Lotus Elise roadster
Price £27,500 - £36,200
- Great to drive
- Decent fuel economy
- Impressive performance
- Expensive to buy
- Cramped interior
- Lack of standard equipment
At a glance
"With its incredible handling and thrilling performance, the Lotus Elise has proved one of the most successful and popular British sports cars of its generation."
With its exceptional handling, thrilling performance and unique styling, the Lotus Elise has proved to be one of the most successful British sports cars of its generation. List prices aren't cheap, but power comes from a Toyota sourced 1.8-litre 134bhp engine, which offers impressive performance. Weighing only 860kg it is some 300kg lighter than the Mazda MX-5, meaning it shouldn't cost the world to run, either. Both the Lotus Elise and Lotus Elise Club Racer will manage 45mpg, while even the top-of-the-range SC will do 37.5mpg. The latter is almost unheard of from a sports car that can do the 0-62mph sprint in 4.6 seconds.
MPG, running costs & CO2
The Elise will do 40mpg and is actually surprisingly affordable to run
Apart from the initial cost of purchasing an Elise they are actually surpsingly affordable to run. Expect fuel economy of around 40mpg which is may not sound like a lot but is excellent for a sportscar like this. You'll also benefit from a two year warranty, which is extendable at any reputable Lotus dealer. High-ish CO2 emissions do mean that annual road tax can be quite expensive, though.
Interior & comfort
The Elise has a hard ride but comfort is okay
Once you actually manage to get inside, the Elise is very comfortable for such a tiny sportscar. Wind noise is not too distracting either, while the stiff suspension does take some getting used too. There is also the option of adding a Touring Pack if you desire extra comfort and this includes leather seat trim, electric windows and further noise insulation.
Practicality & boot space
Getting into and out of the Elise is no easy feat, while boot space is minimal
One of the biggest problems with the Elise is its poor levels of practicality. It's low ride height and wide sills make getting into and out of the Elise extremely awkward and once inside cabin space is non existent. Driven from the rear the boot at the front is tiny and the rear parcel shelf is not of that much use either.
Reliability & safety
Robust Toyota engine means that the Elise is built to last
In the past Lotuses have been associated with poor levels of reliability but this is no longer an issue. The current Elise has a sturdy shell built from a mixture of aluminium and plastic composite. While under the bonnet the 1.8-litre Toyota engine is about as tough and reliable as it gets.
Engines, drive & performance
Few cars can match the Elise for character and fun
Very few cars can match the Elise for its fun driving credentials. Thanks to its lightweight frame, compact layout and and rear-engined driving arrangemnt, the Elise is unbelievably agile and direct. Offering a go-kart like driving experience, the steering is incedibly precise and there is lots of feedback through the steering wheel. There are three models to choose from, but even the basic model feels fun to drive and exceptionally fast thanks to the low-slung driving position. The ride is acceptable for a car of this ilk, but being in such a tight cabin can get a little tiring on longer motorway journeys.
Price, value for money & options
It isn't cheap to buy, but few cars are more fun to drive
The latest version of the Elise is the most refined and comfortable so far. At just under £30,000 for the entry-level model it is expensive for such an awkward and quirky two-seater, but few cars offer as much driver thrills, head turning looks and reasonable running costs. Take all this into account and you'll struggle to feel short changed.
What the others say
The basic design of the Elise is now over 12 years old, but the compact convertible wears its age well. A thorough facelift in 2000 resulted in a more aggressive look, although the car retains the same strong and lightweight extruded aluminium chassis. Buyers get a choice of three trim levels: S, R and supercharged SC. All cars get alloy wheels, while the range-topping SC is distinguished by a neat rear spoiler.
The original Elise saw Lotus return to sports cars with a bang. The new car improves on that further but retains the same key ingredients - a light weight body, high-revving engines and superb handling. This is an old-school approach to sports cars.
Replacing the K-series is no easy job - it's compact, light and offers good performance for its capacity - but fortunately much of the groundwork had already been done. With all the mounting and transmission issues already sorted for the 1.8-litre Toyota VVTL-i unit used in the R, it made sense to return to Toyota to power the new Elise S.