Back in the late 1980s, two automakers with very different values and historical backgrounds each set out to build a roadster model for mainstream enthusiasts. The two brands were Mazda with its MX-5, also known as Miata in North America and Eunos Roadster in Japan, and Lotus, then owned by General Motors, with the Elan M100.
Both two-seater models were presented in 1989, but only one managed to become a phenomenal sales success, and that was the MX-5.
Ironically, Mazda's goal was to create a direct descendant of the original Lotus Elan from the 1960s, with a nostalgic feel in terms of styling, lightweight philosophy and rear-wheel drive setup, adapted of course, to the times.
On the other hand, the British automaker purposely designed a futuristic successor that maintained the handling and nimbleness of the original Elan, but instead of RWD, opted for a FWD layout, the first and last time Lotus tried it on a production model.
Even though the modern Elan was praised for its handling and forward looking styling, it ultimately fell victim to its high price having to compete with the cheaper and more reliable MX-5, and the fact that it was not as entertaining on the road as a rear-wheel driven model.
The Lotus Elan remained in production from 1989 to 1995 being offered with a choice of two modified 1.6-liter four-cylinder engines sourced from Isuzu, which was then also controlled by GM. The base, naturally aspirated version produced 130hp (132PS), while the Lotus-developed turbo variant was good for 162hp (164PS).
After ending production of the Elan in 1995, Lotus sold the car's rights to Kia Motors, which at the time, was an independently run automaker. Kia built the Elan in South Korea for three years from 1996 until 1999 (in 1997, Kia went bankrupt with Hyundai stepping in to take a controlling stake of 51 percent in the company the following year).
Visually, Kia's version of the Elan, was almost identical to the original Lotus model sans some negligible differences such as the badges, the goofy looking tail lamps and some interior parts such as the steering wheel, gear shifter knob and instrument panel graphics.
The most important modification to the design, however, was the replacement of the original Elan's 1.6-liter engine with one of Kia's own motors, a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 152hp (154PS).
Needless to say, the Kia flavored Elan is a much rarer automobile than the original Lotus model, but we did manage to find two examples up for sale in Germany.
The first one, featured in a black finish, has covered 75,000km (46,600 miles) and is priced at €7,700 (US$10,170), while the yellow colored model with 65,000km (40,400 miles) could be yours for €9,600 (US$12,700).