Lotus Elan (1989 – 1994) Review

Lotus Elan (1989 – 1994) At A Glance


+Lotus handling in a front-wheel drive package

-Interior lacks appeal, styling a bit anodyne

The M100-Series Lotus Elan represented the light at the end of a very long tunnel for its maker. Lotus had been developing a small car to slot in under the Excel and Esprit since the early-1980s and had to endiure a number of abandoned projects before it arrived at the final 1989 car. For many enthusiasts, the M100 was a complete shock, not least because it was front-wheel drive, a format that had not really proved itself in the sports car market beyond a generation of hot hatchbacks. So it was a leap into the unknown for both buyers and its maker.

But once road testers got their hands of the Elan, and the scale of its dynamic proweess became apparent, you could hear the collective sighs of relief. Almost all the production cars ended up being turbocharged SE versions, though some 130bhp non-turbo models were sold. All were powered by a durable Isuzu 1600 engine that Lotus had helped to design.

Lotus was a money-losing combine by the the early 1990s, and the Elite offered no respite. Lotus made a loss on every one of the 3855 Elans sold, so it was abandoned after two years. But when Bugatti bought the company in 1994 further run of 800 was made, using up spare engine stock, and featuring a raft of improvements. The design was then sold off to Kia, who built its own Elan between 1996 and 1999.

Ask Honest John

What's the best classic sports car for around £10,000?

"I am thinking about buying a sports car for a bit of fun. I'm considering a Lotus Elan M100 or Honda S2000 and have up to £10k to spend or a bit more if necessary. I want something in reasonable nick and not too expensive on the repairs front, hence no Porsche considered. Which do you think is the better buy? "
Elan M100s haven't really taken off and if you're not 'hands-on' then the Honda S2000 should prove more reliable and is, therefore, the better choice for you. Early ones don't have as much low-down as torque as later models and have snappier handling. Rust-proofing is minimal, although most cars are garaged over the winter. You'll still want to check for rust though (especially where muck collects like the wheelarches) as bodywork can be one of the most expensive things to sort out. Aside from that, you'll need to make sure that the car's been well looked after, mechanically speaking. Yes, they're reliable, but with peak power coming in at 8300rpm and a rev limiter at 9000rpm, these engines work hard. Values have also been pretty solid on S2000s - perhaps they'll never capture the public's imagination in the same way as 911s do, but you shouldn't lose money as long as you don't scrimp on the upkeep.
Answered by Keith Moody
More Questions

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