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What Car? says

3 out of 5 stars

For The Exige provides outstanding grip and a sensational drive

Against It’s impractical for everyday motoring and noisy at speed

Verdict It's not everyone's cup of tea, but on B-roads, the Exige is a blast

Go for… The Series II, launched in 2004

Avoid… Cars that have spent too long on trackdays

Lotus Exige Coupe
  • 1. Ask the seller about what the car has been used for, and about any damage or repairs
  • 2. The brake discs need changing every 10,000 miles, the clutch soon after and the suspension needs to be regularly overhauled
  • 3. Take time to check out the seating position. The steering rack doesn’t adjust, so make sure you can get comfortable
  • 4. Practicality? You must be joking - storage space is virtually non-existent
  • 5. On early cars, fuel can leak from the petrol tank during cornering
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Lotus Exige Coupe full review with expert trade views

Despite what Lotus will tell you to the contrary, this is much more of a weekend plaything than an everyday car. It's a hard-topped two-seater, and the low doors mean getting in and out requires gymnastic levels of flexibility.

However, once you finally have established yourself behind the wheel, it’s fantastic fun. The bucket seats hold you firmly in place, although some fuller-bodied people may find them too narrow.

On the motorway, the experience is noisy and unpleasant, but everywhere else it’s noisy and brilliant. Find a twisty back road and the Exige will put a smile on your face; grip and cornering ability are sensational. The turn-in and steering feedback are what driving are all about.

This car's not the place for a romantic chat; despite the claustrophobic nature of the cabin, you’ll struggle to hear yourself or the audio system. Storage space is virtually non-existent.

Trade view

Kurtis Williams

A road-legal race car. One of the finest handling cars in the world

Kurtis Williams
Buyer,
Lex Vehicle Leasing

The first Exige went on sale in summer 2000, and 583 were sold before production ended in spring 2001. The car was powered by a 177bhp version of Rover’s 1.8-litre K-series engine. It’s extremely noisy in the cabin and, despite basic air-con, it gets pretty hot.

As a result, we recommend the Exige S2 (Series Two), which went on sale in 2004, and was a much bigger seller. With a slightly softer body design, it was meant to be a more usable road car. Powered by a 1.8-litre Toyota engine, it delivers 189bhp.

The Touring Pack adds leather and carpets, while Super Touring gives a slightly different interior, airbags and even a cupholder. The Sports Pack means racing seats and a roll bar, and Super Sports equals adjustable dampers and lightweight alloy wheels. In 2005, came the limited-edition Sport Exige 240R, which offered 243bhp. A year later, Lotus launched the 218bhp Exige S.

Trade view

John Owen

Fantastic performance. If you can afford the insurance do it

John Owen
Buyer,
Fords of Winsford

Lotus is a proper sports car maker with a proud history, and you don’t buy one expecting the same running costs as a top-selling hatchback. The numbers built, coupled with their desirability, mean the Exige holds its value well.

That said, owning one is not as scary a proposition as you might expect. The car is rated in the maximum group 20 for insurance, but consider limited mileage policies to keep the premium down if it’s not your everyday transport.

You’ll struggle to get too close to the official fuel economy of 30mpg, but the mid-20s isn’t bad for a car that can hit 60mph in under five seconds.

The biggest cost will come from servicing, which is a specialist job. It’s needed every 6000 miles. Try not to crash, either; parts are pricey and insurance firms often end up writing an Exige off rather than getting it fixed.

Trade view

Kurtis Williams

A road-legal race car. One of the finest handling cars in the world

Kurtis Williams
Buyer,
Lex Vehicle Leasing

Because this is essentially a track car that’s road-legal, look for evidence of any history on the circuit. Ask the seller about what it has been used for, and about any damage or repairs. Take a good look at the service history, too. The brake discs need changing every 10,000 miles, the clutch soon after and the suspension needs to be regularly overhauled.

On early cars, fuel can leak from the petrol tank during cornering, and the catalytic converter can overheat after a misfire. There was also an issue with brakepipe chafing, and the possibility of the gearstick snapping off if you’re too aggressive with your changes.

On a personal level, take time to check out the seating position. The steering rack doesn’t adjust so make sure you can get comfortable and your knees are out of the way.

Trade view

John Owen

Fantastic performance. If you can afford the insurance do it

John Owen
Buyer,
Fords of Winsford
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