When the car was launched in 2006 it was billed as the right choice for Lotus owners who wanted a reasonably refined touring car, still with the great driving values of the Lotus Elise and Exige to which it was closely related.
But the original Europa S fell short of expectations, and was never a match for the mainstream competition.
After deliberation, I decided to tackle what I always think of as the Jim Clark heritage route — from Lotus’s Hethel HQ to Duns, Scotland, where Clark lived. That seemed especially appropriate since it’s 40 years since the great champion died at Hockenheim. Plus, a round trip of 700 miles is just too far for key faults to stay hidden and offered the ideal opportunity to really test the Europa’s mettle.
You can find a summary of the latest improvements in our first drive, but the bottom line is that we arrived back from Scotland, having driven briskly to the Borders and back, in decent physical condition and having returned near enough to 30 mpg for the entire trip.
The Europa really does make much more sense now. With these revisions in place it has become a viable, longer distance alternative to the Exige and Elise.
For the driver prepared to compromise in favour of top-drawer steering, braking, performance and roadholding, this is now a decent option. It’s still rather raw compared with mass-market equivalents, such as the TT, but then it feels more special, too.
Would I buy one? Not sure. I’d want to satisfy myself that an Elise wouldn’t make more sense. But I was definitely attracted to the sheer grunt and passing power of the turbo engine. The rearranged price - the entry-level Europa now costs £27,950 - makes the car seem a much better proposition, as well
Put it like this: the Europa used to be beyond the pale. Now it’s a contender.