Used buyer's guide: Lotus Europa

20 Nov, 2012 11:00am Richard Dredge

The Vauxhall-engined Lotus Europa is great fun... if you can find one


Despite its exotic looks, the Europa is affordable to buy and run, thanks to its relatively small engine. Only 458 were built, so these are rare cars: if you want one, you’ll have to look hard. Your best bet is join a forum or owners’ club and get to know the cars and people, as many Europas – particularly the best ones – change hands without being advertised publicly. Europa ownership demands compromises that Porsche fans wouldn’t put up with, but if you want something different that’s great to drive, this car’s ideal.

What to look for

• The Europa needs attention from an expert. Check there’s a full service history and see who’s done the work.
• Lack of refinement makes long-distance drives tiring. Parking can be strenuous, as there’s no power-steering.
• Air-con condenser (next to the radiator) corrodes, then leaks. Repairs cost over £1,000.

If you’ve got a large frame or suffer from back problems, you’ll find getting in and out of the Europa a pain. Despite its grand tourer pretensions, some owners reckon the Europa isn’t much more refined than the hardcore Exige. A Lotus is bought for its dynamics, and if it’s driven as intended, the brakes and tyres will have taken a beating, so check there’s some life left in them.

Don’t walk away from cars that have been improved – entry-level models upgraded to SE aren’t unusual. A genuine SE costs nearly £200 more per year to tax because of its higher CO2 figure.


The Lotus Europa has only been recalled once so far, which is pretty good when you consider that the first examples came out of the factory more than six years ago and it’s a low-volume sports car. The recall was issued in June 2009 and affected Europas built between January and May of that year.

The problem centred on the rear wheel hubs of the first cars produced; their retaining bolts may not have been tightened up sufficiently on the production line. As a result the wheels could come off, but the fix was simple: the bolts just needed to be tightened up.

Check out the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) website for up-to-date recall information.

Driver Power

Our view:
Lotus doesn’t sell enough cars to feature in our annual Driver Power satisfaction survey, but owners tell us that the Europa compensates for its sub-standard quality and reliability with great handling and performance.

Your view:
Saj Mohammad from West Lothian uses his Europa all year. He says: “My Europa is unusual and cheap for its performance, and reliable, comfortable and practical. A bigger fuel tank and a sportier exhaust note would be nice.”


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