Goodwood Test: 2021 Lotus Elise Final Edition Review

Waving goodbye to one of Hethel's finest, the mighty Lotus Elise...
12th May 2021
Ben Miles



The Lotus Elise is possibly the ultimate British sportscar of the last 30 years, partly because there really haven’t been any others in mass production, and partly because it is the car that pretty much single-handedly kept Lotus alive.

The concept is beautiful in its simplicity. A lightweight body – still under a tonne after all these years – a reasonably useful engine mounted in the middle, pin sharp steering, excellent dynamics and a radio. There’s really not a lot to it.

But now, shock of all shocks, the Elise is coming to an end, and this isn’t some marketing game, there will be no endless special editions or a world tour that lasts decades, this is the final year you’ll be able to order a Lotus Elise. So it really needs to go out on a high.

We like

  • Incredible handling
  • Engaging steering
  • Extraordinary chassis

We don't like

  • Limited spec today
  • No power steering may not be for all
  • Over £40,000



The design of the Elise has, for obvious reasons, changed very little over the last two-and-a-half decades. It’s part “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” and a large chunk “we really don’t have the cash to change it”, brought about by the turbulent ownership status of Lotus over the last three decades. The first Elise had some cutesy round headlamps, the second had more insect-like angular ones, and the current one has made those lights a bit more triangular and the face a wee bit more cutesy. Beyond that nothing has really changed.

It remains a targa, with a removable canvas roof, one that is now a lot easier to change than it once was, there are air intakes either side of the haunches, feeding the engine that remains just behind the driver. At the rear there is now a small spoiler and a diffuser, but overall the profile remains the same. The only acquiescence to the fact that this is the end a small badge on the wheel arches saying “Final Edition”.

Performance and Handling


A Lotus should have a very specific set of characteristics to its handling, at least according to Lotus. There’s no power steering and a very loose definition of “traction control” on offer, so it is one of the final real purists bastions. The gearbox is still manual, a delightfully-designed six-speed unit, and the damping totally passive. The fact that there is no sign of any real buttons or controls on the dash, other than a really hard-to-push Sport button, should let you know that this is a car all about you and the tarmac.

The engine is a 1.8-litre supercharged four-cylinder, and produces (in case the name didn’t give it away) 243PS (179kW) and 244Nm (181lb ft), not a world breaking amount but then the Elise does still weigh just 922kg, so it’ll still propel you to 62mph in 4.2 seconds. But in the Elise the engine is more there for necessity than as a core tenet to the car’s being. Hit the throttle and it’ll push you on with haste, but nothing that feels like it’s anything other than 25-year-old car – the corners are where the Elise wishes to be. There the suede-lined wheel becomes your greatest friend. Lotus say their approach to cars is to spring softly, but damp firmly. This means that the Elise is able to roll around more than some current sportscars, but doesn’t become a horrible lumpen mess when it hits the end of the roll. In fact that roll is where a lot of the fun arrives. The little engine with its 243PS isn’t really enough to agitate the car out of its mid-corner grip alone, but chuck the car into a corner firmly off throttle and the fronts will stick, while the rear axle rotates with abandon. A stab of throttle is a bit more likely to provoke understeer than over, but a turn and lift followed by power will rotate the car beautifully.

The steering, with no power added to help the turn, is an exceptional accompaniment to that movement, sending you constant notifications like a horny teenager let loose on snapchat. The even better thing is that, while being firm and communicative, at no point does the Elise feel fidgety, even at high speeds. The front wheels are also positioned exactly under the apex of the driver’s sightline on the arches, allowing for pinpoint precision as you turn in. There’s an argument that for £44,000 a lot of other cars will get you places a lot faster, but none will make you engage with the drive the way the Elise does. There have been Elise’s more suited to track times, and more powerful ones, but nothing comes close to a “standard” one for fun.

Because it’s softly sprung, journeying to and from the track also doesn’t become arduous. Actually the general ride in the Elise is exceptional, and you can motor your way through countless miles, say from Goodwood to Norfolk, without feeling tired or flustered.



Sparse. The interior of the Elise Final Edition remains as uncluttered with “stuff” as it ever was. Now there is some nice blue stitching, to match the paintwork on the outside – each paintjob available on the final edition is one seen as important to the history of the Elise – some leather and suede and delightful sports seats. Those seats look harsh at first, barely having the apparent depth to support anyone with comfort, but turn out to be extremely so, managing to hold without being constrictive. The sills remain large, so entry and exit with roof on is... interesting.

The dash is largely unenjoyable plastics and the wheel does not adjust at all, a slight annoyance to the taller driver, whose knees and knuckles tend to conjoin during higher rates of lock. There is now a digital dash, with some configuration, although for some reason you can’t change most of the settings unless the engine is off.

All of this, is still overshadowed by the gearstick. Still made of machined metal, it’s less the stick and more the open linkage, surrounded by body coloured plastic and suede, that hold the eye. It really is an exceptional centrepiece to the cabin, almost more a piece of industrial art than engineering.

Technology and Features


It has a Sony radio, complete with old fashioned removable head unit, cruise control for some reason and a basic trip computer. Unless you count steering wheel, handbrake, gearstick and a smattering of 20-year-old Vauxhall switchgear, that’s basically it.



If the Lotus Elise 240 Final Edition proves anything, its twofold: First, how good a car the Elise was, and remains to this day. Second, how hard a job the replacement (which we now know is the catchall Elise/Exige/Evora follow-up, the Emira) is going to have to do.

The Elise, even compared to other Lotus stablemates, excites and entertains in a way that few other proper production cars do. To find this kind of pure experience you mostly need to get a classic or find a kit car. Morgan maybe brings something of the purity, but it builds about eight cars a year.

This is the final chance you will have to get your hands on a new Elise and, with prices of second hand ones only going upwards now, it’s time to pay your money if you can. The only real issue with the Elise Final Edition is that it’s now comfortably north of £40,000 for a small British sportscar, which seems like a lot. But then a properly specced Boxster is going to be 20k more than that...


Engine 1.8-litre supercharged four-cylinder
Power 243PS (179kW) @ 7,200rpm
Torque 244Nm (181lb ft) @ 3,000-7,000rpm
Transmission Six-speed manual, rear-wheel-drive
Kerb weight 922kg
0-62mph 4.1 seconds
Top speed 147mph
Fuel economy 36.2mpg
CO2 emissions 177g/km
Price £45,500

Our score

4 / 5

This score is an average based on aggregated reviews from trusted and verified sources.

  • Autocar
    4.5 out of 5