Lotus Europa S

Lotus's Europa S is more practical than the Elise and will have no trouble finding buyers

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

If you’re in the market for a refined sports car, the Europa S isn’t it. It’s still a true Lotus, with direct steering, a firm ride and track-inspired handling. The looks aren’t quite right, but it is more practical than the Elise and features a punchy, turbocharged engine. With only limited sales, Lotus should have no trouble finding buyers prepared to pay the £5,000 extra over an Elise.

Want to drive a Lotus, but think the Elise is too impractical and the Esprit far too expensive? The good news is that the Norfolk-based manufacturer claims it has the answer with this – the Europa S.

Designed as a more versatile, comfortable and refined alternative to the firm’s little roadster, but without losing its fun appeal, the hard-top Europa goes on sale next month, priced £32,995.

Positioned against rivals such as Audi’s TT, BMW’s Z4 M Coupé and the Porsche Cayman, the Europa S is being launched into a tough market. Can it compete, and is it still an uncomprom­ising machine for enthusiasts? Auto Express took a test drive to find out.

One thing’s for sure when you lay eyes on it for the first time: it’s not quite as elegant as the Elise. There’s nothing wrong at the front – the new headlights and air intakes look great – while the roof and rear window are neat, too. But the fussy rear end spoils things.

Based on the same aluminium chassis as the Elise, yet with a slightly longer wheelbase, the Europa S offers a little more room inside. A taller roof makes access easier, while the boot capacity goes up from 112 to 154 litres.

Luxury

Inside, there’s more equipment, too, and a greater emphasis on luxury. Leather upholstery, air-con and satellite navigation are all standard, although the cabin is largely unchanged from that of the Elise, and is still more stripped-out sports car than sophisticated coupé.

Factor in the roof, plus the extra kit, and weight has increased 135kg to 995kg. But with a new 197bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged engine from Vauxhall, the Europa S still covers 0-60mph in 5.6 seconds, 0-100mph in 13.6 seconds and has a top speed of 150mph.

With lots of torque, very little turbo lag and a longer-geared six-speed transmission, the new model is far less frantic than the Elise, but it still feels very fast. However, it’s a shame Lotus didn’t fit a V6, which would have made a better noise and proved more powerful.

Nevertheless, the Europa S is quite refined, and with slightly softer suspen­sion, there’s definitely more compliancy to the ride, which means long journeys are a less tiring proposition. But Lotus makes no apologies for the fact that this is still a track-inspired sports car, with lightning reactions.

While this model won’t really appeal to mainstream buyers, it’s certainly an intriguing newcomer that should be a hit with Lotus fans wanting more practicality. And it promises to be a rare sight, too. The brand expects to sell only 500 models worldwide a year, making the Europa S a very exclusive coupé.

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