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

  • Ariel Nomad
    Ariel Nomad is powered by a tweaked 2.4-litre normally aspirated Honda engine

    Ariel Nomad

    1
  • Morgan 3 Wheeler
    The new Morgan 3 Wheeler is a characterful, evocative and terrifically fun car to drive

    Morgan 3 Wheeler

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

    Caterham Seven

    3
  • Ariel Atom
    The Ariel Atom is superbike-fast, and as exhilarating as cars get

    Ariel Atom

    4
  • Zenos E10 S

    Zenos E10

    5

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Lotus range

Driven this week

  • Car review
    23 September 2016
    Aston kicks off its ‘second century plan’ with an all-new turbo V12 grand tourer
  • Ford Ka+ 1.2 Ti-VCT 85
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    A rounded, refined and well-sorted bargain supermini – once you’re used to the confusing role redefinition imposed on the once-cheeky Ka
  •  Maserati Ghibli Diesel
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    Maserati releases another range of updates for its range best seller, the Ghibli. We've driven the diesel version, but there's little improvement on before
  • Tipo Front
    First Drive
    21 September 2016
    New Fiat Tipo offers impressive space and practicality for a reasonable price. We try the 1.6 diesel on the demanding roads of North Wales
  • Seat Ateca 1.4 TSI 150
    First Drive
    20 September 2016
    The Seat Ateca 1.4 TSI 150 makes perfect sense: it's spacious, tidy to drive for an SUV and cheap to run