Not many will dispute when I say the Lotus Elise is one of the coolest looking cars in the market. In HK, where ‘glam factor’ is just as important as driving performance, this car stands out well amongst its peers, even in HK where Ferraris and Lamborghinis are a dime a dozen.

Professional drivers and auto jounalists have already written much about its outstanding handling prowess, but what is it like for regular Joe’s like us?  Does it make sense for the roads of HK? I’ll be sharing some of my experiences having driven a few different models and owned two of them myself.

Hong Kong City Driving

If you are a shy person or simply do not like attention, this is NOT the car for you. This car gets looks EVERYWHERE you go. Men, women and kids will stop and stare at your ride. I dare say you will get more looks even when stopped next to a Ferrari. Porsches, needless to say, become invisible next to the Lotus.

So what is it really like to drive this thing on HK roads? I can sum it up with one word. AWESOME. This little car is incredibly nimble and perfect for the tight and narrow HK roads. The Lotus Elise is one of the best handling cars ever made with incredibly high limits, fortunately for us, it is still extremely fun to drive at regular speeds as the car truly connects with the driver. You can guess how much fun this is if you have driven a go-kart before.  I have driven many BMW M cars and they all feel dull next to this.

Red Lotus Elise Hong Kong

The Elise is sufficiently quick in a straight line even in the lowest spec but this car is best enjoyed in the twisties. There are many different engine choices available, from the early spec Rover engines to the latest supercharged Toyota power units. Hardcore enthusiats swear by the raw Rover-powered cars as they are lighter and more tuneable.

Lotus Elise Rover Engine

I personally prefer the supercharged Toyota-powered cars as it provides that extra bit of fun when you get pushed into your seat as the supercharger winds up.

Lotus Elise Toyota Engine

Regardless of what engine you choose, fun is to be had at every corner. The car is very easy to drive fast but at the upper limits, the car can really bite back as the tail whips around very quickly when grip runs out. There have been many local instances of Lotuses ending up in barriers so please drive within your limits if you do get one. You do NOT need to go flat out in this car to have fun.

Lotus Elise crash Hong Kong

While fun to drive, living with the Elise on a day-to-day basis is another matter. This is really a toy trying to pass off as transportation. The high doorsills make getting in and out an art form. Parking is actually quite manageable even without power-steering as the car is very light and the small size means it can fit easliy into the tight parking spaces in HK. The trick however, is getting out as you need to open the doors fairly wide to climb out of the car. Ladies generally swoon at the car at first sight but that quickly turns to hate after an attempt on entry and exit.
Girl climb into Lotus Elise

There is minimal if any storage space in the car and anything more than a duffel bag will struggle to fit into the rear trunk, which sits next to the very hot engine. Needless to say, my attempt to pick up a tub of ice-cream in the Elise from the supermarket did not end well.

Maintenance and Ownership

The Elise is surprisingly easy to maintain as it is a very basic car with very little electronics. Early Rover-powered cars tend to have more issues, especially the aircon unit, which is barely cold even when working. The Toyota-powered cars are much better built all around with sufficient aircon and a very reliable and trouble-free engine. The car has very little sound dampening so creaks and squeaks are extremely obvious and these are unfortunately fairly common. Parts are not expensive for both models and servicing cost are low for a performance car of this level. The car is also incredibly fuel-efficient and you are unlikely to pay more than HK$2/km even with a good amount of spirited driving in the mix.

Buying One

Lotus Elises come in many different specifications, from the early Rover-powered cars to the current Toyota-powered vehicles. I have owned both and would strongly recommend the Toyota over the Rover. The marginal difference in price is well worth the time and frustration saved in repairs, as well as having a cold working aircon unit. Both the normally-aspirated and supercharged cars are fun to drive so its really down to personal preference.

It is very important to have a professional pre-purchase inspection as many have seen the wrong side of the wall and the Elise chassis is well-known to be non-repairable.

Due to the rarity of the car, prices have held up well throughout the years so you can expect minimal depreciation should you decide to get one for a short while.


If you are a true car enthusiats, the Lotus Elise is a MUST drive car. I have bought and sold two Lotuses but I still lust for a third, as there is no car out there at this price point that matches the Elise on both glam AND fun factor.  This is a great second car or weekend toy but I’ll happily live with the impracticalities even if it’s the only car in my garage… at least for a while.

Lotus Elise Hong Kong

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Photo credit (Red and yellow Elises): Ben Molloy Automotive Photography