Westfield Sport 250: Driven


You have to hand it to Westfield. Of all the companies that sprouted like mushrooms in Caterham's shade, the Midlands-based firm is easily the second most well-known builder of Seven-style kit cars - and yet it only sells around 150 examples a year. More recently (and very cannily) the manufacturer has made a profitable niche for itself in the autonomous, battery-powered pod market; a niche which has the potential to swell considerably.

Like a Seven to look at, just sort of not a Seven
Like a Seven to look at, just sort of not a Seven
The maker of the Megabusa, the SEiGHT and the XTR2 has already shifted £30m worth of goofy-looking self-drive shuttles to the South Korean government - which is less surprising when you learn that they go for £150K a pop. At that price, Westfield would be forgiven for knocking the whole car building thing on the head, and concentrating fully on the growth industry which is clearly paying most of the bills.

But of course it's not. Far from it. In fact the company is reinvesting in its sports car brand, and next year is intending on introducing an all-new mid-engined model that will be have a spaceframe chassis, and be available as both a coupe and a roadster. It will apparently be powered by a 255hp 2.0-litre Ford Ecoboost engine - a powerplant that it will share with the subject of today's Driven: the Sport 250.

The turbocharged four-cylinder is a minor departure for Westfield, which has typically favoured Vauxhall or even secondhand Honda units for its more spirited offerings. The Blue Oval's reputation could hardly be more upstanding though: it was the same breed of burly Focus ST motor that eased the Zenos E10 from being merely likeable to genuinely desirable not so long ago (before its maker hit choppy waters).

Around the new engine, the Sport 250 remains a chip off the old Lotus Seven block; which is to say Caterham-shaped, but for the familiar Westfield peculiarities. These include the oddly formed and instantly recognizable rear end, and - in the 250's case - a bonnet bulge that you'll occasionally find yourself peering over to the see where the nearside front wheel is. That's not ideal, given the car's innate track day friendliness - nor is the forever spinning gear knob or metal-on-metal rattle of the harness mountings or the half-hood's porous attitude to water.

Digital dash incongruous, but at least it works!
Digital dash incongruous, but at least it works!
Arguably such imperfections are all part and parcel of the 250's rudimentary sense of fun, and won't be unexpected by Westfield's regular fans - a sentiment which makes the installation of a new digital dash seem a touch out of sync with the remainder of its surroundings, but commendable nonetheless given the terrifically fragile state of the analogue dials which usually adorn Seven replicas.

The engine connected to the TFT screen is a manifestly modern item, too. It doesn't blare at you or idle discontentedly, and while its mating to a five-speed MX-5 manual gearbox (and associated differential) might sound a tiny bit Frankenstein, Westfield has endeavoured to make the throttle response a smooth affair; thereby lowering the chances of you stuttering unhappily down the high street.

Its other great attraction is hardly any less conspicuous. There's simply no mistaking the whistle of the blower buried in the nose nor the lift-off effect it generates from 2,500rpm. No surprises there: the Ecoboost's 270lb ft peak twist is enlivening enough in a family hatchback - in a car weighing not a great deal more than half as much, it's just on the right side of savage.

The accessibility and expansiveness of this straight-line glut are generally obliged by Westfield's steering and suspension tune. The former is noticeably slower than Caterham's wrist-flick rack and pinion set-up (making it less sensitive to erroneous input), while the latter - even on 'track day' dampers - has the kind of accommodating primary ride that almost places the 250 in an open-top tourer category.

Fast in a Focus, wild in a Westfield
Fast in a Focus, wild in a Westfield
Consequently, there's much benign amusement to be had from pointing square onto the horizon and zapping forward like a life-size Scalextric model - something the car will do even at motorway speeds what with its truncated final ratio. However, start rummaging around for the same sort of entertainment in corners, and the shortcomings of its placid chassis do crop up rather quickly.

For a while at least, it's fine. The eight-inch wide rear wheels, clad in Toyo R888R rubber, are more than up to a middling level of driver effort, and the engine is so biddable that you tend to make brisk progress by default. It doesn't take long though for that even-tempered steering to start feeling a mite inadequate; especially in those moments when you want it Gurkha-knife sharp for business of scalping apexes.

Instead it gathers weight rather ponderously, and because its rate of response is slow and the cabin small, the amount of lock you're forced to apply starts to seem more than a little cumbersome. This inevitably gets worse when the situation calls for some corrective work in the opposite direction - making it awkward to remedy the kind of slip angle that a Caterham driver would blithely mop up in less than a quarter turn.

This is made more unfortunate by the rear axle's reluctance to break away progressively. The tsunami of available torque available was always liable to make the 250 rather spiky; throw in a lenient suspension now tending toward stodgy together with the Proxes' insistent brand of adhesiveness, and - in damp, autumnal conditions - it's easy to find yourself snatching at the steering wheel in what seems like a full upper body workout.

Performance is there, handling not quite
Performance is there, handling not quite
Still, as is often the case with these things, you do tend to find yourself looking on the bright side; not least because the straight-line performance isn't far shy of a Caterham 620S - and Westfield will put it together for you for around £15,000 less (£20K if you want to do the putting together bit yourself). Of course that doesn't account for a small pile of cost options, but that's another characteristic shared with its closest rival. The fact that the Sport 250 isn't nearly as complete or as much fun as the Seven is the real dampener - but the niche is probably big enough to accommodate its languid idea of how to be indulgently fast. And if not, Westfield has plenty of other irons in the fire.


WESTFIELD SPORT 250
Engine
: 1,998cc, 4-cyl turbocharged
Transmission: 5-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 256@5,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 270@2,500rpm
0-62mph: Not many Mississippis
Top speed: Enough
Weight: Low
MPG: Suprisingly high, probably
CO2: N/A
Price: £25,999 (£35,225.31as tested comprising £895 for limited slip differential, £225 for wide track wishbones, £275 for front anti-roll bar, £250 for rear-anti roll bar, £240 for track day shock absorbers, £255.31 for 205-width R888R tyres, £50 for eight-inch rear wheels, £750 for race front and rear caliper, £495 for digital dask upgrade, £380 for carbon fibre front cycle wings, £400 for FW rear body, £185 for MSA half cage, £350 for Sport Turbo seats, £3,746 for assembly, £450 for IVA test and £280 for registration and road fund license)

 

 

 

 

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Comments (44) Join the discussion on the forum

  • treeroy 09 Nov 2017

    there is a lot of caterham snobbery but I would love to have a kit car regardless of whether it's the finest around or not so.
    Hoping to buy a westfield in 2 years when my fiesta ST lease runs out.!!

  • Andy665 09 Nov 2017

    Very expensive for what you get - my SEiGHT was comfortably less than half of that price - a much higher spec, more powerful and at 9k on the clock when I bought pretty much as new condition

  • steveb8189 09 Nov 2017

    Immediately drawn to the price of the optional equipment - which actually look quite reasonable.

    Imagine if BMW allowed you to upgrade to the next size of wheels for £50 or even an LSD for £895. £185 for a half cage sounds pretty good too.

    I'd be very tempted if I was either 10 years younger or 20 years older and had the cash

  • ChezzaV8 09 Nov 2017

    It wouldn't take much to sort out those handling issues and that's just part of building a kit car. Add a quicker rack and buy some adjustable dampers with stiffer springs. Then spend a bit of time checking the tow, camber and caster and you'll soon have it handling how you want.

  • CTE 09 Nov 2017

    Would think you could make adjustments to the front suspension and steering rack etc to get more responsiveness and better feel.

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