Lotus Europa road test

Time 14 years ago


YOU want a Lotus, but you don’t want raw? Go buy a softies car then. I’m not saying Lotus dealers are that blunt, but chances are salesman were probably thinking it when someone came in asking for a Lotus-lite. Then along came the Europa, the so-called easy going model of the range. Not as frantic as the Elise or as downright mental as the Exige, but slightly more sedate; slightly more accommodating for the daily driver.


Thing is, the Europa hasn’t exactly gone down a storm. Some buyers might want a Lotus with a little less flavour – which is why the Europa S was conceived in the first place – so why then now add this new Luxury Touring Pack and Aftermarket Performance Upgrade Kit? Surely up-rating the power defeats the object of the car’s conception altogether?


This performance pack increases power to 222bhp, up from 197bhp, and torque rises 28Nm to 300. This tweaking is enough to lop just under a second off its 0-60mph time – now 4.9s instead of the standard version’s 5.6s. Top speed rises too, but by a rather insignificant 4mph to 147mph.


This fettling is certainly noticeable – and considering it’s merely down to some engine remapping it’s very impressive. The Europa feels just as lively as it’s frantic siblings and sounds utterly sublime. The turbocharger sucks and hisses as you’re on and off the power and the fact the engine’s mounted just behind the rear seats only serves to enhance the soundtrack.


On a sinewy country B road, the Lotus really comes alive. The steering that’s Dawn French heavy in town, becomes taught and full of feedback; the turbocharger constantly spooled and ready to fire you forwards and the car simply devours straights.


The Europa really is a great machine to drive – and we’d argue more fun than the mental Exige S, which can be just a bit too tiring. Lotus say the Europa’s a GT – but that’s not quite true. You wouldn’t want to do too many miles in it. Trust us, we tried and have the chiropody appointment to prove it. Those seats are hard and you’ll soon have numb body parts. This is a sportscar, plain and simple.


Lotus might be trying to make things a little more pleasant with that aforementioned touring pack, but we can’t help thinking it’s a bit OTT. Who needs an interior this small covered in four (yes four) hides? We haven’t seen this much leather since the Wednesday bikers’ meet at the local pub. Also added for the £1,250 cost is a wilton carpet, walnut and tulip gearknob, tinted windows and silver grilles. It’s all very nice, but do buyers really want it?

Some what disappointing were the squeaks and rattles our test car had. Granted it had clocked up a fair few miles in the hands of some less than forgiving journos, but the rattly window and squeaky dash drove us mad on one 500-mile day.




Even more frustrating was the fact the 12v cigar lighter socket was ever so slightly oversized, so every time we crashed over another bump, or at the merest whiff of acceleration, it would spit our sat nav’s power cable out like a spoilt child. Very annoying. But despite these gripes, we warmed to the Europa. It might be filling a gap in the Lotus range that some purists believe doesn’t need filling, but it’s actually a very well set-up and exciting car to drive – just don’t go thinking it can be used as a daily runabout. It can’t.


by James Baggott


Lotus Europa S

Price: £35,445

Engine: 2.0-litre, turbo

Power: 222bhp, 300Nm

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0-60mph: 4.9s

Max: 147mph

Ins: Group 20


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