Awesome to drive, but quality and durability disappoint
Cable for boot/engine cover release (the only method of opening it) broke.
Leaks like a sieve in anything heavier than drizzle.
Strong smell of petrol when the tank contains more than an indicated 30 litres.
Car looks and feels generally tired at 50k. Rattles and squeaks everywhere, the odd clonk from underneath, steering not as sharp as it used to be.
Sudden clutch failure at 11,000 miles.
Gear linkage became detached.
The K-series engine hasn't missed a beat, consumes no oil or water and returns 42 mpg average. Lacks top end welly, but the acceleration up to about 80 mph is enough to see off most other things on four wheels. Lotus dealers are attentive and professional, but seem to be capitalising on charging Lotus servicing costs on what is a bog standard Rover engine. The chassis may be advanced and clever, but it doesn't need any more maintenance than a conventional one.
Handling is astonishing. Not as forgiving as my old MX-5, but with an immediacy and directness like no other car, and with limits that really take some exploring on the public road. Best steering I've ever experienced. Unassisted brakes are terrifying on first encounter (if you've ever been towed you'll know), but are fine once you get used to them. The difference in fun and sharpness between this and the MX-5 is like the difference between the MX-5 and my previous Golf again. It's that good. Get it on a track and it's in its element, as am I for that matter.
Shame about the poor build quality. Feels very "loose" recently with many of the interior fittings either broken, worn or loose. Some play around the dead ahead on the steering which wasn't there 10,000 miles ago. Disappointing after a (much cheaper) MX-5 which did 88,000 miles and still felt as good as new. Hood has never been truly watertight although it's so bad now, it's barely worth putting it up. If Mazda can make an unfailingly watertight hood on a £14,000 car, why can't Lotus on a £20,000 one?
Once you're in the car (no small feat with the roof up, it's like getting through a letterbox), it's surprisingly comfortable. Noise levels are high-ish, but pleasant in quality, and the seats support well. Equipment is poor in order to maximise weight saving, although I think the minimalism is a key part of the car's appeal. It has a decent heater and a stereo - what more do you need?
If it were better built, I'd buy another tomorrow, but as it stands now, I'll probably not.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know
Review Date: 9th May, 2004