But there is a downside: there’s not a turbo engine on earth that responds as well to the throttle as an equivalent normally aspirated or supercharged unit, nor one that sounds as good. And while the Type R engine is an outstanding example of its art, that almost instinctive immediacy and searing shriek of the old supercharged engine has gone. And while the popping, whooshing sound that has replaced it has a character of its own, it’s not as charming and it would be silly to suggest it were.
Otherwise the Atom 4 barely puts a foot wrong. Indeed its greatest achievement is not to add a level of performance only its bravest owners will dare access, but in all other regards to smooth the rough edges off the driving experience. And edges there were: all Atoms of old were tricky on the limit, save the most expensive 3.5Rs which had some very trick modifications to their suspension, aerodynamics and differential to calm its waywardness. You had to drive them like old 911s: slow in, faster out with scrupulous attention to throttle position, especially in the wet. My time with the Atom 4 allowed me to drive on roads that were dry, damp, wet and near flooded, yet it didn’t scare me once. The steering no longer fidgets, the ride has smoothed out and the slightly sickening turn-in oversteer has gone.
Add to that the fact the Atom 4 now has an instrument display you can actually read, switchgear that can be easily found and trusted to function as expected, an even more spacious cockpit and, would you believe it, even automatic headlights, and what you have it a car that is both easier to drive and far more likely to make you want to drive it in conditions where you’d never consider taking an old Atom out of the shed. Yes, you still get soaked and of course you feel a bit of a twit in your helmet but, even with the engine issues mentioned above, the inescapable truth is that this is an Atom that is not only more enjoyable to drive, but one that makes you want to drive it more of the time. Job done, in other words.
Engine: 1,996cc four cylinders, turbocharged, petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual, rear-wheel-drive
Power/Torque: 324PS (320bhp) @ 6,500rpm and 420Nm (310lb ft) @ 3,000rpm
Top speed: 162mph