The Lotus Elise is not a cheap car in any of its guises, given its scale, engine size, finish and equipment, but it’s certainly fair value for its tactile performance.
However, the way the Elise looks and the way it’s built are a clear indication of the car’s age – in spite of tweaks over the years. A Mazda MX-5 is not only much cheaper, it’s much better built. And for not much more money, you can get a BMW Z4 (or Boxster, if comparing with the Sport 220) with similar performance, much better equipment and a level of quality that Lotus owners can only dream about.
Those tempted by an Elise will be further disappointed, if not surprised, to learn that air conditioning is extra, along with carpets and various other features that ought to be standard but are only available as options. This includes part-leather trim, more soundproofing, and a hard-top roof. Its insurance group is lofty, too.
Better news is that the standard Elise is very economical – the claimed average mpg of 44.8mpg is seriously impressive and our tests showed that it’s not as much of an idle boast as from some rivals. We achieved 36.9mpg, which is some way adrift but not bad considering no attempt was made to save fuel. The Sport 220 hits around 37.7mpg officially - a reasonable drop given its extra levels of performance.