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First drive: Lotus Europa S – on sale now

Lotus

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Review

Lotus dealers have been promised a trio of new models by the end of the decade, which will open their business to a wider customer base.

In the meantime, they’ve slipped the Europa S into their showrooms, alongside the Elise and Exige. Lotus claims Europa S is for driving enthusiasts who are prepared to sacrifice a tiny bit of track day performance for a more GT-like drive, extra space and more luxury.

Luxury, by Lotus’s normal weight-saving standards, comprises leather trimmed seats and interior, air-con, electric windows, central locking and a Blaupunkt single DIN combined sat-nav and CD-player system.

By our standards, that’s not a lot, but it may be enough to tempt new customers if they’ve previously been turned off by Elise’s bare-bones specification.

Unlike a true GT, Europa S is certainly no car for end-to-end jaunts across the UK. Few but the most passionate owners would describe its ride as compliant, and its luggage space maxes out at 154-litres. Europa S will need frequent fuel stops, too, as it has a 43.5-litre fuel tank.

Nevertheless, it has the pin-sharp handling and performance expected from real Lotus DNA, which makes it enormous fun to thrash around on roads and tracks in small doses.

Its 200bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged engine is flexible enough to potter pedestrian-like but when opened up lets Europa S bare its teeth.

If the build quality of our test car is typical of the 400-unit annual production Lotus aims to achieve, dealers may see their Europa S customers quite frequently, however. The press car suffered misting headlights and several interior fittings failed to meet expectations.

Price: £33,945
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol: 200bhp @ 5,400rpm; 194lb ft @ 4,200rpm
Performance: 0-60mph 5.5sec, top speed 140mph
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Efficiency: 30.4mpg (combined)
CAP RV 3yr/30k: £18,375 (55%)
Rivals: Porsche Cayman, BMW Z4 Coupé
Strengths: Performance, easier to live with
Weaknesses: Build quality, tiresome engine noise
Opportunity: Tempt Elise-rejecters back to the Lotus brand
Threat: Doesn’t live up to the ‘GT-like’ message
USP: A Lotus with frills as well as thrills

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