Lotus Elise

The Essentials

  • Price from £28,580
  • What Car? says: 3 star rating
  • Fuel economy: up to 44.8mpg
  • What is it? A proper stripped-down sports car that you could, at a push, use everyday.


  • Absolutely jaw-achingly brilliant to drive
  • Handles beautifully and the ride doesn't rattle your teeth
  • Grips to the road like my Scottish friend to his last fiver


  • Getting the roof up and down is fiddly and a waste of valuable driving time
  • High risk of knicker-flashing as you get in and out
  • Rear visibility is almost non-existent
  • Drive

    Fantastic grip and guaranteed racing thrills every time you go out, plus lots of noise

  • Inside

    Just what you need to feel like you're inside a racing car, including the awkward access

  • Safety

    Only two airbags and anti-lock brakes as standard. Pay extra for traction control

  • Reliability

    Toyota engine should be rock-solid, and bodywork feels built to last, too

  • Space

    Fine for two, as long as they pack light. Shame raising and lowering the roof is such a faff

  • Standard and extras

    Just the bare minimum, to keep the weight down

  • What's it like to drive?

    Awesome: this is what driving is all about. The 1.6-litre engine needs revving to perform but there's so much grip you'll stick to corners at any speed (don't take your foot off the throttle half way round though, unless you want to spin off). You might expect a teeth-rattling ride in such a sporty car, but it's surprisingly comfortable. Bring earplugs instead: it's very noisy, even with the roof on, which is tedious on long journeys.

  • What's it like inside?

    The minimalist display is neatly arranged with digital readouts and cabin styling all fitting the race-car brief. It's easy to settle into a comfortable driving position, once you've actually got into the car, which isn't an elegant operation. The Elise isn't pretending to be a practical family car, but the boot will hold a couple of bags. It's just a shame that taking the roof up and down is such a palaver.

  • How reliable is it?

    Toyota has supplied the engine, and we're confident that reliability will be good. A three-year warranty is now standard with the Lotus.
    Safety kit is minimalist - two airbags are fitted but stability control will cost extra.

  • Should I buy one?

    Prices are comparable to a BMW Z4 Roadster, but when it comes to the pace to petrol ratio, the Elise really impresses. It's almost a second quicker in the 0-60mph dash, but uses less petrol and emits less CO2. If your lifestyle allows, we can think of fewer more entertaining ways to travel for this money.