The Kia Elan Proved Lotus Can't Fix Everything

Under the category of “extremely unlikely to pass off a car to Kia,” Lotus might top the list. Any sports car manufacturer, really. But this was a real thing that happened. And it resulted in the birth of an unlikely hero in 1996, the Kia Elan.

Back in the 1980s, Lotus was busy trying to create its next sports car to bring it back to their roots. Small, lightweight, rear-wheel drive, after years of Esprit excess.


No, this did not end up becoming the Lotus Elise we all know and love. Not yet. First we got the Lotus Elan, a sports car aimed at American buyers with the help of General Motors and Isuzu, which provided a turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The only issue was that it was, in fact, front-wheel drive instead of rear, which we all know is less than ideal for a true sports car.

This resulted in a car nobody quite wanted to own. So, after only 3,800 Lotus Elans were produced, the car was handed off to Kia in 1995. Ta Da! The Kia Elan was born.


Although getting any car from Lotus would normally be a godsend, the little four-cylinder Kia Elan only moved about 1,000 examples in four years. And thus, the Kia Elan was done. But it is still worth remembering.

Video Producer for Jalopnik. In a committed relationship with her 2007 Nissan Sentra named Layla.

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I really like the looks of the Lotus/Isuzu Elan. Like everyone else though, I bought a 1990 Miata, a better knockoff of the original Lotus Elan. I made the right decision.