Second-to-entry level in Caterham’s lithe and light line-up, the 270S is a more accessible daily drive proposition, designed primarily for the road, but with the sharp handling, high-rev thrills and performance for occasional track driving.
By Ghaith Madadha
More affordable and useable than Caterham’s more extreme offerings, the 270S might still be too raw and spartan for some as a daily drive, but remains an ideal and rewardingly connected rear-drive ‘fun’ car. And with better practicality, safety, and stability, it makes a perfect ‘car guy’ alternative to Amman’s ever more popular motorcycle weekend playthings.
Launched in 1957 as a Lotus, and continually evolving under Caterham since 1973, the iconic Seven’s undiluted, uncomplicatedly minimalist recipe remains constant and focused. It is defined by driving purity, razor sharp reflexes, and thrilling involvement. The back-to-basics British sports car’s lightweight is paramount to its prodigious performance and near telepathic agility.
The Seven’s very lightness makes it lighter still, with components like steering and brake servo assistance unnecessary, and carpets and heater optional depending on model. It features exposed suspension and wheels, safety rollover bar, and light tubular frame construction providing necessary rigidity despite a soft-top design. First among core naturally-aspirated Seven models, with light solid disc brakes and rear anti-roll bar being optional, the 270S weighs just 550kg, even with the marginally heavier more accommodating optional wide SV chassis.
The 270S’ high compression 1.6-liter four-cylinder Ford-sourced engine is tuned to develop 135 BHP at 6,800 rpm and 122 lb/ft at 4,100 rpm. It pulls hard and responsively throughout, with eagerly progressive delivery and a resonant baritone staccato bark urgently hardening as revs swiftly rise towards a 6,800 rpm rev limit. Intoxicatingly addictive, it dispatches 0-100 km/h in just 5 seconds and tops out at 196 km/h owing to aerodynamics and aggressive gearing.
With long-legged rev limit and intuitively accurate throttle and clutch pedal, the 270S launches swiftly and tidily, letting one dial in precise power increments to perfectly balance grip and slip. Its five-speed manual gearbox delivers snappy, stiff, and distinctly mechanical gear changes, which like unassisted brakes and steering, provides satisfyingly intuitive feel and feedback and enhanced driver confidence and connectivity. The 270S rides on sophisticated front double wishbones and rear De Dion axle suspension, combined with 195/45R15 tires providing the right mix of grip and low weight.
The 270S is visceral and exhilaratingly compelling through narrow switchbacks. Without distraction, dilution, or electronic assistance, it devolves responsibility for every input and focuses concentration and talents, making one a more calculating driver. Braking late and hard before turning decisively into a corner, the 270S is balanced, agile and connected. And with quick 1.93-turn steering and precise throttle control, it allows fluent and intuitive on-throttle corrections to tighten cornering lines or come back early on power when exiting corners.
The 270S is settled and confident on highway among heavier, larger and less exposed vehicles. The SV chassis version may not be generously spaced, but it adequately accommodates larger drivers and provides an ideal alert driving position, with clear instrumentation, gauges, toggle switches, and excellent visibility and steering position. Designed for open air driving, the Seven, however, comes with removable doors and occasional use clip-on soft-top.
Sure-footed, firm through corners, settled on rebound but nevertheless supple and fluent along imperfect routes, the road-biased 270S’ suspension and steering geometry set-up can be optionally personalized for individual drivers to more accurately distribute weight for enhanced handling, comfort, steering, and braking. The 270S can also be upgraded to 310S specification, to develop 155B HP, while its track-focused 270R sister model features stiffer suspension and standard rear anti-roll bar and limited-slip differential.
Engine: 1.6-liter, front-mid, in-line 4 cylinders
Gearbox: 5-speed manual, rear-wheel-drive
Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 135 (137)  @6800 rpm
Power-to-weight: 245.5 BHP/ton
Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 122 (165) @4100 rpm
0-100 km/h: 5 seconds
Top speed: 196 km/h
Length: 3250 mm
Width: 1685 mm
Height: 1115 mm
Steering: Rack & pinion, 1.93 turns
Suspension F/R: Double wishbones / De Dion axle