Lotus Elise roadster
Price £30,900 - £37,200
- Great to drive
- Decent fuel economy
- Impressive performance
- Expensive to buy
- Cramped interior
- Limited standard equipment
At a glance
"With incredible handling and thrilling performance, the Lotus Elise is one of the most successful and popular British sports cars of its generation."
With exceptional handling, thrilling performance and unique styling, the Lotus Elise is 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, the Elise is some 300kg lighter than a Mazda MX-5, so it shouldn't cost the world to run, either. Both the Lotus Elise and Lotus Elise Club Racer will manage 45mpg economy, and even the top-of-the-range SC will return 37.5mpg. The latter figure is almost unheard of from a sports car that can cover 0-62mph in just 4.6 seconds.
MPG, running costs & CO2
The Elise will return 40mpg and is surprisingly affordable to run
Once you get over the initial high cost of purchasing an Elise, they're actually surpsingly affordable to run. Fuel economy of around 40mpg may not sound all that impressive, but it's excellent for a sports car like this. You'll also benefit from a two-year warranty, which is extendable at any reputable Lotus dealer. On the downside, fairly high CO2 emissions mean that annual road tax can be quite expensive.
Engines, drive & performance
Few cars can match the Elise for character and fun
Very few cars can match the Elise when it comes to driving fun. Thanks to its lightweight body, compact dimensions and and rear-engined layout, the Elise is incredibly agile and direct. It's almost a go-kart-like driving experience, as the steering is incedibly precise and there's lots of feedback through the wheel.
There are three models to choose from, but even the basic Elise feels fun to drive and exceptionally fast thanks to the low-slung driving position. The ride is acceptable for a car of this type, but the tight cabin can get a little tiring on longer motorway journeys.
Interior & comfort
The Elise has a hard ride, but it's still reasonably comfortable
Once you actually manage to get inside, the Elise is very comfortable for such a tiny sports car. The wind noise isn't too distracting, either, but the stiff suspension does take some getting used to. There's also the option of adding a Touring Pack if you want extra comfort. This includes leather seat trim, electric windows and further noise insulation.
Practicality & boot space
Getting in 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 practicality. A low ride height and wide sills make getting in and out of the car extremely awkward, and once you're inside cabin space is very limited. There's a tiny boot at the front and the rear parcel shelf isn't much use, either.
Reliability & safety
Robust Toyota engine means the Elise is built to last
In the past, Lotus has been associated with poor 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 motor is about as tough and reliable as engines get.
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 incarnation to date. Priced at just over £30,000 for the entry-level model, it's expensive for such an awkward and quirky two-seater, but few cars offer this combination of driving thrills, head-turning looks and reasonable running costs. Take all this into account and you won't feel short-changed.