From £27,500
Base Elise is low emissions but remains high on fun

Our Verdict

Lotus Elise
Toyota-sourced 1.6 as standard, supercharged 1.8 in supercharged S

The Lotus Elise gets a Toyota-sourced 1.6 in a bid to tune mph/mpg mix

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15 April 2010

What is it?

Changes afoot at Lotus. A new top man. New bods all over the shop, come to think of it. And now the first changed product under the new regime – the 2010 Elise.

Step forward Matt Becker, who now works exclusively for Lotus Cars rather than Lotus Engineering, and has been put in charge of whole vehicle validation. In short that means he's responsible for everything about the way Lotuses drive and feel. All of which seems entirely sensible to me.

“We did a three or four week programme to improve the ride and handling,” he says. “But in the end we we kept coming back to the same setting; which is as it was before.”

So, some things don't change. Fine by me. The old Elise S – which Autocar wasn't alone in thinking was the pick of the Elise range – drove as well as any small sports car.

What’s it like?

There's a point where sports cars are just too fast and too grippy to enjoy exploiting on the road. The base Elise had just the right gap between its abilities and that point.

It's a gap that hasn't reduced with the 2010 model. Different now is that the 'S' moniker has been dropped (the base Elise is now just 'Elise'), as has the 1.8-litre Toyota-sourced 1ZZ engine, replaced by another British-built Toyota unit, a 1.6-litre 1ZR unit, developing (more or less) the same 134bhp.

The engine is a tad taller, so a new rear deck joins some other subtle styling modifications that also drop drag by four percent and that, along with the new engine's efficiency, and a leggier six-speed gearbox than the old five-speeder, means that economy and emissions are the sort you'd find on a petrol supermini – 45mpg on the combined cycle and 149g/km. About the same as a 1.4-litre Peugeot 207.

The virtues of an 876kg kerbweight keep on giving, too. Zero to 60mph takes six seconds dead.

To access its full performance potential, you do have to work the newest Elise harder than ever before. Peak power arrives at 6800rpm, past peak torque of 118lb ft at 4400. Still, it's a sports car, so putting the effort in is kinda the point I suppose.

You'll be working it in a lower gear than you might think, too. Fourth on the six-speed unit is where you'd not have been surprised to find fifth/top not so long ago. Less than 4000rpm at 70mph in top wouldn't have felt out of place when the Elise was introduced 14 years ago, yet today there are still two gears to go.

What's more of a pleasure than ever before in an Elise is, finally, the process of changing gears. The lever still flops about a bit in each gear and the console it's attached too wobbles a little if you shake it, but it has been stiffened and lower-friction cables have been used.

The shift quality still can't match that of, say, a Hyundai i10 (not much does), but swapping cogs in an Elise is, for the first time in my memory, something approaching enjoyable. Clutch take-up and the engine's response is smooth, too, as is its willingness to attain and hold high revs.

That ride and handling? Still wonderful, of course. Nothing else rides so well yet is so agile and willing. Nothing touches the deliciousness of the Elise's unassisted steering, either.

Should I buy one?

Some changes, then, but the same outcome. The base Elise is still the best small sports car you'll get your hands on.

Join the debate

Comments
21

16 April 2010

I believe that the 1.8 Series 1 with 120 bhp, less than the current 135 bhp, has a quicker 0-60 of 5.8s.

In the video the tester comments how you've got to work the car that bit harder to get the performance, and review seems to suggest that it's tall geared too. Both aren't good if you're looking for a nippy car!

Seems that if you're after a car which can hold the road then this is still going be superb, but if it's shear thrills you're after you'll have to opt for a more powerful varient.

So, question to Lotus. Why couldn't you put a more powerful 1.8l engine in rather than an enviro 1.6?

16 April 2010

[quote Symanski]

I believe that the 1.8 Series 1 with 120 bhp, less than the current 135 bhp, has a quicker 0-60 of 5.8s.

In the video the tester comments how you've got to work the car that bit harder to get the performance, and review seems to suggest that it's tall geared too. Both aren't good if you're looking for a nippy car!

Seems that if you're after a car which can hold the road then this is still going be superb, but if it's shear thrills you're after you'll have to opt for a more powerful varient.

So, question to Lotus. Why couldn't you put a more powerful 1.8l engine in rather than an enviro 1.6?

[/quote]

The new Elise has 6 gears so i think it will be possible to find the right one for optimum acceleration while driving. And the new one changes gear a lot easier/quicker it seems.

power to weight should be pretty similar for acceleration. the series 1 might be geared better for the 60mph hit. At around 60mph when driving around twisty roads, the new Elise should be better with its extra power and aero efficiency.

But yes it seems its extra weight compared to the series one does hold it back from a standing start.

1.6

0-60mph 6.0

0-62mph 6.5

0-100mph 18.6

max speed 127mph

876kgs kerb weight.

old 1.8 series 1 118bhp

0-60mph 5.5

0-100mph 17.4

max speed 124mph

723kgs kerb weight

16 April 2010

I know it's a given in Autocar-world that Elises Are Good. But I hadn't realised how much money the base model is nowadays.

I can't think off the top of my head what constitutes a good comparison, but that seems like a lot of money for what it is.

16 April 2010

[quote Johnnytheboy]I can't think off the top of my head what constitutes a good comparison, but that seems like a lot of money for what it is. [/quote]

Exactly. There is no comparison. There is nothing else out there to compare with the Elise. If 27K is too much , then buying a S/H one is no shame.

17 April 2010

[quote Autocar]The shift quality still can't match that of, say, a Hyundai i10 (not much does)[/quote]

The elise's gearchange might be questionable, but why not compare it to other sports cars? The comparison to a supermini makes absolutely no sense.

I can see Autocar trying to make a far fetched relationship based on how both cars are very fuel efficient, but still, one is a practical cheap small car, while the other is an impractical small sports car. Apples and oranges, yet they somehow end up being mentioned in the same paragraph. If I want to read bizarre reviews I'll head to Jeremy Clarkson's column in the Times, thankyouverymuch.

And finally, even forgetting how unreasonable the comparison is, is the hyundai's gearchange really THAT good? "Not much" matches the shift quality of the hyundai i10? Really? I've got to test drive one then.

17 April 2010

"The shift quality still can't match that of, say, a Hyundai i10 (not much does)"...Autocar.

----------------

That does it. I'm off to buy myself a Hyundai i-whotsit.

17 April 2010

If you don't get or understand why the Elise is a great car, you are not a car fan...

It does seem a bit pricey, but then a high spec super-mini is 17k+ so thats just me not being able to accept that prices go up and you used to be able to catch a movie and still have money left for bus ride 'ome for only...

18 April 2010

£21,645 brings you a fully loaded Mazda MX5, I contend that this is the best small sports car money can buy. If its performance is not extreme enough, the Mazda/Ford Duratec engine is easy and relatively cheap to tune to a sensible 200bhp. The Mazda offers excellent chassis dynamics, has a great hood, a sensible boot, leather interior, air conditioning, and crucially its easy to get in and out of hood up or down ! Regards.

18 April 2010

[quote Ravon]£21,645 brings you a fully loaded Mazda MX5, I contend that this is the best small sports car money can buy. If its performance is not extreme enough, the Mazda/Ford Duratec engine is easy and relatively cheap to tune to a sensible 200bhp. The Mazda offers excellent chassis dynamics, has a great hood, a sensible boot, leather interior, air conditioning, and crucially its easy to get in and out of hood up or down ! Regards.[/quote]

Oh dear, you dont get the elise, the big give away is that you think the kit you list is a good thing. It's not, it ruins the car dynamics. If the mx5 as standard had 200bhp and had a list price of £645 only it would still be a poor choice compared to the elise, it would certainly be affordable fun, but if you have the cash and the passion it has to be the elise.

18 April 2010

Anyone, and I mean anyone, who considers 0-60 times to be important fits into one of the following categories:-

  1. Fractious individual whose personality could not stomach being beaten away from the lights.
  2. Someone who can not afford the insurance on a high performance car. It's theoretical and meaningless.

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