The Elise uses a 1.6-litre Toyota engine, but even though the car is light, its 134bhp isn't quite enough to excite. Come up behind another car and you need a decent amount of space and planning before you can get past, which is frustrating in a sports car.
The Elise set new standards for cars of this type with its superlative grip and a surprisingly comfortable ride. Its sharp, accurate steering is more communicative than the average after-dinner speaker, while the suspension is not rock-solid, and country roads can be attacked with verve. The brakes are a perfect match for the pace, but you should be wary of unsettling the rear if you lift the throttle mid-corner.
Don’t expect the Elise to have a cosseting, hushed cabin. Even with the optional hard top in place, wind noise whistles around the cockpit and the engine produces a constant drone, which can prove extremely tiresome over long distances. All of the controls feel precise and well-weighted, however.
The idea of possessing a Lotus as an everyday car used to be completely ridiculous. The Elise, however, gives excellent fuel economy for such a sporting car. Its residuals are strong and the 2011 car now comes with a three-year warranty, rather than the two-year cover previous models had.
Lotus cars of old had a reputation for being fragile, but the Elise blows that right out of the water. Its plastic composite body is tough as old boots and the aluminium chassis has proved to be rugged. Toyota supplies the 1.6-litre engine, so it should be bullet-proof, while the build quality of the Elise is top-notch.
The Elise comes with an alarm and immobiliser as standard. On the safety side, you get driver and passenger airbags, plus anti-lock brakes as standard, but you have to specify traction control at extra cost.
There’s not a whole heap to look at from behind the wheel of an Elise. What there is, though, is brilliantly laid out in a neat, race-car-style dash with digital read-outs. The steering wheel is fixed, but the seat is comfortable and the driving position is superb. Cabin stowage is minimal, however.
Many people will scoff at the concept of a mid-engined sports car being even remotely practical. However, the Lotus does have a boot behind the engine, which is big enough for two soft bags, and there’s room in the cabin for two six-footers. What does let things down is the fiddly hood that takes an age to raise and lower.
This car is about excitement rather than comfort, so whichever version you buy, you'll get a similarly miserly amount of kit, which includes alloy wheels, central locking, a leather steering wheel and a CD player. There's a variety of option packs to fill the gaps, but you'll still pay more on top if you want to add air-conditioning.
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