Caterham Seven 310R: PH Fleet

By now you will hopefully be familiar with the premise of having a Caterham Seven on the PH Fleet; not only does it give us chance to try the 310R, Caterham's self-proclaimed successor to the R300, it also means PHers can get involved too. Seven readers, seven months and seven stories with a Caterham Seven is the plan...

The previous two reports from Ben Nicholls and Jan Hatton are in the links below; here is the third, from Ben Hanford.

You're never more than one bad decision away from a prison sentence. This is technically true at all times but, driving a Caterham 310R on public roads, you are made acutely aware of it in a way I've never experienced in any other car. This may seem melodramatic, particularly for a car with a modest 154hp and a top speed of maybe 125mph - but this was my foremost thought as the rev counter zipped past 7,000rpm and I was propelled up to the posted national limit in the blink of an eye. And I hadn't even taken third gear yet.

Go on, guess what it is...
Go on, guess what it is...
One of my main objectives with the Caterham was to get a taste of the formula that started Lotus on the path to becoming the brand I love today - questionable wedge era notwithstanding. Would the Seven hit the same heights as the S1 Elise 111S I fell in love with several years ago? Would it be as usable as the 2004 S2 I drive almost daily? In truth the experience was more different than I'd expected.

Entering the Caterham, with its four point harness and popper-shut doors, makes the scissor-kick-flop Elise entry that's become second nature to me seem laughably straightforward. The driving involvement too is drastically more theatrical; always the Caterham is talking to you, muttering in mild displeasure while kept at idle and shrieking with delight as you wring out the upper reaches. Even my cammed and ported K Series seems subdued in comparison. The exposed wheel arches play a part in this too; that vision of the exact positioning of the tyres giving you insight into your slip angle, even if you've never learned what that is. It's intuitive, immediate and curiously instructive. The black art of lightweight mid-engined handling (recently examined superbly by Mark Hales) is nowhere near as accessible, and my advice to anyone would be to start exploring the limit in a front rear car, ideally a Caterham, before you start dancing with the devil of oversteer in a mid- or rear-engined machine. Even my better half, a level-headed woman indeed, after five minutes at the wheel of the Caterham with the doors stowed, was proclaiming that "all learners should be made to start in a car with no doors, no roof and no electrics."

Yeah, all new cars are the same now
Yeah, all new cars are the same now
There are some practical aspects to the Caterham that took me by surprise too - both good and bad - some of which might not have received much coverage. First and foremost, the doors. They are surprisingly effective given how flimsy they look (and feel), but they are a doddle to put on and take off; they can be stored in the boot with the roof, too. Speaking of which, there's a roll bag in which you can store the top, but it would require the skills of a seasoned camper and stuff bag veteran to do so. The bag Velcros to the roll bars and will store the roof above the boot, meaning you still have some luggage capacity even if you've stowed away the doors. I was pretty stunned by that. The roll bag also means you can stow the damp roof after a light summer shower without making everything in the boot damp too - handy in the UK!

Thirdly, the secret 'keep above 50mph and you won't get wet' rule of open tops only works up to a point. Once the rain gets heavy enough you'll get wet all the same.

It'll warm up soon, don't worry...
It'll warm up soon, don't worry...
Fourthly, it's pretty toasty if you're driving at all enthusiastically. Between the exhaust to your immediate right, the transmission tunnel to your left and the engine up front you're pretty well boxed in with warmth, and I suspect spring and autumn are more viable top down motoring propositions in a Caterham than they might be in the Porsche or Mercedes equivalents, 'air scarf' or no.

The elephant in the room is not, of course, practicality, luggage space, weatherproofing or lack of cup holders. It's the price. "£39K for a weekend toy?!" we bluster, "I could get a newish *insert German brand here* for that." But here's the thing, that you may well know already - the depreciation on these cars is almost nothing. Seriously, having watched the market since build day gave me the bug, I've been gutted to find that you cannot get hold of a Caterham in any sort of nick for less than £15k - and that's for an ex-Academy car or a 20-year-old model. Age makes little difference, nor does mileage (though that's hard to quantify as so few of them seem to ever accrue significant figures). So viewed from a total cost of ownership these actually make a great deal of sense. You buy it, run it for two or three years of occasional (wonderful) use, in which time you maybe change a set of tyres and pay for a minor service, and then you sell it for close to what you paid... Try doing that with a Boxster

 Caterham Seven 310R
Run by: Whoever makes Matt coffee. Oh yes, and the comp winners...
On fleet since: April 2017
Mileage: 4,548
List price new: £23,495 (As tested £38,930 comprising £2,500 for factory build, £4,495 for R pack, £200 for track suspension pack, £675 for ventilated front brakes with quad piston calipers, £200 for 13-inch Apollo black alloys on Avon ZZS tyres, £1,250 for full weather equipment and side screens, £95 for side screen arm rests, £80 for hood bag, £95 for boot cover in carbon vinyl, £115 for fully carpeted interior, £400 for carbon leather seats, £150 for Momo quick release steering wheel, £300 for heater, £300 for Sequential shift lights, £495 for lowered floors, £900 for high intensity lights with LED daytime running lights, £1,000 for Miami Blue custom colour, £395 for full decal pack, £995 for full paint protection and £895 for on the road package) 
Last month at a glance: PH with a Seven - Practicality Matters

Previous updates
We need help building 'our' 310R

It's built, now to get it on the road
A splendid start for summer in a Seven
One PHer down, six more to follow...
August sunshine in a Seven? Not quite!

Find out more about Caterham here.



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Comments (5) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Master Bean 28 Sep 2017

    ???? Do some proof reading pretty please.

  • Nik Attard 28 Sep 2017

    Master Bean said:
    ???? Do some proof reading pretty please.
    Sorry about that, the CMS is throwing a strop and the formatting issues are only visible once live.

    Should be sorted.


  • sege 28 Sep 2017

    Interesting notes on the hidden practicalities of a Seven.
    It feels like PH is keeping the PH'ers who are writing these articles to a pretty strict word limit? Feel free to indulge us more!
    I imagine it might get tough on the people who come later doing their write ups, to try and avoid repeating what has been said before? Don't worry about it: Reading most people's initial reaction to driving something like this never gets old.

  • coppice 29 Sep 2017

    The old canard that Caterhams don't depreciate is getting its usual airing I see. If you use them and do even a modest mileage you will take a hit when you sell. I may be in the minority of owners who do 5-6 k miles pa but do not think you will get most of your money back - you won't. You will still get very slow depreciation however but not as good as some say. There 's collective self delusion in the Caterham community on cars' values - when I sold my first in 2007 the received wisdom was I should get 12k- the reality was under 10k- and not 9995 either... Extraordinary really as there is so little to go wrong that will cost much to sort .

  • RenesisEvo 30 Sep 2017

    sege said:
    It feels like PH is keeping the PH'ers who are writing these articles to a pretty strict word limit? Feel free to indulge us more!
    I imagine it might get tough on the people who come later doing their write ups, to try and avoid repeating what has been said before? Don't worry about it: Reading most people's initial reaction to driving something like this never gets old.
    As someone currently trying to write their article, I can weigh in. My draft currently doubles PH's suggested word limit (no idea how rigid it is - I'd love more for certain!) - and I'm wary of repeating what's gone before. As we're all new to the Caterham experience it's hardly a surprise we'll have similar things to say, albeit coming at it from different perspectives. I will say there are some areas my experience does differ from the things said by Ben and others, but you'll have to wait to see what.

    Edited by RenesisEvo on Saturday 30th September 21:43

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