2000 Lotus Elise 111S Millenium 1.8 VVC petrol from UK and Ireland
A dream car for saloon car money
No problems at all.
The Car: This is a terrific car if you're happy with minimalist design and a focus on handling as the priority. The 0-60 figures belie how responsive and dynamic this car is in normal use. It's happy in slow town traffic, while it's forte is definitely cross-country A and B routes, rather than motorways. It is at it's best in good weather, with the top down, but is well-behaved in the wet, nevertheless. It is surprisingly comfortable to drive, and the lack of power-steering is no problem (the car is so well-balanced). The non-ABS brakes take getting used to however, but after a while their progressive response makes conventional cars feel over-assisted. Build quality is generally good, although I still have reservations about the relative ease with which the paintwork takes-on scratches.
Costs: Working on 6,000 miles per year, the cost so far would add-up to the following per month. Insurance-£55; Servicing-£33; Petrol -£65; Capital-£71 (income lost on £29K after 40% tax) - Total = £224/month.
Dealers: Dealers are assigned a limited number of cars, and tend to push only the ones they have in stock - so look around. Always be a bit sceptical of the reasons for them recommending a particular model. I got mine from HR Owen in Canary Wharf, who were OK, but a bit lax on the pre-delivery check - forgetting to provide the hexagon key needed for the hood, and the second set of keys, plus leaving-on some of the protective taping in the cockpit. Some dealers, especially in London, have their servicing some way-away from their showrooms, so bear this in mind too.
Insurance: I got my insurance from Cheam, whom I wouldn't recommend. They quoted me an attractive rate initially, and then came back (after I'd made all the arrangements to pick-up the car) for a supplement, because of details on the application form. The dealer has said that Cheam are becoming uncompetitive, and that they can recommend someone better when I renew. I pay £656.26/year for me and my wife (but bear in mind my 5-year NCB and that we're both over 45).
Model: I don't agree with some reviewer's comments that the 111S isn't worth the extra above the standard Elise. It seems to have more torque, as well as power. The wider (225mm) rear wheels seem to me to be more suitable than the standard 205mm ones. I like the seats, which are the most comfortable of any car that I've driven.
Accessories-Carpets: Carpets are worth considering if you are going to be driving any distance regularly - it's much easier on the feet if you can rest the heels. However, visually, the bare metal is more appealing. The carpets have to be fitted by the dealers, who use a special underlay to stop them slipping.
-Hood: Consider also buying the lightweight cockpit hood, either from Lotus (£117.44) or from Elemental (£85-£105), which means you can leave it parked outside in dodgy weather, without having to fit the full-fabric hood. The standard full fabric hood is the only one on any car of this type (e.g. Z3, MX-5, Boxster etc.) that looks like an integral part of the design, and so I'd say that it's not worth going for a metal hood. I wouldn't complain, either, about the time it takes to fit the full hood: I can get the interior covered in a minute or so. Add another 2-4 minutes to fit it securely. I wouldn't drive on the motorway anyway without the hood up, so if you're sensible, you shouldn't get caught-out, especially if you have a lightweight one as well.
Cleaning: The paintwork is very prone to 'micro-scratches' if you don't use a high-quality cloth (such as the Autoglym cotton cloths). Don't EVER use a brush to clean the car. Also, the paintwork seems very prone to leaving dry-marks behind if you don't manage to chamois the wet surface immediately. That said, the surface-area isn't particularly large, and you can usually chamois it dry before there's a problem. The alloys are - as always - a pain to keep clean, especially since the big discs tend to shed a lot of dust. I've taken to wiping them over regularly with a slightly-damp J-Cloth, independently of washing the bodywork.
Maintenance & Petrol: Really relatively cheap. The 1,000-mile 1st. service is about £50 and subsequent 6,000-mile/1-Year services will be about £350-400. My car is also pretty frugal, and must be running at around 30-35mpg in a mix of driving conditions.
Lotus Driver Training: If you're going to spend over £24K on a new Elise, or perhaps upwards of £17K on a second-hand one, then budget an additional £400 for this. It really is worthwhile, and the day spent at Lotus' test track getting 1:1 instruction means that you not only get the best out of your Lotus, but that you drive more safely too.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 9th July, 2000