The genesis story of Zenos feels like an old one by now, but it’s a good one, so let’s recap.
In 2000, Ansar Ali and Mark Edwards met as senior employees at Lotus. Five years on, having helped to engineer a buyout of Caterham Cars, they became that company’s CEO and COO respectively. It’s hard to imagine a more thorough grounding in the dark art of lightweight, affordable British sports cars.
By 2012, with Caterham under the control of Tony Fernandes, both made their exit. The following year, Zenos was born. Its claimed objective? The production and sale of lightweight, affordable sports cars for the right-minded enthusiast. So how is it different? Well, the brains behind the firm – and that includes a team plucked from Caterham, Lotus, Cosworth and elsewhere – insist that the eventual owner of the end product has at last been placed front and centre of the development process. Access and involvement in the brand is considered crucial, to the point where customer testing of prototypes has been adopted as part of the business model.
Zenos also insists that affordability – the concept often besmirched by the eventual on-the-road price of a Lotus Elise or Caterham Seven – is a starting point rather than a marketing concept. The starter version of the E10 can be had, in admittedly spartan form, for £24,995 – more than £5k less than an entry-level Elise. Its pokier, more powerful brother, the turbocharged E10 S tested, is cheaper still than its supercharged Norfolk rival.
Then there’s the car under the sticker price. Born of its makers’ experience at past employers but not beholden to it, the E10 is closest in resemblance to the Elise. It is mid-engined, owes its strength to aluminium, its lightness to composites and its dynamism to double wishbones. Yet the differences, as we’re about to find out, are pronounced. The Zenos is very much its own thing already. Is it as enlightened as its name suggests?