Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0

The Elise was originally launched with the 1.8-litre engine sourced from Rover. Known as the 'K-Series' engine it was available with 122bhp or the option of a 156bhp version in the 111S. While these may seem small outputs, the minimal weight of the Elise ensures feisty performance. The Rover engine ceased to be available in 2005. The 111R launched in 2004 has a high-revving Toyota engine (mated to a fast-shifting six-speed gearbox) and with 190bhp its performance is stronger still.

It will race from 0-62mph in just 5.2 seconds but the nature of the engine means it does have to be worked hard to access the power, which peaks high up the rev range. Mid-2006 saw the launch of a new entry level model using a 134bhp Toyota engine. It lacks the manic top-end rush of its more powerful relation, but it's no less rewarding to drive, with a 0-62mph time of 6.1 seconds.

It also returns 34mpg. Top of the range is Elise SC which uses the same engine, but with power pushed to 220bhp thanks to a supercharger (hence the name). It's unbelievably quick with a supercar-rivalling 0-62mph time of just 4.6 seconds.

The Elise doesn't have power steering which means that low speed manoeuvres are difficult. However the upshot is wonderfully communicative steering through corners and superb feedback. The small steering wheel means pin-sharp response when turning into corners and as you'd expect from such a low car, there's is zero body roll. There's also immense grip, although the more powerful models can easily break traction in the wet.

The brakes are very effective too while a switchable traction control was added to the options list in 2006 giving added security in slippery conditions without detracting from the fun.