Nah, space elves would be more fragile and have even bigger engines.
As for choosing a force, I would just play a bundle of games with the counters to find a fleet you like the feel of. If find you like the game I would recommend buying A Sky Full of Stars (SFoS) for the extra rules tweaks and ships that have been added. Additionally Armageddon, which introduces a new priority level and more ships and rules tweaks willbe released shortly. Neither SFoS or Armageddon are required to play the game however - everything you need is in the box.
The Earth, Centauri and Narn fleets are probably the best fleets to use for learning the basics of the game (which are dead easy to pick up). They do not have any significant special rules that need some work and tactics to get around (like every ship having Stealth). These three fleets also introduce all the common weapon types, traits and defenses.
Earth - Tend to be slow, heavily armed and armoured ships that are able to fight well in any arc. Have one of the most versatile fleets out there.
Minbari - Stealth protected, but a bit fragile and packing Neutron lasers. As Reaverman said they play best at the highest Priority levels. They also have arguably the best looking ship from the TV series (Sharlin).
Centauri - Fast predators. Generally able to out maneouvre most opponents. They probably have the most versatile fleet selection out there with a lot of ships designed for a specific role.
Narn - Like the Earth they are very heavily armed and armoured (possibly more so...). Competeing with the Minbari for the best looking ship from the TV series (G'Quan).
The Ancients (Shadows, Vorlons) and the League. They often require more specialised fleet tactics to get the best out of them.
The Drakh and Dilgar are also available as small supplements.