Ariel Atom cabriolet
- Staggering performance
- Thrilling in corners
- Unique looks
- 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!"
Some have described the Ariel Atom as looking like an electricity pylon on wheels thanks to the bare frames running down either side of the car. And it's tru that this two-seater offers shocking performance. The fact a windscreen is classed as an option tells you all you need to know about the credentials of this model. Entry level versions come with a 245bhp 2.0-litre engine from the Honda Civic Type R, and are incredibly fast, with a 0-62mph sprint time of less than five seconds. If you want to go faster, there's a supercharged version, while the limited edition Atom V8 offers almost 500bhp, and has the speed and thrills of a road-legal Formula One car.
MPG, running costs & CO2
The Atom is tuned for performance not economy
Becasue the Honda engine has been tuned to produce more power, the Atom is capable of 31mpg and costs £245 per year to tax. As it's designed to be used on a track and offer maximum performance, running costs will be of little importance to Atom owners, although running costs will be low due to the fact it will only be used a few times each year.
Interior & comfort
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 is best suited to smooth roads and race tracks rather than bumpy back roads. 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 buy the optional windscreen.
Practicality & boot space
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 to withstand 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
Build quality is high, but there's no safety kit
The Ariel Atom uses engines supplied by Honda, which are 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 built in small numbers, it doesn't need to meet EU crash test regulations, and there are no airbags, ABS or electronic stability control. Instead, the two seats come with race-style four-point racing harnesses to strap you tightly in place.
Engines, drive & performance
One of the most exciting driver's cars in the world
The total lack of 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.
Price, value for money & options
It's expensive considering how little you get
The entry-level Atom is a similar price to a top of the range Volkswagen Golf or BMW 3 Series, and is far more expensive than the Caterham Seven. However, very few cars offer the Atom's level of performance, even some £250,000 supercars. Optional extras include a detachable windscreen and carbon fibre head-lamp covers.
What the others say
In fact, the overall build quality is a notch above a Caterham. Simon Saunders, founder of the firm, is a former employee of Aston Martin, and it shows in the attention to detail. Touches like the tachometer needle glowing red as you approach the limiter, and the uncluttered footwell and dash, are an unexpected surprise.
I’ve covered quite a lot of miles in Ariel's supercharged Atom 300 in the past and was wondering if stepping back down to the 245bhp car might be a bit of a disappointment, but not a bit of it.
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.
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