Sedans & Coupes

Is the Lotus Elise Actually a Kit Car?

I won’t be the first to admit that the Lotus Elise isn’t the most common car out there. They sit on the awkward border of cars that are affordable enough for the average driver to buy on the used car market but rare enough to still be exciting to see. Its odd size makes it smaller than most cars on the road, only comparable to handling-oriented vehicles like the Toyota MR2 Spyder, Mazda MX-5, and Fiat 124. But, contrary to the history of the company, many people still believe that Lotus builds kit cars.

Does Lotus build kit cars?

Lotus is a small car company based out of an even smaller town of Hethel, United Kingdom, with a headquarters in Norwich, United Kingdom. You may recognize the odd badging from the Lotus Esprit driven by the iconic James Bond before he had his beautiful Aston Martin. Because of changes in safety regulations, the Lotus Elise was only imported into the United States for a handful of years from 2005 to 2012, and even the newer models like the Lotus Evora still aren’t all that common. As the owner of several Lotus cars, I’m surprised to hear how often people think that Lotus is a kit car company, building off of a platform like a mid-engined Toyota MR2 Spyder.

The rear view of a yellow 1996 Lotus Elise S1 on a country road
1996 Lotus Elise S1 rear | Lotus

Why would it be mistaken for a kit car?

Other uncommon exotic cars like Lamborghini and Ferrari cars aren’t assumed to be kit cars because it is common knowledge that this brand builds cars. Lotus, on the other hand, is far from a household name. Kit cars may not seem very exciting, but they can be just as well-built and impressive as many low production cars, including kit cars like the Vaydor and the Factory Five Mk4. The difference is that these kits are built off of other vehicles and are sometimes offered disassembled for private purchasers to build themselves.

Lotus itself is a real car manufacturer, although it is much smaller than popular brands such as Kia and Honda. They build cars from start to finish at their manufacturing facility and are not considered kit cars in any fashion.

1 1997 Lotus Elise Sport 190 driving on a beautiful country road
A 1997 Lotus Elise Sport 190 driving on country roads | Martyn Goddard/Corbis, Getty Images

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Lotus as a car brand

This year Lotus has announced a complete rebrand, ending the production of every single vehicle that they were still putting into production. This includes the Elise, Exige, and Evora, which will be replaced with completely new, all-electric vehicles. We still know very little about the next generation of Lotus cars, but the small community of owners is split between skepticism and intrigue.

An orange Lotus Elise Cup 250 up close as pictured at the Dream Car Exhibition
The Lotus Elise Cup 250 is exposed on the Dream Car Exhibition | Didier Messens, Getty Images

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If you’ve never known quite what to think of the Lotus Elise, or aren’t particularly familiar with the brand, I guess it makes sense that one could assume that these odd little exotics are actually kit cars. About the size of a Mazda MX-5 with the mid-engine platform of a Toyota MR2 Spyder the idea isn’t totally outlandish. Regardless of any similarities, the Lotus Elise is not a kit car, and it’s a car that’s produced all to itself.