Currently reading: James Ruppert: Now's the time to buy a Lotus
There's no point going too far back in Lotus history, but everyday Elises, Evoras and, of course, the Elan are shrewd buys

There I was, enjoying the full dealership experience at a Porsche Centre, when I spotted a Lotus Elan+2 parked in the customer bay. It was well used, with mud all over its less than perfectly painted sills. A working, everyday Lotus and, like most of them, pretty and sensational value. Because Geely money might turn Lotus into a proper car company again, maybe values will shoot up, so perhaps we should buy now.

Lotus Elise models in all their multiple versions have been the core for Lotus enthusiasts over the past few decades and the appeal is fairly obvious. Prices have certainly firmed up in the past few years and the starting money is now around £13,000 for an example from 2000 onwards. I saw a 2000 Millennium edition, of which there were apparently only 50 made, with 80,000 miles and unique Atlantic Blue Pearl paint. It featured the 111S front end and headlight covers as standard, plus larger, OZ wheels and fancy blue Alcantara cabin trim. It had had three owners, a full history and all for £13,500.

When it comes to the Lotus Exige, you need to find another £10,000 to join the club: £23,995 buys you a basic 1.8. One of the cheaper ones I saw, a 2006 car, had a genuine 53,000 miles and one owner. Even so, a 2015 350 Sport isn’t that pricey, especially with added Race and Premium packs. The specification went on for pages and you wonder how they pack all that into something so small. Yours for £37,995 with 14,000 miles showing.

There are not many Europas about, but the Lotus Evora is a sort of reasonable entry-level commuter Lotus that isn’t yet another Porsche 911, although there may be the whiff of adhesive. A 2010 3.5 with 38,000 miles at £24,990 seems like astounding value. This one was at an independent dealer so had a three-month warranty, which is a good start. Best to buy more if you can.

Then again, I do like the look of the related Europa S and an independent dealer had a 2007 one with just 34,000 miles for £24,450. It had had four previous owners but a very detailed list of recent work, including the addition of a sports exhaust and milled gear knob. Worth buying and really using.

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Then there is the Elan. This really should be the core Lotus model and the last fat ones are £7000-plus. They are all 1.6 SE models and the most interesting one I found had an impressive 128,000 under its wheels. Not only that, a full rebuild 5000 miles ago might make you swerve away from a recent Mazda MX-5. Asking price? A solid but fair £12,500.

So there you go. There’s no point going too far back in Lotus history as there seem to be everyday examples at very reasonable money. If you’re for or against later Lotuses, let me know.

What we almost bought this week

Hyundai Accent 1.3 Coupé: For the price of a PCP deposit (£790), it's a 33,000-mile two-owner super-reliable runabout with full service history. The Accent isn't the most stylish conveyance but the coupé model is at least tidy looking. Jump in this 2000 example and laugh in the face of monthly payments as you coax it up to 60mph. 

Tales from Ruppert's garage

BMW 320: The Baby Shark came home with a whopping £700 bill, and now that the cold weather has set in, it certainly isn’t £700 better. There were receipts for a new fuel pump, which had to come from Germany and wasn’t that cheap, plus all-new brake pipework.

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It is a bit like the very old days. I need to use it so what I have to do is dig out the screwdriver and adjust the mixture manually. The revelation that the Solex is not complete probably does not help, but I am now very close to the end of my limited patience.

Reader's ride

Mercedes-Benz CLS 220d Shooting Brake: Patric has a lot of time for hard-working estates: “My own experience is having bought a 2015 CLS 220d Shooting Brake last December for £21,000 with a two-year warranty from a Merc dealer. It had done only 12k miles and had cost someone around £50,000 new.

“It’s a fabulous everyday car with more than sufficient performance and overall economy of 43mpg although I’ve seen 55mpg-plus on long motorway journeys. It has all the bells and whistles and has been brilliant in every respect for more than 9000 miles.”

Readers' questions

Question: I need a do-it-all car for me, wife and our dog. Our Mercedes CLA 45 Shooting Brake has to go as it’s too thirsty. What £20k car do you suggest that is as quick but more frugal? Robert Cadiz, via email

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Answer: You also say you don’t want a BMW because of past experiences and you enjoy your current Porsche’s performance. So you clearly like quick German cars. You’ll get a nice Audi A3 Sportback diesel for £20k, but for the performance you crave, you need to go to the Audi A4 Avant. A 3.0 TDI 272 Sport S tronic quattro should do it. It has 268bhp and 442lb ft. It does 0-62mph in 5.3sec and 54.3mpg. A 2016/16-reg one with 40,000 miles is £20,000. JE

Question: I’m a private family buyer considering a diesel Nissan Qashqai or my first pick-up, a Nissan Navara. Any advice? Keith Harris, Poole

Answer: The latest pick-ups offer a tempting mix of style, features and improved driveability, plus solid load-carrying and towing capacity. A Nissan Qashqai 1.5 dCi 115 Acenta is £23,395 and a Navara 2.3 dCi Acenta Double Cab 160 4WD £27,290. Road tax for the Navara is £260 to the Qashqai’s £140 and its economy is unlikely to near the Qashqai’s 50mpg. The 0-62mph sprint is around 12sec for both. Unless you’ve a use for the Navara, you’ll be happier with the Qashqai. JE


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eseaton 26 November 2019

It's always a good time to

It's always a good time to buy a Lotus.
LP in Brighton 26 November 2019

Love that Elan +2!

But I wonder how many engines, chassis, driveshaft couplings and rear wheel bearings it's got through in nearly 50 years. And where would you find parts like a Ford Anglia bumper or Ford Classic (I think) windscreen when parts are needed. I've owned several Elans in the dim and distant past and it's fair to say that I spent a lot more time fixing them than I did driving them - even when they were relatively new. 

Still looks good though!

runnerbean 26 November 2019

A4 Avant

The V6 diesel B9 A4 Avant is a great used buy and the Allroad is even better (longer suspension travel). 

Try and get one with Acoustic Glass if you can - not something I'd have specced from new but it does make a good car better still.