This content was excerpted from an article about Britain's Best Driver's Cars and is concerned only with the Elise. The picture was from elsewhere in the same issue.
EVO, June 2002
Britian’s Best, Driver’s Cars
That leaves the Elise. Pre-test favourite alongside the STi, it is the polar opposite of the Impreza, trading forced-induction 4x4 thuggery for modest power, lithe build and mid-engined agility. It has to be said it feels pretty special at a standstill, and finished in blood red it looks every inch the baby Ferrari. If anything can loosen the Mini's grasp on its date with destiny it's the Lotus.
Drop into the hard, supportive seat and its driving position immediately puts you in the mood. The mundane-sounding K-series engine doesn't quite set your pulse racing, but the free, easy way in which it gets the Elise moving hints at the Lotus's lack of inertia. The emphasis is on delicacy and purity, most notably in the steering, which although light has immaculate feel and a creamy rate of response. None of the other contenders get anywhere near it for feedback.
Sadly the brakes and gearshift aren't in the same league. The unservoed middle pedal is firm but fails to generate genuine bite, even when pushed to the point of locking, while the stringy, disconnected gearshift quality is at odds with the precision and consistency of the chassis. Below par though these aspects are, when you get into a rhythm the Elise flows like few other cars at any price, displaying impeccable damping, admirable balance and an all-pervading sense of rightness.
However, such is the chassis' ability you soon crave more power. An additional shove in the back would enable the Elise to accelerate meaningfully out of a corner rather than slowly gain momentum, broadening the focus solely from maximising your turn-in speed. Like the Mini the Elise has a special combination of handling and looks. The differences come when you stray from your ideal road - or when it's wet.
Come rain or shine you can push the Cooper S hard, maximising your enjoyment every time you drive it, whilst predictably the Lotus forces you to make some inescapable sacrifices. If it's safe to assume cars in this bracket have to cut it on an everyday all-weather basis, the Elise's ethereal charms would surely start to wear thin on a long motorway haul or in the depths of mid-winter. Boring I know, but then real life often is - or so I'm told.
So, as you've probably gathered, the Cooper S wins, out-gunning much faster, more exotic and more expensive opposition with a sensational combination of gutsy performance, inspirational handling, voguish image and an indomitable sense of fun. The Establishment is in tatters.