New Lotus Elise Review

Back-to-basics convertible sports car with no frills

This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car
  • Great fun
  • ‘Pure’ driving experience
  • Cheap to run
  • Little safety equipment
  • Not a lot of standard kit
  • Obvious practicality issues

£31,580 - £54,805 Price range

2 Seats

33 - 45 MPG


It may have been around in one form or another since 1996, but the ethos behind the Elise is as sound as ever – a basic, no-frills sports car that relies on light weight rather than huge power to grant it high performance, and excellent handling.

It won’t make for the most practical addition to your driveway however, but if you’re looking for a rewarding and entertaining car you could do far worse than to invest in this classic lump of Norfolk fibreglass.

There’s not actually much interior to talk about, and just as the basic concept has changed little since launch, so too has the interior remained largely the same. You do get carpets, a radio and slightly comfier seats now, but it’s all relative.

The cabin is still an unrefined place to sit, testers note that the plastics would be poor in a £10k supermini, and it’s a struggle to get in and out. The boot is also pretty small. On the plus side, the driving position is great and the roof less fiddly than before.

Bottom-line is that the inside of the Elise is unrefined and impractical, which is probably everything Lotus enthusiasts would expect it to be.

According to one test, Lotus spent several weeks trying to improve the ride and handling of the Elise, only to find it was perfect to begin with. That about sums up the reviews – the Elise is variously described as “pure”, “thrilling” and “one of the most enjoyable cars in the UK to drive”.

The unassisted steering offers perfect feel, there’s plenty of grip, and it rides better than many family cars. It’s equally happy pottering around town as it is on a race track or B-road.

If you have been searching for the purist of driving experiences without having to shell out ludicrous sums of money on something extraordinarily exotic and possibly Italian, you may have found it in the fun but dated Elise.

There are a few engine options in the Elise, all of which are Toyota units. The range kicks off with a 1.6-litre petrol. Some testers complain it’s a little less torquey than the old 1.8, but the payoff is 45mpg combined, and it still spins nicely to the rev limiter. The six-speed gearbox is now much slicker too.

Move up a notch to the Elise R and you get a 1.8, and for maximum performance, you can get a 1.8 supercharged unit. Even the basic Elise gets to 60mph in six seconds, but the larger-engined cars really are rapid – the supercharged variant does 60mph in only 4.4 seconds, and 150mph.

In true Toyota style, and with considerable help from the car’s lack of weight, the economy of the two engines is also impressive, with the 1.6 delivering a combined figure of 45 mpg.

The Elise struggles a bit on value. Even the basic variant is a £28,000 car these days, which puts it perilously close to the wider talents of cars like the Porsche Boxster. The Elise certainly doesn’t have the quality of a near-£30k car either.

However, depreciation is usefully low (even very early Elises are still worth a pretty penny), economy surprisingly good (so running costs should be low) and the Elise still offers a lot of performance for the money. Consider it an investment and the purchase price looks less of an issue.

Many cars get better the more you spend on them. The Elise is different – virtually every tester would plump for the basic Elise. The others are faster, but they also cost more and don’t offer proportionately greater thrills. The Elise is all about having fun with as little as possible.


The basic Elise package is still a brilliant one, which is why the car still gets excellent reviews despite some glaring quality flaws and a high purchase price.

It’s well worth recommending, but if you want a few more creature comforts you may be better seeking out a Porsche Boxster.