The inspiration behind the Nomad is not hard to fathom. Every big-wheeled, lightweight off-roader that preceded it – an archive of misfits that includes everything from beach buggies to extreme sandrails – was about fulfilling that impulse to abandon the road’s well-trodden path and slither excitedly off into the dirt, dust and joy of the unknown.

Unsurprisingly, the idea of taking the Atom concept off-piste has been percolating in Somerset for quite some time. Ariel is not based in a town or city. Its factory is situated in countryside as verdant as a Thomas Hardy poem.

Outside of work, many of the firm’s staff can be found ploughing through it, aboard motor and mountain bikes or motley 4x4s. The leap, then, to remaking the Atom as a marauding byway muncher is not a monumental one.

But nor was it entirely simple or easy. Ariel began work on the Nomad at about the same time as it began to develop its motorbike and, for a small company, spreading its resources between the two must have been a stretch. It also found itself limited by its own perfectionism.

Rather than carry over as many Atom parts as possible and fit knobbly tyres for a bit of gravel road ability, Ariel incorporated a new Honda engine and experimented with hugely expensive (and brilliant) World Rally Championship-spec Ohlins dampers. As a result, the Nomad’s lineage is plainly recognisable, but this is a different machine from the one made famous by track days and TV shows.

That’s a good thing, because Ariel is entering a niche within a niche now and the Nomad’s tiny pocket of buyers will almost certainly be putting its muddy-stuff potential repeatedly to the test.

Moreover, because it still looks like an Atom and continues to drive the rear wheels alone, they’ll expect it to still thrill on the road. Covering all of those bases while continuing to travel at a suitably mighty clip is where the Nomad departs from practically anything that has gone before.

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Subaru XV
    First Drive
    11 December 2017
    Second-generation XV sits on a new platform and is safer and more refined than before, but it suffers from the same problems that plagued its predecessor
  • Mini Cooper S Works 210
    Car review
    8 December 2017
    Mini splits the difference between Cooper S and John Cooper Works, and what a revelation it is
  • Seat Ibiza
    First Drive
    8 December 2017
    Does the Seat Ibiza deserve class honours ahead of the Ford Fiesta? We spend six months with one to discover just that
  • Alpine A110
    First Drive
    7 December 2017
    The Alpine A110 is back. We witness the rebirth of the French sports car maker and drive the wonderful A110, one of the best driver's cars in years
  • Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate
    First Drive
    7 December 2017
    The Mercedes-Benz E-Class could be all the estate car you’ll ever want — or it could be overkill. Let’s see which...