In 1996 the Elise reinvigorated Lotus and was welcomed with open arms. It marked a return to the late founder Colin Chapman’s ideals that cars should be as light as possible and it weighed just an incredible 690 Kg. Since then the weight has gradually increased to 924 Kg for the current mark 3 car, which is still very light but not as light as it once was.
Given that the Elise has been around for so long Lotus has got away with very few updates. The latest however utilises a Toyota derived 1.8-litre engine which benefits from a supercharger producing more power than the previous entry level Elise which had to make do with a 1.6 litre unit.
With 237 bhp on tap and 181 lb.ft from 3,000 – 7000 rpm this might be the entry point to Lotus ownership but with only 924 kg to lug around performance is of the fully paid up sports car variety. Combined with a close ratio six-speed gearbox it is easy to keep the engine on the boil and with the 62 mph dash dispensed in a little over 4 seconds there is a strong case to be made for this being all the performance you need on the road.
Handling has always been the Elise’s trump card. The balance is fantastic whilst the steering provides genuine feedback. Few cars can be hustled with as much confidence as the Elise. When the limit of grip is reached it’s easy to adjust the balance with steering or power inputs. Despite the fantastic handling, ride comfort is amazingly good too.
The Elise remains one of the most accessible sports cars. It’s relatively affordable, but sadly much more expensive than it once was, and drivers of all levels will get rewards from the fantastic chassis. Whilst still requiring some dedication, the modern Lotus Elise is comfortable enough to use every day and remains a great track day tool. It remains the benchmark for small sports cars.