Colin Goodwin
27 August 2008

What is it?

The Mastretta is the first car fully designed and built in Mexico. You could think of it as Mexico’s take on the Lotus Elise: composite body, aluminium-bonded chassis and a mid-mounted powertrain.

The car we’re driving today is very much a pre-production prototype; it’s powered by a Volkswagen TFSI engine, whereas the production cars will have a turbocharged Ford Duratech motor with around 238bhp. The whole car is targeted to weigh 900kg, which puts it right on a par with the Elise.

Lifestyle Cars, which is the European importer, pitches the car in a gap between the Exige and Noble.

What’s it like?

The Mastretta is an interesting looking car, very straight-edged and compact. Looks good in orange, too. Unfortunately this pre-production car is a million miles away from being ready for sale, and not just because it’s fitted with the wrong engine.

The company knows this and provided a list of changes that will be made before the car goes into volume production. It’s a long list that contains most of our observations. But not all of them.

The steering is heavy, with none of the feel of an Elise’s rack; indeed, it feels like a powered rack that’s had its hydraulic pump disconnected. More serious is the rear suspension.

It feels as though there’s a weak bushing in the wishbone to the chassis mountings, as there’s a serious amount of what is almost certainly toe-out in cornering. The car feels seriously unstable at speed in constant-radius corners; it needs sorting.

New brakes are on their way from Hi-Tec, which is good because the units on this car are pretty poor, with barely any pedal feel.

Should I buy one?

Certainly not for a while. The Mastretta has the makings of a nice sports car that’s at the right price, but there’s probably a year’s work needed to sort out all of its deficiencies. The important thing is that Mastretta is aware that it’s got a big job to do. How well it does it will very much define the car’s future sales potential.

Driven this week