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Slipping behind the wheel of a Lotus for the first time is not about driving in the conventional sense of the word. It’s about a completely different and otherworldly experience. Here are eight points you’ll realize after spending some quality time in one.

  • You’ll look and feel tall beside it. I’m not tall by any stretch of the imagination, but while most cars’s heights reach up to my neck or chin, the Elise’s roof stands level with my lowest rib.
  • Getting inside the Elise is a yoga exercise in itself. The door opening is tiny and very low. (You can remove the soft top to ease ingress and egress, but it’s unbelievably complicated to remove—and even more difficult to put back on.) You need to really bend your back and legs. Then you have to splay your legs across a foot of side sill before dropping your butt onto the deep bucket seat. Once seated inside, that imposing side sill is level with your ribs (again). Which means you feel like you’re sitting inside a bathtub. Getting out, you need to spread your legs up and outward just to clear that sill. Ladies, you’re paparazzi fodder if you’re in a mini skirt. Or any skirt for that matter.
  • You sit eye level with most cars’s tires. People in a Suzuki Alto look like they’re in a big SUV. With your butt a mere six inches off the ground, you’re really in a big go-kart. Getting a parking card from a machine or getting your order from a drive-thru window will make you wish you had the long reach of Michael Jordan. That said, the Lotus is so low you’re tempted to just drive straight under toll barriers.
  • Expect zero luxury features or even the most basic creature comforts. There are no door pockets, cubbyholes, cupholders, or even a glove box! Your date’s handbag stays on her lap or on the floor. Don’t forget what car you’re driving when you suddenly go binge shopping in your supermarket with someone. Briefcases for a presentation? They both go between your colleague’s legs. There’s no trunk.

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  • No carpeting or floor mats. Your feet rest on bare aluminum. Park it under the hot sun and you’re literally toast. But the aluminum—and the curvaceous fiberglass body shell—is an ultra-lightweight industrial thing of beauty.
  • The “entertainment system” is an old school 1-DIN Alpine head unit. No multi-connectivity devices here. Even the A/C is your ’70s rotary 3-speed knob with matching rotary thermostat knob.
  • The minimalist Elise may be the farthest thing from a luxury car, but it’s the closest thing to a road rocket. And it does rocket—from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.6 seconds with a top speed of 235km/h. Power comes from a mid-mounted supercharged 1.8-liter engine mated to a six-speed manual. Both engine and gearbox are sourced from Toyota, which should give the rear-wheel drive Elise commendable reliability and fuel efficiency (as long as you don’t floor it).
  • Light weight (2,000-lb curb weight), a low center of gravity, and a short 2,300mm wheelbase give the Elise that “cornering on rails” feel. It’s simply one of the best-handling cars on the planet—with grip levels approaching 1G. It doesn’t have power steering (underscoring its go-kart feel), which means your arms get a good workout when maneuvering into and out of tight parking spaces. With very short suspension travel, ride quality is very firm—but not punishingly so.

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VERDICT

Definitely not your everyday car. But the perfect elemental drive when you want to blow away the cobwebs. Just make sure there’s no traffic first.

ENGINE 220ps/250Nm supercharged DOHC 1.8-liter inline-4 

TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual

SUSPENSION (F/R) Double wishbone with Eibach springs and Bilstein dampers

TIRES  (F/R) 175/55ZR-16 / 225/45ZR-17

BRAKES (F/R) Ventilated discs with ABS, EBD

L x W x H (mm) 3,824 x 1,719 x 1,117

WHEELBASE (mm) 2,300

CURB WEIGHT (kg) 914

OTHER FEATURES LED daytime running lights and taillights, Alpine head unit, power windows, central door locks with remote plus engine immobilizer, Bosch Electronic Differential Lock (EDL), Electronic Stability Control, dual front airbags, side impact beams, detachable soft top, machined aluminum shift knob and handbrake lever, tire puncture repair kit (no spare tire) 

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Eight surreal things you’ll experience with a Lotus
Form Factor10
Build Quality8
Ease of Use5
Performance10
Value for Money8
8.2Overall Score

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