The Lotus Elise first appeared in 1996 and revolutionised small sports car design with its lightweight extruded aluminium chassis and composite body. There have been many variations, but the basic principle remain the same.

The latest updates, made in 2011, have included new headlights and tail-lights, improved aerodynamics, new alloy wheel designs and an extension of the warranty from two years to three and 36,000 miles.

The plainly named Lotus Elise (there’s no derivative badging) is the base model, and gets a  1.6-litre Toyota engine with variable valve lift as well as variable valve timing. It complies with Euro 5 emissions regulations, and delivers 118lb ft of torque and 134bhp. The combination of the new engine and revised gearing has produced a 16 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions. That makes this the lowest-emitting petrol-powered sports car currently on sale. A lightweight Elise CR also uses the new 1.6-litre engine, while the car is available in base, Sport, Touring and SPort Touring trims.

The Lotus Elise S is powered by a 1.8-litre Toyota sourced engine, force fed by a Magnuson supercharger. It develops 217bhp and 184lb ft of torque, while still weighing considerably less than a tonne.

Top 5 Lightweights

  • The new Morgan 3 Wheeler is a characterful, evocative and terrifically fun car to drive

    Morgan 3 Wheeler

    1
  • The Ariel Atom is superbike-fast, and as exhilarating as cars get

    Ariel Atom

    2
  • The Caterham Seven is the essence of a stripped-down sports car

    Caterham Seven

    3
  • Road-going version of the racing Elise. Suspension mods help make it an unbridled joy.

    Lotus Elise S Cup

    4
  • Zenos E10 S

    5

First drives

Videos

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • First Drive
    3 July 2015
    Charming four-door city car gets Smart's new six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, in a bid to make the Forfour more versatile
  • First Drive
    2 July 2015
    First UK drive in the latest-generation MX-5 reveals an iconic roadster that's back to its best
  • First Drive
    2 July 2015
    Extra firepower and pared-down kerb weight conjure even greater brilliance from the Boxster's chassis. Pricey – but superb to drive
  • BMW's prototype fuel cell concept is based on the 5GT
    First Drive
    1 July 2015
    Fuel cell-powered 5 Series GT concept previews a revolutionary storage and refuelling system which could pave the way for hydrogen to become the alternative fuel of choice
  • First Drive
    1 July 2015
    There's another BMW 2 Series variant on the horizon; we drive a late-stage prototype plug-in hybrid Active Tourer