Driven: Caterham Seven 270R & 420R Review

Driven: Caterham Seven 270R & 420R

Here is the first drive review of the Caterham Seven 270R and 420R after Motor Verso were given the opportunity to test out both the cars on a range of test roads at Millbrook Proving Ground.

What is the Caterham Seven 270R & 420R all about?

This was my very first Caterham experience, and I got to test out not one but two models, the 270R and 420R. The numbers stand for (roughly) the amount of bhp per ton, and each Caterham only weighs around 500kgs.  You are able to purchase the cars in S or R packs. You pay a premium for the R pack, which is the race ready configuration and so includes a few extras such as a limited-slip differential, lightweight flywheel, sport suspension pack, 15” Orcus alloy wheels with ZZS tyres, uprated brake master cylinder, and carbon-fibre dashboard, to name but a few.

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The Caterham Seven is designed to be super lightweight and focused around a fun driving experience.

The Caterham Seven 270R is powered by a 1.6-litre engine that creates 135bhp and 165Nm of torque. The power goes to the rear wheels using a 5-speed manual gearbox. This means the car will get from 0-60mph in 5.0 seconds and do a top speed of 120mph. The 420R differs slightly using a 2.0-litre engine that creates 210bhp and 203Nm of torque. This brings the 0-60mph time down to 3.8 seconds and tops out at 136mph.

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How does it drive?

Before we get on to the actual driving experience, we need to mention that in order to actually get into the car you need to disconnect the steering wheel and slide in like a racing driver. Once snug inside, the steering wheel comes back over your legs and then you can strap in with that 4-point harness. There was no chance of me slipping out of this car.

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Taking the 270R out first for a drive I was really excited, even at low speeds the car felt responsive and perfectly pure. I took the car out onto a high-speed bowl to get a feeling for the car’s straight line power. With a straight up ahead of me I opened it up, the car rushed forward with incredible acceleration and a beautiful engine note; all I could think was “this isn’t even the fastest version”. The 5 speed gearbox in the car works really well, it provides a nice short shift, which requires a little extra push to engage each gear, it felt like loads of fun shifting through the gearbox, as you can see from the video below.

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Swapping the cars over and getting into the 420R, I was a little cautious with how the additional power would effect the car, and quite rightly so. The Seven 420R felt very similar to the 270R at slow speeds, but the moment I released full throttle I was in a whole new world of acceleration, the Seven launched and went for the horizon as if it was weightless. The noise from the exhaust was a lot louder and deeper, and the car just ate up the track in front of it. The car will still accelerate hard way past 80mph.

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Unfortunately I didn’t get much of an opportunity to test out the handling of the car during this drive, but the engine performance is an absolute blast.

What is it like inside?

Inside, Caterham have kept things lightweight and simple. As we had the R pack, the car featured a carbon-fibre dashboard which housed all the essential controls, you can see the layout from the picture below. To give you an example of how lightweight some of the components are, take a close look at the picture below, look at the switch to the left of the red start button, this is a simple rocker switch that they give you in place of a typical indicator stalk.

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I am 6’4 and still managed to get into the correct driving position in this car, which is great considering the size of the car. I would however recommend a pair of small trainers for driving though as the peddles are pretty close together.

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The Experience

The Caterham 270R provides a fun and friendly driving experience that will give you the thrills you want as a car enthusiast. With the 420R adding a little more extreme thrill to your journey. The additional power makes the car a bit of a handful, it is as much performance as you will ever need, and although, in my opinion, it would take some time to master, it would be worth the effort.

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This Caterham experience only got me more interested and hooked on Caterham Sevens. These two models are for very different drivers, which brings me to the point that Caterham have an array of cars to meet different customer wants and needs, with the 160, 270, 360, 420 & 620. It is very much a Goldilocks situation, you just need to choose the one that feels right for you.

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Video Highlights


Caterham Seven 270R

  • Price: £ 23,990
  • Engine: 1.6-litre
  • Power: 135bhp
  • Torque: 165Nm
  • Transmission: 5-Speed Manual RWD
  • 0-62mph: 5.0 Seconds
  • Top speed: 120mph
  • Weight: 540kg

Caterham Seven 420R

  • Price: £ 30,990
  • Engine: 2.0-litre
  • Power: 210bhp
  • Torque: 203Nm
  • Transmission: 5-Speed Manual RWD
  • 0-62mph: 3.8 Seconds
  • Top speed: 136mph
  • Weight: 560kg

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Author: Paul Hadley