The current Lotus Elise is as beautifully simple, pleasingly compact and bristling with energy and feedback as it was when it was first released 22 years ago. Cynics will argue that it hasn’t changed and developed enough – it’s still built around an extruded and bonded alumium chassis, as it alwas has been. But in reality the Elise highlights just how overweight, over-the-top and cumbersome its so-called rivals have become. The Elise is the perfect antidote to modern cars without feeling in the slightest bit decrepid or outdated.
Whether you want your Elise to be the consumate B-road sports car or a focussed track car there’s a model for you. The range starts from the road-biased Sport model and gets more intense as you graudate through to Sprint to Cup. The Sport and Sprint models can be bought with either a naturally aspirated 1.6-litre four-cylinder or a supercharged 1.8, with the bigger engine they get a 220 suffix to their name. The Cup 250 and Cup 260 use the same 1.8-litre engine, but the Toyota-sourced engine is stretched to make more power and the cars get motorsport-developed upgrades and serious aerodynamic additions.
The Sport 220 is the sweet spot of the Elise range, providing the just the right combination of grip and power. The regular Sport’s engine is a little too weak, while the Cup and Race models have more power than you need. As a result, the Sport 220 has been crowned our Sports Car of the Year 2017.
Image 6 of 45Lotus Elise in detail
Performance and 0-60 time – The acceleration times of the Elise range vary from 6sec down to 3.8sec.
Engine and gearbox – Modern four-cylinder engines are rarely as enjoyable and as sonorous as the two found in the middle of the Elise
Ride and handling – This is where the Elise shines. It can show more expensive cars what handling really is, while its ride would show up many luxury cars
MPG and running costs – Lotus’s lightweight attitude hasn’t just helped the Elise become a great drivers’ car, it’s also helped it be surprisingly economical
Interior and tech – Not much to talk about here. It’s bare and completely lacking in technology, and it’s all the better for it
Design – It might not be radically different from the original, 22-year-old Elise, but that’s no bad thing
Image 31 of 45Prices, specs and rivals
The cheapest Elise, the Sport, is available from £32,300; not too bad for a mid-engined, lightweight sports car. That dedication to a low kerb weight, 856kg to be exact, does mean you don’t get many luxuries for your money; full carpets, floor mats, air-conditioning, a Bluetooth-enabled stereo, cruise control and even sound insulation are all optional extras.
The Sprint is another £5000 more than the Sport, but don’t expect a lavish array of equipment for the extra outlay, the money goes on exotic materials to make the Elise 26kg lighter. The engine cover, roll-hoop cover and vented bonnet panel are made entirely from carbonfibre, the rear screen is polycarbonate, the wheels are made from a forged alloy rather than cast and the Sprint is fitted with a lithium-ion battery.
The Sport 220 and Sprint 220 cost £39,300 and £44,300, respectively. Both models are almost identical to the cheaper versions, except in the place of the atmospheric 1.6 is a 1.8-litre Supercharged Toyota engine. The bigger motor bumps the weight of the Elise up by 50kg, but that’s offset by an extra 83bhp.
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The Elise Cup models are very serious cars with very serious price tags; the Cup 250 costs £47,400 while the 260 is around £60k. The 1.8-litre supercharged engine is tuned to produce more power, 243bhp in the Cup 250 and 250bhp in the Cup 260. Both cars have improved stiffness with a T45 steel roll over bar and better aerodynamics – the 260 produces 180kg of downforce at 151mph thanks to its large rear wing and vented front arches. The Cup 260 also gets two-piece brake discs and two-way adjustable Nitron dampers.
Porsche’s four-cylinder 718 Boxster starts at £44,758 making it comparable, on price, to the Sport 220. The Porsche might well be a better equipped car, easier to live with and faster on paper, but it doesn’t provide the same involvement or excitement as the Lotus. Plus, the supercharged engine in the Elise sounds far nicer than the thrummy flat-four in the 718.
The Abarth 124 Spider is fractionally cheaper than the even the most basic Elise at £29,620. It’s not as sharp as the Lotus, by a significant margin, but it’s a charming, fun and loveable convertible.
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The only car that will really get close to the Cup 260’s sense of commitment and dedication to driving thrills for anywhere near the same sort of money is a Lotus Exige, but it is just under £10,000 more than the Cup 250.
The 0-60mph acceleration times in the Elise range are affected as much by each model’s weight as they are its power. The slowest accelerating car is the basic Sport, it hits 60mph from a standstill in 6sec. The Sprint, with its 830kg kerb weight (26kg less than the Sport) reaches 60mph in 5.9sec.
The 220 models follow a similar pattern. Even though it has a 50kg heavier engine, it’s a more powerful motor with 83bhp more than the basic car’s 1.6, as a result the 904kg Sport 220 can accelerate from 0 to 60mph in 4.2sec. The Sprint 220 betters that by 0.1sec thanks to its 878kg weight.
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The Cup 250 is the heaviest Elise in the line-up with a kerb weight of 917kg. However its extra 26bhp over the 220 models means it’s able to break below the four-second barrier, with a 0-60mph time of 3.9sec. The Cup 260 weighs in at 895kg, 22kg less than the 250, and has 7bhp more power, it reaches 60mph in 3.8sec.
The Elise has never been about ultimate top speeds. Its close sprint-style gearing has never allowed to hit hugely impressive top speeds, not that it’s ever bothered anyone. The Sprint and Sport models top out at 127mph and the 220 versions at 145mph. The less powerful Cup 250 has a higher top speed compared to the 260, 154mph and 151mph, respectively. The 260’s 3mph lower limit can probably be explained by all the extra drag its downforce-generating wings produce.Engine and gearbox
Despite there being six different models in the Elise range there are only two engines to choose from. The basic Sport and Sprint Elises have a transversely mid-mounted 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine that puts out a maximum of 134bhp at 6800rpm and 118lb ft of torque at 4400rpm.
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The rest of the range is catered by a 1.8-litre supercharged four-cylinder, like the 1.6 it’s also a Toyota engine. The extra capacity plus forced induction gives the Sport 220 and Sprint 220 an extra 83bhp with max power of 217bhp at 6800rpm and max torque of 184lb ft at 4600rpm.
The same 1.8 is used in the Cup 250 and Cup 260. Confusingly, it’s the engine in the Cup 260 and not the one in the 250 that puts out 250bhp, that’s complemented with 195lb ft at 5500rpm. The Cup 250’s motor only produces 243bhp at 7200rpm and 184lb ft between 3500 and 5500rpm. All Elises use the same six-speed manual gearbox with a beautiful exposed linkage.Ride and handling
As ever, the Elise is a fantastic sports car and one of the best driving experiences available, at any cost. One defining aspect that makes it so enjoyable is its tiny dimensions; you have the space to choose your line and have options of where to place the car while remaining on the correct side of the road.
The Elise’s sub-ton kerb weight, no matter what derivative it is, means the chassis can be determinedly controlled as well as communicate everything the car’s doing in intimate detail while still providing a decent, compliant ride. It’s a trick that Lotus has been pulling off for years.
As well as the chassis flooding you with information and doubling your confidence in the Elise’s grip and abilities, you also have steering – still unassisted, just like the first Elises – that keeps you in the loop with exactly what’s going between the front wheels and the tarmac. The brake pedal is so progressive, too, that there’s no recalibration or readjusting needed, you know how much brake to apply in any given situation. It’s so easy to judge you find yourself braking harder and later into corners that you never normally would on the road.
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One huge improvement over older Elises is the new gearbox and open linkage. It felt rattly and loosely defined before, but now it’s positive and robust.
The 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine in the Sport and Sprint is relatively quiet below 4000rpm, but as it approaches its 6800rpm limiter it starts to feel much keener and sounds more vocal too. The noise is not dissimilar to the sound emitted from the first Elise’s K-series – there’s the same hollow rortiness. You do really need to rev the engine to feel the full performance of the smaller engine, but it remains incredibly smooth even when you do.
Many of the basic car’s delicate attributes are still evident in the 220 models, despite the extra weight; it’s still supple and communicative. The extra power of the 1.8 makes the power-to-weight ratio perfect. Where the 1.6’s performance is a little too modest, the 220’s engine means you’re able to exploit the chassis just a degree more.
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The engine itself is a highlight, too. Many members of the evo team have said it sounds like it’s breathing through a pair of twin-choke carbs rather than fuel injection and a supercharger.
The Cup cars are more serious, as you’d expect. They feel tough and agile, but with huge agility and can carry exceptional speed across country. No matter how demanding the road, the car’s balance is rarely upset and there’s so much grip from the Yokohama tyres that understeer or oversteer are never something you need to worry about on the road. If you want to be able feel a car moving around under you and allow you the option to adjust its line, then the Cup Elises aren’t for you. Still, as with the entire range, there something pure about the Elise experience.MPG and running costs
The Elise is one of, if not the, cheapest sports car to run. The little 1.6-litre returns an impressive 44.8mpg on a combined cycle, and the 1.8-litre’s figure – even in the more powerful Cup models – of 37.7mpg is remarkable in light of the performance on offer. Of course, being liberal with the throttle will see the figures drop into the lower 30s and prolonged track sessions could slash the trip-computer readings even further into the 20s.
The Elise range sits on a staggered setup of sticky Yokohama Advan Neova tyres, 16-inch upfront and 17-inch at the rear. Their modest size, compared to most modern sports cars, means a new set of boots won’t dent your bank account too significantly with a full set available for less than £350.Interior and tech
The Elise’s sparse interior smacks of focus and simplicity. Most of the sills, floor, central tunnel and dash are left as exposed aluminium. There’s also lots of painted plastic to match the exterior. Whatever is left (not much) is covered in rubber, leather or, optionally, Alcantara.
Carbonfibre can also be specified for many of the interior components, the carbon sill plates lower the door opening by 10mm thanks to the greater manufacturing accuracy that allows them to be fitted closer to the extruded aluminium beneath and also make it easier to get in and out. The woven carbon does adds an even racier vibe than standard, but that’s only minimal as the standard exposed, aluminum gearshift mechanism delivers plenty on that front.
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The slim seats are pleasantly accommodating in all the models and, even though they aren’t deep with very prominent side bolsters, they are very supportive. Sprint models upwards are fitted with the lighter carbon fibre-shelled examples.
The options list reads as if it’s a decade old – air conditioning, cruise control and even a (bluetooth enabled) stereo come at a price, but arguably that’s the penalty you pay for compromising the car’s lightweight philosophy.Design
There are elements of the original Elise S1 from 1996 visible in the current car. That’s probably because its underpinnings haven’t changed hugley, but the truncated silhouette, clean styling and four-square footprint mean it has the scaled-down looks of something far more exotic.
There’s a lot of function to the Elise’s design, too. The ducting at the base of the windscreen expels air that enters through the car’s nose to cool the radiator, while air intakes set into the rear quarter guide cool air to the brakes. The rear engine cover, nestled between the buttresses, integrates two mesh grilles to improve thermodynamic efficiency.
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The Cup models deviate from the cohesive one-piece look, thanks to big front splitters, massive rear wings and protruding diffusers, but these additions do make the Cup 250 and 260 look every bit a race car for the road.18 Jan 2018
The Skoda Karoq might not seem like it has much of a place on the evo website, a haven for driving thrills and a celebration of some of the most hardcore supercars. As a small SUV with nothing more potent available under the bonnet than a 2-litre diesel, we can certainly understand why you might be dismayed to see it here. But that disregards the Karoq’s predecessor completely, because nine years ago Skoda released the rather brilliant Yeti. It might have been a quirky-looking, tall-riding, van-shaped creation, but its robust chassis made it feel undefeatable no matter how awful the road surface, yet there was masses of enthusiasm and spirit when you aimed it at a corner. It may not have had hot hatch-rivalling levels of excitement, even with its most powerful 1.8-litre turbocharged engine, but it was just as involving and as satisfying to pedal along at pace. The Yeti was a truly wonderful surprise to anyone who drove one.
The new Karoq has a lot to live up to, then. Sadly, its more conventional-SUV looks are matched by more conventional-SUV driving dynamics. It’s respectable, definitely. Very composed, undoubtedly. There’s a solidity and precision to its controls that are enjoyable, certainly. Yet its grip-over-fun chassis set-up means it isn’t as magical as the old car, the Karoq feels numb by comparison.Skoda Karoq in detail
Performance and 0-60 time – Depending on which engine is fitted to the Karoq its 0-62mph acceleration time ranges from a slow 10.9sec to a adequate 8.4sec.
Engine and gearbox – The Karoq’s selection of engines isn’t especially exiting; they’re all turbocharged, but you do get a choice of three- or four-cylinder motors and either petrol or diesel.
Ride and handling – Satisfying controls and sufficient grip make the Karoq sufficiently pleasing to drive, but it’s never particularly exciting no matter how hard you try.
MPG and running costs – With official combined miles per gallon figures that don’t drop below 50mpg, no matter what engine is fitted to it, the Karoq has the potential to be very cheap to run.
Interior and tech – Solid and tough-feeling, with plenty of thoughtful touches to make any task you’d usually undertake in a car just that little bit easier.
Design – It’s small and compact, and it looks it. It’s particularly handsome on the chunky 19-inch wheels, too.
Image 2 of 14Prices, specs and rivals
The Skoda Karoq is available from £20,875, but it can be specced up to over £36,000 if you opt for the 2-litre diesel engine with four-wheel drive and almost every option available.
If you’re not in the slightest bit excited by the Karoq, none of its immediate rivals are going to get your juices flowing either. The SEAT Ateca is its closest competition; not only is it based on the exact same platform as the Karoq, it’s also available with all the same engines. However, in what seems like a mistake on behalf of the Volkswagen Group, the cooler Latin SEAT with its sportier, sexier image is cheaper than the budget Czech Skoda as it’s available from £18,670. If you demonstrate absolutely no self-restraint with the options list, however, you can bump up the maximum price of an Ateca to almost £45,000.
The Volkswagen Tiguan, like the Ateca, shares the same basic platform as the Karoq, but the VW’s wheelbase is 39mm longer than its two not-so-distant siblings. Because of its extra space and more premium badge, the Tiguan is a little more expensive, too, starting at £23,250.
Away from the VW Group inter-family fued, the Karoq’s other rivals are the Kuga from Ford, the Qashqai from Nissan and the Kadjar from Renault. If you find all of those too dull, you could opt for the challenging-looking Toyota C-HR.
But in actual fact, the real thorns in the Karoq’s side – as well as in the flanks of all of its other SUV rivals – are conventional hatchbacks or small estates. Not only is a regular Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf, Skoda Octavia or SEAT Leon just as practical (or more if you opt for the estate versions) they’re better to drive thanks to their much lower centre of gravity. They’re also much cheaper, so you could either save yourself some money or spend the extra cash on the far, far superior performance versions, the ST, GTI, vRS or Cupra, respectively.Performance and 0-60 time
The Karoq doesn’t exist to smash acceleration records, set your hair on fire or sit in the outside lane of an Autobahn flashing its lights to encourage RS6s to get out of its way. As a result the long, 10.9sec 0-62mph time of the 1.6 diesel version, the slowest accelerating Karoq of the range, is no surprise, but nor is it a disappointment.
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The 1.5-litre turbocharged model, with 148bhp and just front-wheel drive, chases to 62mph in a more than adequate 8.4sec. It also has the highest top speed of the range with a vmax of, prepare yourself, 127mph. The 3-cylinder 1-litre 113bhp version has the slowest top speed of 116mph, just 1mph below the 1.6-litre diesel.Engine and gearbox
The choice of engines in the Karoq isn’t vast, there are two diesel and two petrol motors to choose from. However, despite a quartet to select from there are only two power outputs, the smallest capacity petrol and diesel engines put out the same bhp while the larger units match on output too.
Lets start with the smallest engine and work our way up. The 3-cylinder 1-litre petrol engine produces 113bhp from 5000rpm and an impressive, given its small capacity, 147lb ft of torque at 2000rpm. It’s matched on power by the bigger 1.6-litre 4-cylinder diesel motor, but as you might expect the oil-burner has even more torque with 184lb ft.
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The other two engines, the 1.5-litre petrol and 2-litre diesel, both have four-cylinders and both put out 148bhp. The diesel is more torquey with 251lb ft compared to the petrol’s 184lb ft.
All engines are available with either a six-speed manual gearbox or a seven-speed DSG transmission. All come with just front-wheel drive as standard, however, the 2-litre diesel is the only version that can be had with four-wheel drive – it’s a Haldex system that predominantly drives the front wheels but is able to engage the rear axle whenever necessary.Ride and handling
Right from the very start, and after just a few metres down the road, the Karoq appears to be a very satisfying car to meander about in; all of its controls are so tight, so precise and are so completely slack free. All of the pedals are solid and the movement so smooth that just releasing the clutch feels like a rewarding action and the steering – although very light – is amazingly direct. The steering can be made heavier by engaging the Sport driving mode – that’s pretty much all the button does though, the engine’s character remains the same, there’s no extra noise and, as the dampers are passive, the chassis doesn’t change. The extra weight doesn’t feel appropriate; the more delicate setting suits the other controls in the car.
The absolute highlight, however, is the gear change. The gate is close and you don’t need to move your hand sideways by much before you can slot it forward into first. The forward throw into a gear is a little longer compared to the lateral movement, but the path the lever takes is shorter than you’d ever expect in an SUV, shorter than most performance cars. The quick shift is made even more gratifying by a smooth and beautifully defined action – you won’t miss or engage the wrong gear here, no matter how much you rush your changes.
A similar sense of accuracy can be felt in the chassis. It reacts promptly to your inputs, turning eagerly when you point the nose at a corner and there’s surprisingly little roll. The ride is pleasing supple and controlled, too.
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But as you push the Karoq, you aren’t rewarded with any more excitement. Only the steering dictates the angle of the car, you can’t lift off the throttle early in a corner to change its attitude, pointing the front towards the apex. Even some aggressive trail braking doesn’t have much of an effect and the Karoq begins to feel a bit inert. The front-end does resists understeer well, it has to be said, but it is the first to relinquish grip when really pushed.
The four-wheel drive diesel can be coaxed into the tiniest amount of power-on oversteer out of tight, first or second gear corners – only if the electronic stability system is in sport. The ESC cannot be fully switched off, sadly.
None of the engines really transform the driving experience; they’re functional but far from outstanding. The 1-litre three-cylinder delivers reasonably lively performance, is eager to rev and makes the Karoq feel quicker than its claimed 0-62mph sprint of 10.3sec. Neither of the diesels sound particularly sweet or relish revs, but there’s no doubting the 2-litre is an effective performer – that’s largely down to its generous torque peak of 295lb ft at just 1750rpm. The 1.5-litre petrol feels just at home under the Karoq’s bonnet as the diesel and makes the car feel just as swift. Don’t expect, just because it’s a petrol rather than a diesel engine, that it will lust for revs, though; it’s less effective in the last 1000rpm of its 6000rpm travel to the redline and feels most comfortable being worked between 2000 and 5000rpm.
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The DSG transmission’s breath of abilities is, as usual, impressively vast; it’s just as happy to smoothly and automatically shift between gears at low speeds as it is to swap ratios instantly when you pull the steering-wheel mounted paddles. But, if you opt for the dual-clutch transmission you won’t be able to relish the experience of operating the Karoq’s manual gearbox.
The Karoq’s controls really are its highlight. That’s not to say the rest of the car is disappointing, it’s just not as memorable, as involving or as charismatic as what we’ve become used to from Skoda’s small SUVs. However, there are still some pleasingly useful Skoda style elements that make living with the Karoq just that little bit easier: not only is the cruise control not deactivated by changing gear, even in the manual version, it still works with the ESC as off as it will go.evo comment
‘This focus on comfort doesn’t come at the expense of agility, and the Karoq can be hustled effectively through a series of corners. The electrically assisted steering is direct and naturally weighted, while there’s decent grip at the front end. The combination of high ride height, modest rubber and, in the diesel models, hefty engines means the nose will wash wide when pushed, but you do have to provoke this behaviour with aggressive inputs.’ James Disdale, Road Test EditorMPG and running costs
There isn’t a Karoq that’s combined MPG figure is below 50mpg; the 1.5-litre petrol version with the DSG transmission just about sneaks above with 50.4mpg. That’s even with the 1.5 having Active Cylinder Deactivation (ACT), which effectively allows the Karoq to run on two cylinders during light throttle applications, helping to cut fuel use.
If you want to be as frugal as possible you’ll need the 1.6-litre diesel DSG version, its official combined figure is 64.2mpg.Interior and tech
In typical Skoda form the Karoq is stuffed to the gunwales with useful pockets, holders, cubbyholes and gadgets to make any task that you might perform in the car, other than driving, as easy as possible. There’s a clip on the windscreen to hold parking tickets, a removable torch in the boot and an umbrella under the rear seats as standard. A few extras can make it even easier to live with, like a bin with a liner in the door pocket, a heated windscreen, a boot that opens if you wave your foot underneath the rear bumper, as well as foldable tables and tablet holders for the rear passengers.
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The interior is definitely functional, and it looks it. There’s very little decoration or embellishment on the inside of the Karoq, but it’s far from offensive and it’s pleasant enough space to spend time.Design
The Karoq is a fine looking car; its small and its proportions, thanks to short overhangs, are well balanced. Its details are chunky and purposeful too, yet they’re subtle enough that the Karoq doesn’t have an overt and inappropriate sense of adventure about its styling. There are very few of the clichéd 4X4 design cues that shout about an offroad ability it simply doesn’t have. It’s an honest look for an SUV, one that’s more trainers, jeans and a down jacket than full Gortex, walking shoes and trekking poles; an appropriate guise for its natural environment, the suburban school run.
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It’s rare that we’d recommend the largest wheel option on a car; ride and handling aren’t often improved by bigger wheels and lower profile tyres. However, the 19-inch Crater wheels are a nice, solid design and look great on the Karoq, plus the ride isn’t badly impacted when they're fitted.16 Jan 2018