Supremely sporty handling is perfect for twisty roads and race tracks, supercharged engine is dynamite
Don't expect any frills: this is a seriously pared-to-the-bone sports car
Two airbags and stability control. That's your lot
The Toyota engine is extremely sturdy, so worry not
Want a cupholder? You'll have to pay extra for it
With the stomach-unsettling ability to shoot from a standing start to 60mph in just 3.8 seconds, the Lotus Exige S is not for the faint-hearted. Along with a sturdy constitution, you'll also need to pack a loudhailer to make yourself heard over the engine. That aside, it's a joy to drive along twisty roads and although the steering and gearchange require a firm hand, once you're up to speed (ideally on a race track) it's thrills all the way. The ride is firm but not uncomfortable for a race-inspired sports car.
Folding yourself into the Lotus Exige is the first challenge. The sporty bucket seats are rather snug and there's limited adjustment so you may have to stretch to reach the clutch pedal if you're under 5' 6". Space is in extremely short supply, even up front, and luggage is best left at home. The removable roof panel on the Roadster version is a fiddle to get on and off. As a pared-to-the-bone sports car the only kit you get is central locking and a CD player; even air-con or a USB socket will cost extra.
The Exige S is robust and Toyota's engines are reliable so it shouldn't leave you languishing in a lay-by. Front airbags and stability control are fitted as standard to help keep you safe, but that's it.
For sheer driving thrills, few cars come close, but at this price we'd be tempted to consider the Porsche Cayman S or BMW M3 - both also fabulous to drive, but offering rather more in the way of creature comforts inside. At least running costs could be moderate thanks to average fuel consumption of 28mpg - assuming you're happy to drive it sensibly at all times.