Is the Caterham 420R the best daily in the entire world?
The ultimate daily has been my search for ages, which is why I cover so many sort of 'practical' cars. In 2017 I drove a 360R 500 miles in a day to a gig, it was such a ridiculous concept that I had other journalists texting me asking 'U given up yet lol?'. I didn't give up, neither did the 360R. I got good fuel economy, it took all of my equipment (except my amp) and I had an epic (but looooooong) drive.
That journey began my thinking process, could you daily a Caterham? Is it something you can easily drive to the shops and drive in poor weather which is great fun in the summer too? Regardless of variant, could a Caterham be the best daily in the entire world?
Yes, a Caterham is VERY low.. you do scrape a lot.. especially if you're on the chubby side like me..
The 420R starts at around £34,000 on the road, gets to 62mph in 3.8 seconds (faster if you can put the power down), tops out at 140mph (ish) and is powered by a 2.0 Ford Duratec engine which produces 210bhp. For a vehicle which weighs half a tonne, yep.. 420bhp.. per tonne (ish).
Driving feel wise you can't get any better than a Caterham, there isn't anything between you and the road really. The steering is heavy and responsive, the throttle is more dramatic than a Michael Bay film, the ride is firm and supporting.. and the noise is like an addictive narcotic.
It's such an un-aided car that you seriously have to keep your wits about you, else without warning it will try and send you into an early grave. Small input errors can result in catastrophic disasters, but you knew it all along so there's no one to blame but yourself.
That red thing is the battery kill switch, if you forget to take it out and someone else does.. you're not going anywhere..
Driving to the shops is easy and surprisingly fast in the 420R, while the shopping doesn't have bundles of space to be placed in, there is ample space for a weekly shop. Want to go through the McDonalds drive through (other fast-food outlets are available)..? Just pop the door up and drive on through.. and remember to take the harness off else you'll look very silly as you reach for your burger and fries. The lock is actually surprisingly decent too.
The morning commute suddenly has appeal in a Caterham, no longer do you dread sitting at awful junctions, as the Caterham makes everyone smile and amazingly they let you out even when you don't have 'right of way' (and if they don't.. foot down and commit and you're out). Weekends can't come any sooner (or warm weather) as the Caterham really does suit a top down cruise on B-roads.. just be mindful of grease as there's no ABS to save you in sight.
No matter what you do in the 420R, no matter what time of year - it does it with ease. While driving in wet weather can be daunting, once you know the car you don't worry. I wouldn't personally drive one in the snow, however I found evidence on an owners forum that winter tyres for them do exist and people do indeed drive them in small amounts of snow.
It's about as back to basics as a car can get, not even a radio as standard and the indicators aren't self cancelling. The drive is like no other, while the 420R is definitely a fast car it makes me question just how quick a 620R must be - does it feel like the Millennium Falcon?
So, can a 420R be a daily and is it the best daily in the entire world? If you want something which makes you smile every time you see it, makes you giddy like a kid when you drive it, makes everyone smile when they see it and occasionally have to get a back correction? Then it's the best daily in the entire world for you so go and buy one right now.
If you like all of the above without some of the associated stress / medical issues, then you might drive it as a daily a lot in the summer but only at the weekend in the winter - but probably want to drive it even more and wish you had time to drive it on B-roads in the dry a lot.
It's a car which sparks love in driving, a car which even with its many faults is so perfect, a car which technically isn't that expensive to buy / run / insure.. and I'd have one in a heart beat because when I drive one.. I never want to stop.