If you look inside any transmission, side to side movement, so to speak, is ONLY possible when the shift selector is at or very close to a center fore-aft location. However, since a cable transmission usually has more "slop" than transmissions with the shifter built into the transmission, they also require slightly more exaggerated movements to account for slack in the cables and what-not.Can you move both cables at once to make the gear change from 2nd to 3rd? In case that makes no sense to anyone other than me, could you operate it in a manor where the forward-backward motion was occuring at the same time as side-to-side motion? I know it doesn't feel like they can when shifting through the traditional H-pattern in these cars, but i've driven in other cars that feel like you can move the gear shift knob basically diagonally between gears... Maybe they just had crappy transmissions?
Also, the lotus shifter also has very little compliance. A vehicle with a linkage type transmission (i.e. an older civic) will have rubber bushings that effectively preload the left to right action of the shifter, allowing the shifter to feel like it's moving to the right, when in actuality, you're loading a rubber spring, which releases it's energy once you enter the neutral area of the gearbox. The result of this is the sensation that you're actually moving the shifter diagonally, but right at the transmission, the gear selector is moving down then right, then down.
Does that make sense?