Plainly there's a lot of eager anticipation around the Lotus Emira - as there should be; new Lotuses really don't come around all that often. The new car is promising what so may have been hoping for in a 21st century Lotus: the famed ride and handling panache, with sufficient usability to make regular driving viable. And not a mission best planned in advance. Something along the lines of the Alpine A110, in fact. Albeit with a manual gearbox, and a V6 option.
But the Emira isn't Lotus's first attempt at combining what makes its cars great to drive with a car that's easy to use. Remember the Europa? Launched 15 years ago, its premise was so simple it's strange to think it had taken Lotus 10 years to conjure up. The Europa idea was to use Elise architecture to make something almost as good to drive, but equip it with additional comfort features - as well as a torquier engine - to make it more suitable as an everyday prospect.
What came out of Hethel was lavishly praised. Despite carrying more than 100kg over an Elise and with a GM turbo 2.0-litre rather than a screaming supercharged Toyota engine, the Europa was still tangibly a Lotus product - it drove beautifully. It still weighed just under a tonne, it still had fabulous steering and it still flowed down a road better than pretty much anything else.
From a driving perspective, it was job jobbed - as usual. But as an everyday proposition the Europa was flawed, the platform not really lending itself to the remit of easy access, low effort sports car. There was more sound deadening and leather and a better stereo, but the Europa was still pretty raw by the standards of the class. And if you wanted a raw British sports car, why not have an Elise or Exige?
In the end, despite an improved Europa SE arriving in 2008, Lotus made just 500 Europas, meaning precious few are around nowadays. According to HowManyLeft, just 145 Europas remain on UK roads, and just one - one! - Europa SE. Which, as a secondhand purchase, may well work in the Europa's favour.
Rarer than a contemporary Elise, better to drive than all the opposition and still plenty fast enough - the past 15 years has probably served to enhance the Europa's appeal, rather than diminish it. And values are reflecting that: when we featured a 50,000-mile car in January 2020, it was for sale at £20,995. Now a similar car is on offer at £27,450, said to benefit from a comprehensive service history and "an incredible condition throughout". The upgraded tan leather interior certainly elevates the interior ambience above an Elise and the condition seems commensurate with careful ownership over the past 14 years. This example is also about half the price any Emira will be. Perhaps now, a decade and a half after launch, might be the Europa's time to shine...
SPECIFICATION | LOTUS EUROPA
Engine: 1,998cc four-cylinder turbo
Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 200@5,400rpm
Torque (lb ft): 200@5,000rpm
Recorded mileage: 51,202
First registered: 2007
Price new: £32,995
Yours for: £27,450
1 / 6