The thrill of the original Mk1 Lotus Elise was difficult to match. A lightweight extruded aluminium chassis, lightweight glassfibre body panels and... pretty much lightweight everything else gave the car a chuckability that most in the industry thought had disappeared for good.
That said, Lotus itself did not find the thrill that difficult to match, with the launch of the Mk2 Elise nearly ten years ago. The redesigned car retained much of the original chassis engineering and initially the same engine, though with a Lotus control unit. And of course, the VX220 rolled off the same production line at Hethel.
Many commentators believed that the Vauxhall, which went off sale in 2004, had a superior powertrain and gearbox. Certainly its turbocharged GM engine provided significantly more performance in a straight line than the Elise could muster, though some found that the verdict wasn’t so simple to call in the corners.
If the story ended there, then it’s quite possible that the Vauxhall VX220 would be remembered as THE great British sports car. But fortunately for Lotus, and for us, the development of the Elise has continued, so that now with its Toyota engines and gearboxes, sealed headlamps and a smattering of modern creature comforts it has retained its uncompromising handling, improved its performance and finally resolved into the greatest Car of the Decade.