The latest generation of track-honed roadsters offer quick, corner-hugging performance at a more affordable price point. However, unless you're in a position to use a fast, furious, roofless two-seater as a daily commuter, a niche track-weekend auto may still be well out of your price range. Caterham is looking to change this with its all-new, entry-level Seven 160 that went up for pre-order this week.

The Seven 160 isn't as powerful or quick as other Caterham models, but it does offer a taste of all-out performance at a more attainable price point. The car is available in the UK in component form for £14,995 (US$24,350) or as a fully built car for £17,995 (US$29,250). That's a few thousand pounds less than existing models like the Roadsport 125, which sells for £19,995 (US$32,500) as a kit and £22,995 (US$37,350) as a full car. The new model will be sold as the Seven 165 in the European Union, where the 5 signifies compliance with EU5 emissions standards.

The Seven 160 is powered by an 80-bhp 660cc Suzuki three-cylinder turbo. That engine works with a five-speed transmission to spin the 14-inch steel wheels and propel the car to a 6.5-second 0-60 mph (0-96.5 km/h) time and 100-mph (161 km/h) top speed. The max torque of 79 lb-ft is reached at 3,400 rpm.

Those numbers are quite modest compared to other roadsters from Caterham and competitors – the 310-bhp Seven 620 R hits 60 mph in 2.79 seconds, for example. Caterham admits that outright performance isn't the point. Instead, the Seven 160's charm lies in its sharp handling, delivered with the help of a live-axle rear suspension inspired by early Seven models. The roadster offers 163 bhp-per-tonne thanks to a slim, 1,080-lb (490-kg) build.

"The 160 offers something truly different to the entry-level market," Caterham CEO Graham Macdonald. "It’s more economical, more accessible and every bit as fun on the road as other Sevens but has its own unique personality."

Caterham plans to begin production of the Seven 160/165 in January 2014, with the first deliveries to follow a few months later.

Source: Caterham

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