It's a personal call really.
The Exige is a bit heavier (1985 vs. 1925 lbs) and has better aerodynamic aids (splitter/wing) to give it more downforce at high speeds. It also comes with the optional (for the Elise) sport package as standard. It definitely looks more aggressive.
It has a fastback design which makes rear visibility even harder.
Plus it has a 'fixed' roof while the Elise is a Targa with an optional hardtop.
The bare bones phisolophy is apparent on both. Don't expect luxury, cold A/C, (afterall, it's British
) sound insulation, massaging seats or a decent radio (I'd like to remove mine, the engine sounds so much better). It's noisy, low, small, fragile (no DOT approved bumbers!!!), the factory lights suck (Euro light pattern, another DOT exception).
It sounds like a terrible car on paper, but drop in (literally!) racing style into the pefect (for my 6'2" 185lbs) seat and all is forgiven.
The palms sweat, the heart starts racing and the breathing is fast and shallow.
Push the start button and the little 4banger has a surprisingly bassy song at idle.
Putt around the neighborhood till the engine warms up or it won't let you go past 6,000RPM.
Once the Engine is warm, the standing start is one of the fastest due to its mid engine design (rearward weight bias), sticky tires, and low engine torque.
It will leave pretty much every supercar behind it... for a while until the torque monsters stop burning rubber and dig in. Of course, 190HP will not get you past many fast cars on a straight line but find a curve and you make up for a lot of ground. Plus you can outbrake pretty much everybody. The Brembo brakes have retina detaching powers, very impressive.
Do all that in the Lotus, climb aboard any other car and you'll think you just boarded a bus. That's how I felt when I traded cars with my friend's 993 911.
A truly special experience that requires different thinking (i.e. sacrifice creature comforts) but rewards you in so many ways. I love my little car!
If you're intrigued, I'd recommend a test drive.
You'll either LOVE it or HATE it.
There are not many people in between.
There are plenty of Lotus dealerships in Cali.
For you High-End guys, a Lotus is barely pricier than a set of interconnects...