Lotus Elise review

Our Rating: 
4
4.0/5.0
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

Lightweight Lotus Elise sports car priorities handling and performance above all else

For: 
Performance, running costs, handling
Against: 
Practicality, comfort, refinement

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The Lotus Elise has come to represent everything that Lotus cars stand for. It's lightweight, stripped-out, agile and communicative, making it one of the finest handling cars on the road. All that performance and pin-sharp handling comes at the expense of practicality, comfort and refinement, though. At the time of writing Lotus offers two variants of the Elise – the standard car powered by a 1.6-litre engine and the more powerful Elise S with a 217bhp 1.8-litre engine. 

Our choice: Lotus Elise S 1.8

Styling

3.8

The Elise is low, compact and stylish. In 2011 it was updated slightly to include LED daytime running lights in the headlamps and now it looks more modern than ever. The interior is as spartan as you might expect from such a lightweight car but it is pleasing to the eye. Build quality could do with being slightly better though.

Driving

4.8

The Lotus Elise is available with a 1.6-litre 134bhp engine or a 1.8-litre 217bhp in the Elise S. Acceleration from 0-62mph takes 6.5 seconds and 4.6 seconds respectively. The Elise is also one of the few cars on the road with no power steering, which results in a fantastic accuracy and amount of feel through the wheel. The featherweight car is also extremely agile and the Elise is often praised as one of the finest handling cars on the road. Ride quality is pretty good but wind and road noise are a big problem.

Reliability

3.8

It's fair to say that Lotus doesn't have the best reputation for reliability, but the Elise has always been very trouble free. The car is made from mostly plastic and aluminium so there has never been any problems with rust. In its more recent forms the Elise is safer than ever with traction control and ABS fitted as standard. It hasn't been tested by EuroNCAP though so there's no official word on how safe it really is.

Practicality

1.1

The Elise is an absolutely tiny car so practicality is very poor, in fact the only load area is just 117 litres. The cabin itself is also a tight squeeze, not to mention difficult to access in the first place. The car sits so low to the ground and the door sills are so wide that it'll take a few practice entries and exits before you look like a natural.

Running Costs

4.5

Go for the standard Elise and the relatively small engine and lightweight body mean fuel economy is an amazing 45mpg. The more extreme Elise S is equally as surprising, with supercar performance but a fuel-sipping 37.5mpg figure. CO2 emissions aren't bad either, with just 175g/km. A warranty covers the car for three years and unlimited mileage while the chassis is covered for eight years in total. That should help keep running costs down too.

Last updated: 5 May, 2012
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