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.

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Ariel range

Driven this week

  • DS 3 Crossback 2019 road test review - hero front
    19 July 2019
    Car review
    French premium brand gets PSA’s new supermini platform first. Does it deliver...
  • BMW 318d front three quarters on the road
    18 July 2019
    First Drive
    Entry-level diesel is likeable addition to range but doesn't live up to...
  • MG ZS EV 2019 UK first drive review - hero front
    17 July 2019
    First Drive
    Cheap, spacious and all-round endearing electric version of MG's ZS soft...

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

Explore the Ariel range

Driven this week

  • DS 3 Crossback 2019 road test review - hero front
    19 July 2019
    Car review
    French premium brand gets PSA’s new supermini platform first. Does it deliver...
  • BMW 318d front three quarters on the road
    18 July 2019
    First Drive
    Entry-level diesel is likeable addition to range but doesn't live up to...
  • MG ZS EV 2019 UK first drive review - hero front
    17 July 2019
    First Drive
    Cheap, spacious and all-round endearing electric version of MG's ZS soft...