There are 53 patents on the Carver One’s hydraulic tilting system. It’s the mechanism that makes riding in the Carver feel like being a passenger in a fighter jet. As the driver turns, the Carver tilts into the corner, learning up to 45 degrees, and with it, almost eliminating the sense of speed you get from lateral g-forces in a car.
The first time it tilted it took me by surprise as Peter pulled out from Parkside HQ a quick 90-degree right-left across into Parawai Crescent. This road consists of an endless stream of traffic islands and 90-degree bends to negotiate, and by the time we emerged on Jervois Rd, it seems as natural as riding a bike¦which it is exactly like.
As a passenger, getting in requires a degree of flexibility. Sitting astride the front seat, one has to lean slightly to one side to get a view of the road ahead. If you’re bored with looking ahead, though, you can just people-spot out the side windows. Despite being launched over three years ago, this is the first Carver in New Zealand, and as such, everywhere you go the great unwashed point and smile (or try to look cool while deliberately ignoring you). The only two cars I’ve driven that have generated this much interest are the Ariel Atom and the Saker RSC. People are far more polite on the road to you — they let you out of side roads, they pull over (then try to follow you to catch another glimpse of the Carver careening through the bends.
While it’s capable of careening at a reasonable speed, the Carver isn’t awash with horsepower. A turbocharged four-cylinder 659cc Daihatsu engine sits above the two rear wheels pumping out around 50kW (68bhp) and gives exceptional fuel economy (around 6l/100km). It is good to punt the 643kg machine to 100kph in 8.2 seconds and onto a top speed of 185kph.
Because there really is nothing like the Carver, it is an oddity — something we’re not used to looking at. There are hints of aircraft cockpit from the side, Series one Lotus Elise in the front lights, and pizza delivery scooter sporting an aftermarket body kit from the rear.
Looking at the motorbike front wheel, you would expect dramatic understeer, but the rear wheels passively steer as well, and combined with the Carver’s ability to hydraulically bank from full left to full right in only a second through the corners it can change direction extraordinarily quickly. The 195/50R15 rear wheels give the Carver all the grip required coming out of the corners, and despite being a small engine, it gives a tuned 4-cylinder growl topped off with whistles from the turbo.
Luggage space comes courtesy of a fitted bag that straps to the back, and a small shelf behind the passenger seat. If you don’t carry a passenger, then the whole of the back area is available for storage while you roll through the corners listening to the stereo/MP3 player, and snatching gears using the five-speed manual ‘box. There are even electric windows, and you can take the canvas roof off to allow the sun on your neck.
While you steering using a steering wheel, it’s classed as a motorbike so, unlike the aforementioned Ariel Atom which has all the disadvantages of a car combined with the disadvantages of a motorbike (you get cold and wet, and you can’t use the transit lanes), the Carver has the advantages of both. It does mean you need a full motorbike license, though, and you’ll end up paying slightly higher registration fees because of that.
Why would you buy a Carver One? If you’re in two minds about the practicality of it, then you haven’t quite got the concept. You’re going to buy it for one of three reasons: you want an unusual and unique toy and 95 grand for you is not a problem; you own a business and you want a high-visibility sign-written car and having the Carver is like a roving retina magnet; or you’ve had motorbikes as a hobby for years and now you’ve decided that getting cold and wet is for the young ‘uns but you still want the exhilaration of scything your way through the bends on a lean. Those are the only reasons I can think of. You won’t be using it to take the kids to school, go shopping, or transport tools to renovate your bach. It’s a fun toy or a business decision, plain and simple. But be prepared to wait: Carver produces just three a week, and demand is running high.
See the Carver on display at Big Boys Toys, 9-11 November at the ASB Showgrounds, Greenlane, Auckland.
Price: approximately $95,000
What we like
- Engine noise is nice
What we don’t like
- Cramped passenger space
- Engine quite loud in the back
Words and photos Darren Cottingham