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Ariel Atom3 300 (2008) review

Published:24 September 2008

Ariel Atom3 300 (2008) CAR review
  • At a glance
  • 5 out of 5
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By Mark Walton

Contributing editor, humorist, incurable enthusiast

By Mark Walton

Contributing editor, humorist, incurable enthusiast

When it comes to journalists writing road tests, there are so many different uses for the word ‘scary’ I thought I’d better clarify. So, there’s the track car that accelerates so fast it makes you want to vomit (‘ooh, that’s so quick it’s really scary’); there’s the home-made, hand-built British sports car that bucks and kicks like a mule (‘gosh, this handling is so wayward and uncivilised it’s really scary’); and then there’s the 1000bhp supercar that cruises up the M1 at 250mph (‘hmmm, that police helicopter that’s been following me for miles is really scary’).

The Ariel Atom 300 is none of the above...

So why is the Ariel Atom so scary?

The Atom 300 is scary because it’s possessed, by some kind of evil witchcraft, and every time you put your foot down something unnatural occurs. The noise has a lot to do with it. Like other ‘lesser’ Atoms, the 300 uses the 2.0-litre, Honda Civic Type-R VTEC motor, mounted in the middle of a chassis so spartan, it makes a spider’s web look over-engineered.

But the 300’s engine is then fitted with a supercharger to boost power, up from 245bhp to 300. In a car that weighs less than a shoe. Which means the kind of performance that makes Ferraris and Lamborghinis feel slack, yes, and that’s ‘scary’ – but it also means a noise, a harsh, fearsome, witch’s shriek of a whine, that comes from directly behind you, somewhere around the vicinity of your kidneys, somewhere from the bowels of hell. No car makes this noise, not even the most intimidating Lamborghini or Pagani. And the sound builds quickly, meaning the smooth, well-oiled fizz of the latest Honda engine is obscured almost immediately by the diabolical Yeeeeeeeeeeeh of the supercharger.

Click 'Next' below to read more of our Ariel Atom3 300 first drive

So you want to hide behind the sofa?

Yes. This isn’t just scary, this is psychologically terrifying – not least because the noise is always accompanied by squeezing, crushing forces and a rush of wind round your head, and a crazy, streaming blur of light and colour in your eyes. And the next corner is approaching so fast it looks like you’re going to overshoot it and end up in orbit and the next thing you know, you’re weightless in space looking silently down on a big blue ball. In an Atom.

Verdict

I suppose if I was writing a normal road test about a normal car, I would mention other things, like the handling, which is extraordinarily balanced and communicative (though I still find the turning circle abysmal); and the new windscreen looks great, and makes it driveable without a helmet, but the pillar does obscure your vision around the 2 o’clock.

But the Ariel Atom isn’t a normal car, so I refuse to write normal things about it. I just guarantee, if you’re a regular person who drives a Ford or a Vauxhall, and you got into the Atom 300 and drove down the road for a hundred yards, I reckon you’d wet yourself, and maybe even cry. It’s the Blair Witch of the car world. 

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Specs

Price when new: £35,888
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 1998cc 4-cyl supercharged, 300bhp @ 8400rpm, 177lb ft @ 7200rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 2.8secs 0-60mph, 155mph, 32mpg
Weight / material: 515kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 3410/1195/1828

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  • Ariel Atom3 300 (2008) CAR review
  • Ariel Atom3 300 (2008) CAR review
  • Ariel Atom3 300 (2008) CAR review
  • Ariel Atom3 300 (2008) CAR review
  • Ariel Atom3 300 (2008) CAR review

By Mark Walton

Contributing editor, humorist, incurable enthusiast

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