Sports Cars

Ariel Atom 4 brings Civic Type R power to the lightweight car

With 320 horsepower, the 1,312-pound Atom 4 will hit 60 mph in 2.8 seconds.

Ariel Motor Company

The Ariel Motor Company has fully redesigned its minimalist, track-focused toy in what the carmaker is describing as the biggest revision since it launched the Atom in 1999. The Ariel Atom 4 is almost entirely new, with only the clutch and brake pedals and fuel cap carried over from the last model.

As ever, the Atom 4 is an ultra-stripped-down tube-frame machine. The chassis is all new, with larger diameter tubing that is said to improve torsional stiffness by 15 percent versus the prior Atom 3.5. Moreover, interior room has improved, with an extra 1.9 inches of length and 1.2 inches of width in the cabin. Ariel also says that crash-test performance has dramatically improved.

Ariel Atom 4
Ariel Motor Company

One of the most exciting changes is fitted behind the seats, where the Atom 4 employs the turbocharged 2.0-liter engine from the latest Honda Civic Type R. Using a custom engine controller, the mill is rated for 320 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual gearbox sends power to the rear wheels by way of a limited-slip differential. The key numbers: 0 to 60 miles per hour in 2.8 seconds; 0 to 100 mph in 6.8 seconds; and a top speed of 162 mph. Claimed total weight is a stunningly low 1,312 pounds -- that's less than half the weight of the regular Type R hatchback.

All of the Atom's bodywork -- what bodywork there is -- has been redesigned. Notably, the big roll hoop has been removed, so there's a much smaller air intake above the seats. A redesigned wind deflector is said to help with downforce, as do the new fenders. Overall, aerodynamic drag is down while airflow to the engine and intercooler has increased. At the same time, Ariel says that the new aerodynamics help give the Atom 4 more "neutral" handling.

Ariel Atom 4

The cabin is still stripped-out but now a little more spacious.

Ariel Motor Company

Talking of handling, the Atom 4 still uses inboard, pushrod-style suspension, but new geometry is meant to reduce squat and dive. Bilstein dampers are standard, with Ohlins ones set to be offered as an option. A new steering rack tightens the car's turning circle, too. The wheels measure 16 inches in diameter in front and 17 inches in rear, shod in Avon ZZR performance tires. Ariel engineers also installed larger brakes than the last Atom, with even bigger AP Racing units offered as an option.

One interesting change is that Ariel designed the Atom 4 to receive European homologation (under the Small Series Type Approval rules) so it can more easily be sold in more countries throughout the continent. Among the changes to meet those rules are new switchgear, new lighting with LED running lights and even automatic headlights. Each Atom 4 will be assembled by one technician and to order, with the company expecting to build about 100 per year. In the US, the Atom 4 will continue to offered under license through Virginia's Ariel North America.

All told, the Ariel Atom 4 looks to improve on its already impressive performance, while also boosting livability and usability. Production starts toward the end of this year with the first deliveries scheduled for spring 2019.