By on 2021-06-04 -
Lotus Elise - Used
THE late great car designer and innovator Colin Chapman produced the most scintillating road machines as well as his more famous and all-conquering racing cars.
And since his death in 1982, the company he founded has continued his ethos, which was to produce lightweight sportscars with brilliant performance and yet reasonable running costs.
The mainstay of production since 2000 has been the two seater Elise and I can still remember the first time I drove one as if it was yesterday.
It was a complete revelation and just blew me away, with uncanny, intuitive handling and an engine that revved to 7,000.
It's a fantastic driver's car making you feel like part of the road and taking corners safely with tremendous levels of grip and roadholding.
The non-powered steering is hard work when manoeuvring, but becomes alive and feeds road information to the driver's hands once on the move.
About two months after that first drive, I was lucky enough to drive one on a circuit and act the hooligan in complete safety - as I tend to do when there's nothing coming the other way!
What a perfect driver's car it is - one of the most enjoyable and involving you can buy and showing just how good the best can be.
I was proud to take the fastest time of the day on the circuit up against two other drivers who raced cars on a regular basis - and I still have the plaque to prove it!
The only downsides to the Elise are the very difficult entry and exit between a high, wide side sill and a low roof, the sparse equipment in many models and the level of noise on the move.
The 1.6 or 1.8 petrol engines are mid-mounted behind the seats and drive the rear wheels through a six speed gearbox.
There have been a bewildering 40 different models down the years with power ranging from 120 to 243bhp.
Even the lowliest 1.6 gets from 0-60 miles an hour in a supercar 5.7 seconds and in its most powerful form, the supercharged 1.8 brings this down to just 4.3.
That standard car with just 120bhp is only slightly slower than a Porsche 911, and more powerful versions are quicker.
The supercharged power delivery in the most powerful means that there is instant urge all the way from under 2000 revs to a screaming 7,000.
And since the engine is behind your left ear, you get the complete and amazing aural symphony!
But this is the traditional approach to a sports car, and that light weight is helped by no power steering, no electric windows, no central locking and a minimum of safety devices.
Comfort in the lower powered models is better than any such sporting car has a right to, and all are very easy to drive, despite non-powered steering.
The more powerful models have firmer suspension, and can be wearing to drive on rougher roads or over any longer journey.
Equipment is non-existent in some models - there's not even a stereo - but then, you probably wouldn't be able to hear it anyway! There is reasonable cabin storage and a small boot.
The hood can be fiddly to put up and down and it's such a hands-on car that longer distances can become quite wearing.
Economy should be between 33 and 40mpg depending on model, but insurance is very high - as you would expect.
This is not a car that many could use as everyday transport sadly - but what the heck, if you love driving, you'll forgive it anything!
Most have only had minimal use for that reason so it's not difficult to find a 2010 or even earlier car with low mileage and full service history.
Pay around Â£9,100 for a '10 10-reg S Touring 1.6, or about Â£22,500 for a 17 17-reg 1.8 Sprint.
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