Goodwood Test: Caterham Super Seven 2000 2023 Review
Think of Caterham, and you’ll probably have an image of a small, open-cockpit sportscar with a distinct ‘50s design and feel. At a glance, you also might think that there is only one Caterham model, the legendary Caterham Seven that has gone virtually unchanged for 50 years. Actually, the opposite is true. The classic British brand is currently boasting a range of seven road-going cars, each offering a different experience packaged into that same Caterham aesthetic.
Among them is a new take on the classic recipe, the Caterham Super Seven, which takes a step back to the original Super Seven that was introduced in the 1970s, incorporating that heritage style with a modern twist.
Following the Super Seven’s initial run in 1600 guise, Caterham released two new versions: the Super Seven 600 and the Super Seven 2000, which is propelled by a larger 2.0-litre Ford engine and comes available with Caterham’s larger chassis option. These two factors result in a very different overall package, with a truly distinct feel.
- Plenty of power
- Engaging to drive
- Classic looks
We don't like
- Larger chassis feels disconnected
- Cabin gets uncomfortably hot
- Fairly dull engine
The Caterham Super Seven 2000 we tested was built with the larger chassis, which from a distance is wholly indistinguishable from the smaller standard chassis. Overall, the car in this form is 250mm longer, 110mm wider and 25mm taller, and able, according to Caterham, to accommodate drivers up to six foot six inches tall.
From a design perspective, the car is still beautiful. Simple, uncluttered and charming, with those rounded headlights and swooping wheel arches. The bloated dimensions do perhaps diminish the compact feel of the standard car, the wider track makes it look a little ungainly, particularly at the front.
On the whole, though, this Caterham is a car that looks unlike anything else on the roads today. The front suspension is out in the open for the world to see, which will never be uncool, and that beautiful chrome exhaust is the perfect finishing touch.
An exclusive aspect of the Super Seven range is the selection of vintage colours on offer. They’re all geared towards that heritage feel, so you have a lovely deep brown, a green, a deep blue and ‘Fawn’, which is a kind of creamy beige.
Performance and Handling
One thing to get clear straight away is that any Caterham, no matter what variation you’re sat inside, will offer a driving experience you’re unlikely to come across anywhere else. With that said, however, the Super Seven 2000 in this larger chassis configuration moves the needle far closer to the mainstream.
The extra room you’re afforded in the cabin turns the Caterham into something not dissimilar to a Mazda MX-5. You’re still sat incredibly low in the car – adding to the struggle of ingress and egress – but this version of the Caterham feels far less alien than the standard chassis. And for the most part that’s disappointing.
Where the standard Caterham feels different and interesting to drive, the larger chassis 2000 loses a lot of that interest. The pedals are spread much wider apart, and are far longer, which results in a lack of overall feel from the throttle and brakes. It takes you away from the car rather than drawing you in. That said, throttle response is good once you get a measure of the pedal. You have more input in delivering the power, which allows for a more considered use of this more potent engine.
More potent, yes, but well suited to the Super Seven? I’m not so sure. It produces 183PS (135kW) and 194Nm (143lb ft) of torque, which in a car that weighs just 585kg is good for a 0-62mph sprint in 4.8 seconds. But it falls incredibly short in the character stakes.
It’s a 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated Ford petrol engine, which in itself is not all that spectacular. Happily, it's supplemented with that enormous exhaust to produce a pretty astonishing noise, especially when you give it a boot full. The sheer volume of it as it bellows a foot or so away from your ear is quite something, but there’s no depth or interest to the sound. Power delivery smooth, it doesn’t punch in the way you might expect. For all the raucous melodrama, the actual outcome is a little stale. It doesn’t take long for things to get a little tiresome, particularly if you’re cruising for extended periods. In this regard, the turbocharged three-pot in the Super Seven 600 is by far and away the more enthralling choice.
The steering, however, remains sublime. Caterham has nailed the feel of the steering wheel in size, thickness and weight. It's a case of thinking where you want to go, there's no need to overwork the wheel, in fact the less input you can have the better for efficient cornering.
It’s an odd mix here. On the one hand, this Super Seven 2000 is an absolute joy to wind through twisty country roads. It’s incredibly nimble, with near-perfect steering and fantastic balance, but that larger chassis just makes you appreciate the simplicity and less serious character of the 600 all the more.
Now there’s something of a disconnect here. Because on the one hand, the large chassis Caterham feels enormous in comparison to the standard chassis, but in the grand scheme the Super Seven 2000 is still a tiny car.
The cabin is still compact, but brilliantly efficient at the same time. It doesn’t cocoon you in quite the same way, and it often feels as though you’re rattling around inside, especially if you’re cornering particularly hard, or running over a pretty poor surface. But there’s space for a driver and a passenger and that’s about it, although the passenger does get some reasonable legroom for a bag or two.
Along with a pair of comfy leather seats, a leather steering wheel and a leather covered transmission tunnel which doubled up perfectly as an armrest, you’re also met with a polished wood dashboard bedecked with Caterham’s standard line-up of dials and switches. It’s difficult to pick between the leather finish and the wood options, but both are far preferred to the standard black plastic. It’s a lovely place to be for the most part, with the addition of further armrests built into the side panels ensuring you can relax on your journey if you want to.
Much like with other Seven models, and indeed the Super Seven 600, the main issue with the cabin is the heat that floods in from the engine bay. This seems to be even worse with the four-cylinder engine, which tends to run at a higher temperature than the three-cylinder, and it can make for a pretty uncomfortable experience, especially if you’re driving with the roof up.
Technology and Features
This car lives and breathes in the 1970s, and that heritage comes through clear as day when it comes to the technology on board. The dashboard layout features Caterham’s traditional instrument line-up: from left to right, you have a hazard light switch, fog lights, a fuel gauge, windscreen demister, heater fan, temperature and oil pressure gauges, switches for screen wash, windscreen wipers and indicators. There’s also a starter button, rev counter and speedometer, with switches for headlights, full beam and the horn behind the steering wheel.
Every element embedded in the dashboard has a satisfying snap to it, and the materials all feel of decent quality.
All Super Sevens also come with a roof, windscreen and side screens as standard, so you’ll have everything you need to stay protected from adverse weather, although there is no doubt that this, along with all over Caterhams, are best enjoyed with the roof down. Getting the roof on and off can be a challenge, with a fair amount of effort required to stretch the material over the top of the roll hoop.
Jump from your standard family crossover into one of these and the Caterham Super Seven 2000 will feel like the ultimate driving experience. It’s agile, it’s sporty, it’s loud, it’s fast, and it makes you feel like you’re at the wheel of something incredibly special.
The trouble is, this is not the best version of the Caterham recipe. While that engine offers more aggressive and ultimately more impressive performance, it doesn’t entertain in the same way as the three-cylinder alternative. Hop out of a 600 and into the 2000 and it feels far more normal than it ought to.
If, however, you do prefer the larger motor, there is a niggling feeling that you would rather have it put inside the 2000 in standard chassis spec, which gladly is an option Caterham offers. In this expanded guise, it lacks the engagement and involvement of its smaller sibling.
This score is an average based on aggregated reviews from trusted and verified sources.
|Engine||2.0-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder petrol|
|Power||183PS (135kW) @ 7,300rpm|
|Torque||194Nm (143lb ft) @ 6,100rpm|
|Transmission||Five-speed manual gearbox, rear-wheel-drive|
|Price||£39,990 (£47,490 as tested)|
Reviewed by Simon Ostler