Used Lotus Elise 1999 - 2010 review

Category: Sports car

An awesome car to drive, but the roof is murder

Lotus Elise Open (99 - 10)
  • Lotus Elise Open (99 - 10)
  • Lotus Elise Open (99 - 10)
Used Lotus Elise 1999 - 2010 review
Star rating

What's the used Lotus Elise sports like?

Some people buy sports cars for entertainment, some for the image and some because they've got more money than sense. For those who are interested in having the maximum amount of fun at the expense of everything else, the Elise is an excellent, and relatively cheap, car.

Few cars handle as well as the Elise. It has unbelievable grip and superb balance, making any corner a joy to push through. The steering, meanwhile, is a lesson to other car makers in providing feedback.


An awesome car to drive, but the roof is murder

  • Excellent performance and handling
  • Horribly impractical
  • no creature comforts

Performance is terrific, too. Despite having relatively puny engines, the Elise's light weight means that you don't need much power to provide blistering speed. And, that's exactly what you get.

There are downsides, though. There's no room for luggage, the roof is fiddly to take on and off, creature comforts and safety kit are pretty much absent, and it's difficult to get in and out. If you enjoy your driving, though, you just won't care.

Ownership cost

What used Lotus Elise sports will I get for my budget?

How much does it cost to run a Lotus Elise sports?

The Elise is quite an exotic car, so you won't pick one up for peanuts. It's also fairly sought-after, which again doesn't help used prices. However, if you're prepared to settle for the oldest 120bhp model, which is perfectly adequate, then you won't part with a fortune.

Running costs won't be cheap, but if you're buying an Elise, raw driving pleasure is obviously more important to you than fuel economy. That said, the oldest car will still return a very reasonable 39.8mpg, ranging to 32.1mpg for the later 111R.

Insurance bills will make for grim reading, because all versions have a group 20 rating.

Servicing costs will also be horrific. Not only will each visit to the dealer be pricey, but there will also be a lot of visits to make. The Elise needs to be serviced every 6000 miles.

Our recommendations

Which used Lotus Elise sports should I buy?

Pick an early car - which is what we recommend - and the choice is very simple. Your Elise will be powered by a 1.8-litre Rover-sourced engine, which knocks out 120bhp. This may not sound like a great deal but the Elise's lightweight design means that performance is excellent regardless. The 0-60mph sprint will still be covered in 5.6 seconds.

The more powerful 111S was introduced a bit later and uses a 143bhp version of the Rover engine, making it even quicker.

After the car was face-lifted (2000), Lotus brought out the Elise 111R. Instead of the old Rover block this version used the 189bhp engine from the Toyota Celica. Predictably, the 0-60mph time was cut to 4.9 seconds. That's plenty fast enough for most of us.

The later base-level Elises also used Toyota power, this time with 134bhp.


What alternatives should I consider to a used Lotus Elise sports?