Lotus Exige S2: PH Carpool

Name: Kieran Lee
Car: Lotus Exige S2 (N/A Touring)
Owned since: July 2017
Previously owned: Peugeot 206 1.1, Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch 1.7 CDTi, BMW 335i (E92), Porsche 924S, Honda Civic Type R (EP3), BMW 540i Sport (E39), BMW M135i (Fiancée's car and for errand running)

Why I bought it:
"After accumulating six points after being caught at a slightly silly speed trying to get back to watch a Six Nations game (awful excuse, I know), I realised that driving a reasonably fast (in a straight line) car on UK roads wasn't really viable. Six months later the E39 died when an elderly gentleman emerged from a side road unexpectedly and I decided that it was time for a change.

"With a likely need to upgrade the flat in a few years, a wedding on the horizon and a new A2 licence in my hands to cover commuting, the world was my oyster. I decided I wanted something a little less refined, something entertaining on the road at lower speeds and a little more capable on track, but I had a few conditions: fun, obviously, but ideally without chronic depreciation and with reasonable running costs. Why leave savings in the bank when you can drive them?

"A friend with an S1 Elise planted the idea of a Lotus in my head and I scoured the classifieds, ruling out most TVRs on running cost grounds. Being the powerfully built director type I knew I'd need an S2 for reasons of accessibility, but hadn't fully decided between Elise or Exige; I was, however, fairly set on a Toyota-engined car to avoid HGF ribbing and because I was one of the few that liked the power delivery in my old Civic Type R. Unfortunately, I was limited by budget: I could stretch to either a mint N/A 190 Exige or a supercharged Elise, and the SC I loved the sight and sound of was a good £5k over budget. Although my man maths is fairly good, the gap was still a step too far for me, especially when it amounted to only 30-50hp (and a very nice whine). It was a dilemma, but surprisingly Exige insurance costs were significantly below an Elise's and I far preferred the shape, so the decision was made.

"As is always the way, my Exige was the first and last car I looked at. Thankfully it was a good one, common issues had been rectified (the air-con pipe and paint crazing, mainly), the bodywork was mint and the splitter and spoiler had been sprayed in the body colour, something I far prefer. Despite covering minimal mileage over the past five years (and less than 3,000 per annum prior) it had been serviced annually at a reputable specialist, service items were nearly new and the previous owner was anal for the warm up procedure and car cleaning - very good signs.

"Lastly (and most importantly) the colour: Magnetic Blue is fairly rare and in my opinion suits the car perfectly; the last thing I wanted was a black, grey or silver car - I'd had enough of them!"

What I wish I'd known:
"That buying a low, fibreglass car would make me too paranoid to leave the car in a supermarket and that any food would be cooked on the journey home; that a standard size numberplate can't be mounted to the front without trying to dislodge itself at each speed hump or undulation in the road (even with a smaller plate you still have to be very careful with ground clearance); and that even when using the front seat it can be difficult to fit a full set of golf clubs in the car!

"My other intention for the car was to start doing a few more track days; however after testing at Brands Hatch showed static readings of 101.6dB (pre-cam change) and 103.3dB (post cam change), I am limited by noise restrictions at a number of circuits!"

Things I love:
"The smile it puts on my face when you reach an open flowing road, the surge in power above 6,200rpm, the pops on each upchange and the non-stop gurgling on the overrun when you ease off the throttle courtesy of the Larini exhaust system. The car actively encourages you to drive a gear or two lower than you should be.

"Also the reactions you get when out and about. People let you out of junctions, don't get angry when they're overtaken and kids (plus those who are still kids at heart) often stop and stare at it."

Things I hate:
"There is very little I dislike beyond trying to get out with dignity, although there are several slight annoyances. The glue used in Norfolk isn't up to much; despite being stored in a dry garage I've had a piece of interior trim fall off, landing on my head whilst driving down the A21. Also the Alcantara across the instrument binnacle is bridging and the headlining is beginning to sag, but they are all small and easily rectifiable.

"It's also not too waterproof when it rains, the boot leaks a little (another area that will get some attention this summer), the windows drop a bit despite regular adjustment and the front nearside indicator, after getting caught in a monsoon on the M40 (not fun on R888s), seems to have swallowed a lot of water. Again, all easily fixable and fairly minor annoyances for a weekend car.

"Lastly, the fuel gauge lies. Stopping on the side of a Belgian road with a quarter of a tank remaining required a push to level ground (the fuel pickup appears to be on the offside of the tank...)"

"Nothing beyond petrol, tax and insurance. The small re-trimming jobs should be solved by a local trimmer for a relatively modest outlay and a basic service is less than £200 at a Lotus specialist - thank you Toyota!"

Where I've been:
"The car had barely covered 3,000 miles in the five years prior to my ownership but covered 2,000 in my first six weeks. A week after collection I took it to Oxfordshire for the HPC young drivers day and a week later on a tour of the Belgian battlefields as part of the Passchendaele remembrance celebrations. Beyond that it's been used for regular Sunday Services and early morning runs, although it is regularly used to take me to the golf course as well when the sensible car is unavailable.

"I also try and give a little back; the car has been on display as part of the Roundel Run show at Biggin Hill air show, been opened up to disadvantaged children at a school in Surrey, and I use it regularly to give regular passenger rides on behalf of a charity supporting adults with SEN. Why not? People can't really damage the car as there is very little that hasn't already fallen off - might as well make somebody's day!"

What next?
"To carry on using it as it should be used, in all weathers. However, I am rapidly approaching my annual insurance mileage limit!

"The car is due a service and MOT in the spring. Forced induction/K20 swaps have always appealed, however with the condition of the car being so good I can't justify it currently; it would be a shame to potentially ruin what is such a straight car!"


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Comments (29) Join the discussion on the forum

  • JackReacher 05 Mar 2018

    I had a magnetic blue NA just like this, although a 56 plate. Loved the colour but found most lotus “enthusiasts” didn’t rate it, preferring the bright colours or black. I’d also come from an EP3 so really enjoyed the nature of the engine and work it required. Think I sold it for 18k in 2012, probably risen in value since then.

  • Number9 05 Mar 2018

    Love it! Drove 700 miles on the day I bought mine!
    And they are surprisingly practical - I managed to fit a child's sofa and a chalk board in the passenger seat on one occasion. Granted I had my face squashed against the drivers window and struggled to change gear, or breathe, but that's beside the point

  • lewisf182 05 Mar 2018

    Always had a soft spot for these!
    When I bought my BMW 130i in 2013 you could get them for just under sub £20k and I was very tempted but couldn't justify the extra outlay over my £7.5k alternative purchase. what a mistake as those cars are now about £25k minimum...... gutted! will get into one one day though although the stories of water ingress etc put me off a bit as it would be a daily driver.

    This looks fantastic in the blue as well.

  • b14 05 Mar 2018

    I also had a 56 plate n/a Exige in Magnetic Blue - it isn't that rare a colour! Sold mine in December 2010 with 26k on the clock for 18k. It was a great car, one of the most reliable I've ever owned and wish I'd never sold it, but needs must at the time. One day I'll get another one.

  • unsprung 05 Mar 2018

    Looks sinister and a bit like a stealth bomber in that dark blue.

    On a random Saturday you might see a dozen or more Elise / Exige cars, en masse, zipping up the Pacific Coast Highway from Los Angeles.

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