Norfolk-built flier still at the top of its game
Thrilling, long-lasting and copied the world over – the Lotus Elise is the best British sports car of the modern era. When it comes to pure driving pleasure, few models match the Norfolk legend.
Built at the Hethel factory, the lightweight Elise took the market by storm on its debut in 1996. With a hi-tech extruded aluminium chassis, the roadster had a mix of agility and performance that left competitors trailing.
And despite its age, the mid-engined Lotus still runs rings around rivals. A mid-life facelift has freshened the looks, while a comfortable cabin and air-con make it a genuine daily driver.
But the Elise is at its best out of town. The direct, unassisted steering is full of feedback, while the suspension serves up strong body control in bends and a supple ride over bumps. There’s plenty of pace, too. The 1.8-litre Toyota engine offers only 134bhp, yet this base S model covers 0-60mph in 5.8 seconds. That’s down to the low 860kg kerbweight – nearly 300kg less than a Mazda MX-5!
There’s also a 189bhp Elise R and a 217bhp supercharged SC – but all return more than 30mpg. In addition, the Elise forms the basis of the track-biased Exige and 2-Eleven, as well as the more luxurious Europa coupé. Fun, fast and innovative, the Lotus remains unbeatable
In this review
- 1IntroductionWe fly the flag with eight of the finest new cars money can buy – all of which are assembled in factories on these shores!
- 2MINIRetro model is triumph of style and driving fun
- 3Aston Martin VantageV8 stunner is one of the world’s best supercars
- 4Honda CivicUK-built hatch leads the way in family class
- 5Land Rover Freelander IILand Rover continues to set SUV benchmark
- 6Jaguar XFBig cat has caused a stir with one of its best yet
- 7Nissan QashqaiUnconventional family hatch is a surprise hit
- 8Lotus Elise - currently readingNorfolk-built flier still at the top of its game
- 9Toyota AvensisDependable is family estate’s middle name
- 10Facts and figures