to a snappy five-speed manual transmission and the combination gets the Seven from 0-60 in just 4.8 seconds. Caterham also makes it clear that Sevens have great engine upgrade potential.
This is the area where the Caterham starts winning the skeptics over. Being lighter than most sports cars, the Seven offers a connection between man and car that bigger players simply cannot manage. Yes, it's noisy, cramped and comes with little other than support for your hindquarters and an engine to get it going, but that's the magic of it - it's not meant to be a cushy and well-mannered car. The steering was left untouched by electric assistance, meaning that the road feeling you get through it is exceptional. But make no mistake, you'll feel everything, and even a grain of rice will make itself known. It's excellent suspension setup and precise steering make it a determined track hero in the corners, and it's one of the last cars you can get your hands on that demands full control to be kept in line, or out.
While there are no official figures available, we'll assume that the Seven will be particularly forgiving when it comes to the fuel budget, until you take it out onto the track. Those figures are impressive, and the 360 is home to a 9.5-gallon fuel tank that will allow for a total range of around 243 miles.
The Seven 360's seating makes it obvious that UberEats wasn't a thing back in the 50s, and you're in for a bad time if you're over six feet tall. You also won't have it easy if you're still carrying some holiday weight. When you've tackled the task of getting in, you'll be rewarded with a reasonably supportive and secure driver's seat. It's also narrow enough that you'll be touching your passenger's shoulder quite often, so make sure they know it's that kind of party.
As for trunk space, there basically isn't any. You could probably get away with two tiny duffel bags in the rear, but even then, you won't want to leave the car unattended because thieves can simply pop a button or two and run off into the sunset with your shopping.
For Caterham, notable standard features aren't related to any type of convenience, but rather its readiness for the track. The Seven comes with a de Dion rear suspension and a set of 14-inch wheels hugged by semi-slick tires. A limited slip differential is available under the optional R Pack, along with a lightweight flywheel, sport suspension and racing harnesses. The only comfort features you're getting here would be the roof and the windshield, and if you have $575 lying around, you can spring for the heater.
Infotainment does not live here. The Seven is absent of any type of screen or modern tech goodies you can think of, and that's the way we like it.
The NHTSA doesn't typically have any information pertaining to the reliability of the Caterham, but given that certain ones will have been put together by novice mechanics, one of them is bound to have some form of issue by now, although there's nothing noted by any specific authority.
Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS rate Caterham products, and if they did, they'd have absolutely nothing to evaluate. The skeletal Seven's safety levels can be described in a simple sentence: You're on your own.
How you approach cars will greatly impact whether you think the Caterham is an endearing and exciting nod to sports cars of yore, or whether it's just a skeleton absent of all the comfort and convenience you're looking for. With us, it's the former. We mentioned that it certainly doesn't do the driver any favors in terms of its constant noise, and it's also not the most comfortable car if you're tall enough to ride the teacups at the state fair. The thing is, the Seven sneaks up on you with its expert track abilities and cheeky personality and suddenly it's easy to forget that you're guiding a corned-beef tin via a Momo steering wheel. It's the holy grail for purists, as not a single aspect has been fiddled with in the name of technological and digital advancement.
A starting price of $43,500 means that only those who are utterly determined to own a Caterham Seven will have a look at the debt-inducing price tag and call it a good idea.
We'd opt for the Caterham 360 with the S Pack. The add-on package welcomes a fully carpeted interior, a full windscreen and hood, and unique instrumentation. It also adds a heater and stainless steel wing protectors. We're going to be honest, we'd do it for the heater.
The Seven 360 can be as charming as it wants, but it becomes increasingly difficult to ignore its hefty price when you know you can get a Mazda MX-5 Miata for nearly $17,000 less - and, get this, it comes with speakers and a rearview camera! It also offers actual space for luggage, and while it may not get to 60 mph as quickly, you're less likely to meet a mangled end if you happen to be involved in a bumper bashing. The Miata has some things in common with the Seven 360, namely its diminutive stature and a cabin that isn't particularly spacious for hulking occupants, but it also offers an unforgettable driving experience with a peppy engine and a superbly fun-to-drive nature. The Miata is much easier to live with overall than the Seven 360, and we'd choose it above the Caterham any day of the week.
These two have plenty in common, both the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider and the Caterham Seven appeal to car enthusiasts with an appreciation for purity and the tendency to make poor financial decisions. Both allow for a wind-in-the-hair drive on a Sunday afternoon, and if you forget to tick a box on the Seven, the flies-in-the-teeth experience is a bonus. More powerful but heavier, the 4C doesn't deliver the same fear-inducing driving experience of going 130 miles per hour in a metal bomber jacket, and it costs a whole lot more. Stick to the life-threatening Caterham for loads more fun.
Check out some informative Caterham Seven 360 video reviews below.