The fourth generation of the Ariel Atom is now available in North America. The super lightweight vehicle that once deformed Jeremy Clarkson’s face is all-new, despite retaining its familiar looks. Ariel says that only the clutch pedal, the brake pedal, and the fuel cap are carry-over parts from the previous Ariel Atom 3.
So what is different about the Ariel Atom 4? And how does it differ from its U.K. cousin?
Engine and Interior
The most obvious change to the Atom 4 is the engine. The new K20C 2.0-liter four-cylinder from the Civic Type R replaces the previous Honda mill. Because this engine required different mounting, Ariel used that opportunity to change the skeleton of the Atom. They changed to thicker, stronger tubing, and increased the wheelbase by two inches. This allowed for more room inside of the vehicle, if you consider sitting in an Ariel Atom actually being inside. All of this happened with no weight gain.
With a more spacious cabin come more comfortable seats, with more adjustments. The gauge cluster is now one modern display. The panel around the display has now been given some ergonomic consideration, as opposed to being all business. And really, that is all that needed improvement. Anything else would really have been a distraction. No, there is no audio system or even a heater inside. Think motorcycle simplicity, not automotive.
The redesigned chassis allowed the repositioning of the inboard pushrod-operated Bilstein suspension system. The improved suspension geometry further reduces body roll and weight transfer. The bigger news may be the new steering system. It makes driving at any speed easier and also reduced the turning radius to aid town driving and parking. Lock-to-lock is still ridiculously short two turns.
‘Murikan Atom 4 gets 11.4-inch discs all around, with AP Racing calipers squeezing them. Two-piece rotors and brake pads with track compounds are optional. Optional, as seen in the above photo, is a dash-adjustable brake bias. Don’t fiddle with it too much unless you know what you’re doing.
Hilariously, the most notable change from the British version of the Atom 4 to American is the fact that the American one comes with a windshield and the British one does not. And the steering wheel is on the correct side. Standard features and options vary a bit but that’s basically it.
Understanding the changes
Different wheels and tires are a must for any new car. And here is another meaningful change to the Atom 4. At least meaningful to those who care about driving and chassis dynamics, which is likely anyone still reading this. The Atom 4 sits on 16×7-inch front wheels and 17×9-inch rear wheels. Full carbon wheels, 50% lighter than alloys, are a new option. The front tires are 195/50-16 and the rears are 255/40-17. Atom says that “the combination of new suspension and larger tires contribute to the Atom 4 having more mechanical grip than any previous Atom”
Here is where the quantifying the changes and upgrades to the Atoms over the years gets tricky. Historically, all the Ariel Atom cars were amazing. There is just nothing else like them – a zero compromise speed-focused vehicle. Touching and seeing aside, all those years of evolution could best be experienced on a race track, by a competent driver. And this is the big news for the Ariel Atom 4 – this is an all-new car and those changes and years of evolution translate into a vehicle that’s easier to drive for any driver, including the best drivers, without compromising the performance.
Made in America
Important to note is the fact that all the Ariel Atoms destined for North and South American markets will be assembled in by TMI AutoTech in Virginia. The company has a 60,000 square-foot facility and focuses on sourcing materials locally, too. Even the engine is made by Honda Performance Development in Ohio.
All the Atoms are made to order. Available in many colors, body choices, and with various options, it’s likely that no two Ariel Atoms will be the same. Production has started, so place your orders. When you get yours, call us, okay?
For more details, check out ArielNA.com.
Disclaimer: One of my best friends is responsible for the Ariel Atom 4 coming to our shores. I helped him with the writing of the press release and some marketing. I did it as a favor and was not paid for it. -Kamil