Lotus Europa Coupe review (2006-2010)
The Europa S is great to drive, but it's simply too unrefined to live with day-to-day.
With plenty of torque and very little lag, the Europa's turbocharged Vauxhall 2.0-litre is much more responsive low-down than the Elise's Toyota-sourced unit. It doesn't need to be revved to within an inch of its life to extract the best performance. The longer-geared six-speed gearbox helps, making the Lotus much easier to drive at low speeds. Weighing only 995kg, the Europa is a fast car. It covers 0-60mph in 5.6 seconds, and posts impressive in-gear acceleration times. Lotus has worked hard on the Europa's suspension and damper settings, so the ride is softer than the Elise's and it's a little less jarring over uneven road surfaces. But it is also far from relaxing. This isn't a car for long journeys - the seats are too thinly padded, noise levels are high and at no time do you ever feel properly insulated from the outside world. But Lotus makes no apologies for the fact that this is still a track-inspired sports car, and that's evident in the handling. The steering is superb; turn-in is sharp, cornering is precise and body control is fantastic. Not even a Porsche Cayman feels as responsive and as eager to drive.
Looks familiar? Even the untrained eye won't have any difficulty spotting that the Europa takes its cues from two previous Lotus products - the Elise and Vauxhall VX220. Bosses are keen to distance the newcomer, but it's based on the same aluminium chassis and has an identical wheelbase to the VX. Still, every panel of this model is different. The aggressive shark-nose front and distinctive headlights look great, while the roof and rear hatch window - through which you can see the engine - are neat. But the back, with its awkward combination of curved lines and letterbox vents under the tail lights, is a bit fussy. Lotus facelifted the Europa in 2007, giving it a better-quality interior in response to criticisms of the original.
Compared with the Elise, the Europa is practical; the 154-litre boot is 42 litres bigger. But it's still a little disappointing, as there's barely enough room to get a couple of weekend bags in the shallow space. Annoyingly, the tailgate can be opened only with the key, too. In order to make the Europa S more versatile, Lotus has boosted cabin room by increasing the opening height. Consequently, the door aperture is now 55mm taller, but that doesn't have much effect on getting in or out of the car - it's still a struggle. Nor does the interior create a luxury atmosphere. In fact, it's lifted virtually lock, stock and barrel from the old VX220, and feels more like a stripped-out sports car than a refined grand tourer. Fuel economy is also poor - we averaged 23.1mpg - and the tiny 43.5-litre tank yields a meagre range. Insurance is a horrific group 20, though retained values are good.