Search Cars for Sale

Video | The Ariel Atom Is a $75,000 Street Legal Go Kart

I recently had the chance to drive an Ariel Atom, which is truly automotive insanity. I say this because the Ariel Atom is basically a fully open, race car-style vehicle, with no body and barely anything else, and it’s got a license plate. Logic would dictate that you should not be able to drive this thing on the road. And, yet, you can.

So let’s talk Atom. The one I drove was an Atom 3, which uses the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder from a Honda Civic Si. That may not seem particularly impressive, but this particular vehicle weighs something like 1,350 pounds, resulting in a 0-to-60 mph time of around 2.9 seconds, assuming that you’re brave enough. It’s also rather pricey, but such is life if you want a race car that you can legally drive on the road.

So I drove the Atom on the road, and what I discovered is that it’s absolutely crazy, and I have no idea why anyone would want to do this. Specifically, it’s tremendously loud and amazingly intense — you’re getting attacked by wind on all sides, you’re basically driving an actual go-kart on the streets around normal people driving normal cars. Even a regular highway drive is incredibly visceral in this thing: Other people are just cruising around in their Camry models and Accords, and you’re flipping out, getting smashed in the face by wind, hearing an incredibly loud engine just inches from your head.

Of course, there are some benefits. For one, the Atom is really, really fast, in a way that few other cars are — it’s got supercar speed, and you really feel the speed because of how open and close to the road you are. It’s actually amazing to be doing 0-to-60 mph in 2.9 seconds when you could also reach out and just touch the road if you wanted to.

Then there’s the handling. The Atom is amazingly connected to the road, and the slightest steering inputs send the car exactly where you point it — no rational, regular automobiles have steering that’s anywhere near this sharp or exciting, and it makes vehicles like the Ferrari 488 and Lamborghini Huracan actually seem big and bulky. Then again, it also makes those vehicles feel safe and luxurious, so there are some trade-offs here.

And, indeed, with the Atom, that’s the thing about it: It’s the car for people who have tried basically all the other cars and dismissed them as being too normal, too rational, not exciting enough. Considering the speed and performance of modern exotic cars, not too many people feel that way — and that’s why the Atom has tremendously limited appeal. But if you just can’t get excited unless you’re driving something absolutely off-the-wall crazy, well, the Atom is just the off-the-wall crazy vehicle that should scratch your itch for insanity. 

MORE FROM OVERSTEER:
Here Are the Cheapest Porsche Models for Sale on Autotrader
The Coolest Minivans I Could Find on Autotrader
Video | The 2019 Porsche Macan S Is the Best Small Luxury SUV

Sign up for Autotrader newsletters

The best cars and best deals delivered to your inbox

Email Address 

By subscribing, you agree to our privacy policy

Where You Can Buy

Loading dealers...

Most Popular Articles

2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid: First Look

The 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid jumps to the head of the hybrid class.

Best SUV Deals: October 2020

Now is a great time to buy an SUV. Those who can afford a new ride are in luck because there are some great cashback and lease incentives right now.

How Much Money Should You Put Down on a Car?

Determining the right down payment for a new- or used-car loan or a new-car lease depends on more than just the buyer's finances.

Research by Style

More Articles Like This