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 reports from Ben Nicholls, Jan Hatton and Ben Hanford are in the links below; here is the fourth, from Stephen Charlesworth.

I'd like to start this story by explaining that I picked up the Caterham on a glorious summer's afternoon, popped my sunglasses on and headed straight for my favourite B-road, wind in hair. But that would be lying.

The view we're all familiar with...
The view we're all familiar with...
Unfortunately, I picked up the Caterham on a miserable summer's afternoon and drove 20 miles through a hailstorm, with Google Maps seeking out every speed bump on every backstreet as it navigated me around the daily multi-car pile-up on the A406. In heavy traffic, roof-up, in a downpour, a 7 is not a nice place to be. It's hot. The side and rear windows mist up. My head is roughly level with an artic's wheelnuts. On the plus side, I'm pleasantly surprised to find that the wipers, despite appearing to have been fashioned from paperclips and your local window cleaner's old squeegees, do actually work. The driving position is spot-on, too. Yet, as I pull up outside my flat and awkwardly fold myself arse-first out of the 'door', I think I might genuinely hate this car. I ponder what that means for my PH credentials as I check tomorrow's weather forecast, hoping for sunshine. 'Mostly cloudy', promises the BBC website. I cross my fingers and set an early alarm.

When morning comes, it's clear that I've not lost all enthusiasm for the 7, as my girlfriend notes that I haven't leapt out of bed this quickly since she told me she wanted to try for a baby. Which brings me onto an important detail; she's eight months pregnant, and the three of us are about to go out for a drive in the smallest car on the road. Not a proper hoon (too risky), but a six-tenths, getting-to-know-you kind of trip. Now that the roof is down, the weather is dry and the roads are twisty, I start to enjoy the car. The steering is so direct; it really is like a go-kart. Cornering grip and traction are both immense on the sticky Avons. I start to explain to my passenger how easy it is to heel-and-toe, just as she starts to explain to me how uncomfortable she is. The suspension feels too firm for your average B-road. I'm sure it's great on the smooth surface of a track, but I'd probably leave the 'track suspension pack' box unticked on my order form. Still, it's a lot of fun to drive even at these low levels of commitment, so I head back to base to make a drop-off, then head back out on my own.

... and the view we're probably not!
... and the view we're probably not!
IT'S A BLAST! Even at legal speeds, on a decent road, it's such a thrilling car to drive. OK, the suspension is too firm and I am suspicious that the car suffers some bump-steer, but this is what going for a drive should feel like. Memories of yesterday's hateful drive home fade as I spend several hours on the back roads of Hertfordshire, just having a play. I was warned that the car is tiring to drive, but I disagree. The exhaust isn't loud, although neither is it particularly tuneful, but your earplugs can stay at home. Changes in direction are rapid, like nothing I've driven before. The 310 is plenty fast enough for the public road, while the brakes are full of feel and scrub off speed without drama. I 'get' the 7. My PH credentials are secure and I can stop worrying about being told in the comments that maybe I should just p*ss off and buy an Audi TT. But you can read endless Caterham road tests written by much better drivers than I, so I shan't waste any more of my word count on the driving experience, which is flawed, but intense and fun.

I had previously thought that the Caterham image was too 'bearded car geek in a shed' for young 'uns to think the car cool. I was proven wrong over the weekend. Upon returning to the car after stopping off for a coffee, I found it surrounded by teenagers on BMX bikes. I checked my pockets, picturing thieving hands reaching through the gap twixt door and roof to grasp at a forgotten mobile. Such fears were unfounded; "Is it road legal?" asked one young, enquiring mind. I confirmed that it was and pointed to the number plates. "That's got to be the fastest road legal car in the world!" he asserted. They moved away and waited a little further up the road, presumably wanting to see the car in motion, but lost interest and disappeared after watching me spend several minutes taking the roof off, failing to fold it neatly and stuffing it in the 'boot'. They didn't even hang around to see me get grease on my jeans from the steering column, bang my kneecap on the stupidly-placed ignition barrel AGAIN, or smash my knuckles into the dash when putting the car into gear. However, by the time I had retrieved the four-point harness from underneath my backside and was ready to pull away, a little girl had wandered over with her mum.  "Is that a car for children?" she asked. Well, sort of. 36-year-old children, to be precise.

 Caterham Seven 310R
Run by: Whoever makes Matt coffee. Oh yes, and the comp winners...
On fleet since: April 2017
Mileage: 4,924
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: Is this the first time three people have been in a Caterham?

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!
PistonHeads - Practicality Matters

Find out more about Caterham here.

[Lead images: Michael Topham]

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (16) Join the discussion on the forum

  • skylarking808 16 Nov 2017

    There are also 40+ children who wouldn't mind one of them too.
    Without the track set up suspension of course.

  • giveitfish 16 Nov 2017

    Very well written!

  • HardMiles 16 Nov 2017

    A very light hearted entertaining read! well done old chap! Having recently driven a "kit car" of similar ilk recently for the first time, one can attest to the sheer fun and also to the ridiculously simple foibles. Such as heat knobs hitting things they shouldn't, knees being smashed into things, belts that only seem to fit gerbils. But it most certainly is fun! :-)

  • g7jhp 16 Nov 2017

    Keep contemplating buying another 7 whilst we can still drive exciting road legal cars!

  • Ayahuasca 16 Nov 2017

    Posts a pic of the missus without being asked? What a world we live in.

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