One Week With a Lotus Elise (review / musings)

I’ve had an Elise for a week and here is my review, musings, and recommendations for anyone who is contemplating a more expensive, more exotic; Miata.

The Lotus has been a car I wanted ever since it first made its appearance in the states in 2005. Their exotic styling with a more entry level price point and simplified theology always grabbed my attention. As the Lotus aged into the realm of affordability the problem always became the space. Sure I could afford one, but as an only car, the Lotus is not properly equipped.


While I’ve only had this car for a week, I’ve managed to put about 150 miles on it as well as pull a whole bunch of stuff apart to inspect, replace, or just clean.

So far, here are my pros and cons; starting with the cons.

- It’s small. Okay thats obvious. But my NB Miata was much bigger in terms of shoulder and horizontal leg space.


- The seats are, well, firm. Essentially they made fixed, molded plastic seats, threw a thin seat pad on it, and then covered it with leather. They are actually very comfortable for what they are, but a long drive may change that.

- Don’t expect to work on it without buying some specialty tools. The prior owner of this car kept nearly everything that wasn’t attached, including the lug key, which is a proprietary 10 point star. Among other things...


- Be prepared for squeaks and rattles. This car is essentially made of plastic, thinner plastic, glued together aluminum, leather, and rubber. everything is very close together and a very stiff chassis. Things will rub and rattle.

- It’s complicated. For a small as it is, everything is engineered for performance. This means there is no easy fix for virtually anything.


- It’s difficult to get into and out of. Okay I haven’t had many issues in this department. Back in the day my friend had an Exige and I recall it seeming more difficult to get into and out of. There is a wide sill which encases the frame, coolant lines, and some electrical bits, you have to fit yourself down through a small opening that drops into the seat while sliding your legs under the steering wheel. This often results in scuffed, cracked or broken panels, primarily the silver panel and the small panel on the left of the dash that houses the engine start and light switches. Several companies sell a steering wheel quick release which apparently helps, but buyer-be-ware (and no offense meant here), this car is not for those of us whom are on the heavyset side.


Howabout some pros:

- It’s perfectly engineered. Seriously the only car Iv’e driven that feels more well balanced was a track prepped 997 turbo S. Everything fits just right, no space is wasted, no space is larger than it needs to be.


- It’s not expensive. Don’t get me wrong you can spend a lot of money on this, but with the 2zz Toyota engine and most parts being relatively thin and basic ABS molds maintenance and repairs are inexpensive compared to other cars with similar MSRPs.

- Theres a ton of support. While the Lotus is no longer US legal (new models at least) they are still sold elsewhere. Lotus still produces parts. Aftermarket manufacturers still develop parts, and plenty of US suppliers still stock parts.


- It still looks amazing.

- Great mix of economy and performance.

My final (not final) call on the Lotus. If you’re looking for a 2nd or 3rd vehicle that looks great, handles great, is extremely modifiable, and relatively inexpensive to maintain, this is it.

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