Review

Ariel Atom cabriolet

Pros
  • Staggering performance
  • Thrilling in corners
  • Unique looks
Cons
  • Expensive to buy
  • Windscreen is an optional extra
  • You need a track to get the best from it

"Stripped-out, race-ready Ariel Atom offers ultimate wind-in-the-hair thrills – particularly if you choose a version without a windscreen."

The fact that a windscreen is classed as an optional extra tells you all you need to know about just how stripped-back this British-built sports car is. The entry-level version comes with a 245bhp 2.0-litre engine from the Honda Civic Type R and it's incredibly fast, with a 0-62mph time of less than five seconds. If you want to go faster, there's a supercharged version, while the limite-edition Atom V8 offers almost 500bhp, giving you the speed and thrills of a road-legal Formula One car.

MPG, running costs & CO2

2.3 / 5

The Atom is tuned for performance not fuel economy

Becasue the Atom's Honda engine has been tuned to produce more power, the Atom is only capable of 31mpg fuel economy and has fairly high CO2 emissions. As it's designed to be used on a race track and offer maximum performance, running costs will be of little importance to Atom owners, although they won't be quite as high as you might expect, as the car is so light.

Engines, drive & performance

4.8 / 5

One of the most exciting driver's cars in the world

The Aton's very light weight and generous power combine to create a very fast car. The 0-62mph sprint is demolished in around three seconds, which is similar to a high-performance motorcycle. Top speed is 150mph, but it's in the corners where the Atom excels, as it requires minimal steering inputs and offers masses of grip. If you want to get the best from the Atom, you really need to try it on a race track.

Interior & comfort

1.2 / 5

Lack of doors, windows and roof make for a very windy ride

The Atom is not a comfortable car to travel in. The sudden power delivery, vicious acceleration and firm ride are best suited to smooth roads and race tracks rather than bumpy back lanes. Motorways are very disconcerting for both driver and passenger – we'd strongly recommend buying a pair of crash helmets to make life more comfortable, even if you go for the optional windscreen.

Practicality & boot space

1 / 5

Suited to short weekend journeys, if it's not raining

The Atom is hard work to drive around town, as all of the controls are heavy. They're designed for withstanding repeated abuse on a race track, not for nipping down to the shops. The complete lack of a roof, windows, boot, glovebox, windscreen or heater makes even the simplest journeys a challenge.

Reliability & safety

2.4 / 5

Build quality is good, but there's no safety kit

The Ariel Atom uses an engine supplied by Honda, which is sure to be reliable. The rest of the car is hand-built and the attention to detail is second to none. As the Atom is made in small numbers, it doesn't need to meet EU crash-test regulations, so there are no airbags, anti-lock brakes or electronic stability control. Instead, the two seats come with race-style four-point harnesses to strap you and your passenger tightly in place.

Price, value for money & options

1.7 / 5

It's expensive considering how little you get

The entry-level Atom costs about as much as a top-of-the-range Volkswagen Golf or BMW 3 Series, and is far more expensive than the Caterham Seven – its only real rival. However, very few cars offer the Atom's level of performance, even £250,000 supercars. Optional extras include a detachable windscreen and carbon-fibre headlamp covers.

What the others say

4.4 / 5
based on 4 reviews
5 / 5
"The overall build quality is a notch above a Caterham. Touches like the tachometer needle glowing red as you approach the limiter and the uncluttered footwell and dash are an unexpected surprise."
4.5 / 5
"We've covered quite a lot of miles in Ariel's supercharged Atom 300 in the past and were wondering if stepping back down to the 245bhp car might be a bit of a disappointment – but not a bit of it."
4 / 5
"Put simply, the Atom brings superbike performance to four wheels. Even the 'basic' 245hp version – all Atoms use versions of the 2.0-litre Honda VTEC engine from the Civic Type R – will hit 62mph in less than three seconds."
17 / 20
"Cars don't get much more hardcore than this. You need to have a biker's attitude to dressing for driving, but the reward is superb."
Last updated 
30 Aug 2013
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