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Is It Practical?Loads of people have asked me how I can buy such an impractical car when I've got a wife and a baby (with another one on the way). Well first of all, it is a second car, and secondly it's more practical than you may think. A lot of the owners listed on this site use theirs as their only car.
SafetySee the safety section.
Open TopThe Elise is remarkable for an open top car in that the buffeting and wind noise is very low due to the rear windscreen. It is perfectly possible to hold a normal conversation at 80mph and you can still make yourself understood at 100mph. The soft top was not designed into the car at the outset and as such is a compromise. The latest incarnation is fully waterproof but requires careful fitting and takes practice to fit within a minute. The hardtop transforms the car into an all weather coupe and does increase the interior noise levels slightly. It also makes getting into the car a little bit harder. Fitting the hard top really requires two people but it is quicker.
SpacePerhaps it biggest downfall if it's your only car. There is not much storage space, but a small bag can be carried behind the rear seats and a small weekend bag for two will fit in the boot. The passenger footwell is also long and a bag can be stored comfortably at the feet of the passenger.
Ride ComfortI was surprised by the ride of this car. It is firm but comfortable and my Rover Coupe had a harder ride with much less feedback. The seats have little padding but I've had no problems after more than fours hours at the wheel. My sixteen month old daughter has no problem sleeping in the car whilst I'm driving which just shows how good the chassis and suspension settings are at ironing out bumps, yet providing unmatched feedback. A true testament to Lotus knowledge on chassis and suspension design.
RefinementThe K-series engines are great and have a split personality, with the 4000rpm line being the dividing line. Below this figure it's a quiet, flexible engine, that would satisfy the most demanding of Sunday drivers. Above this figure, it gets louder and faster. It is never noisy and is always smooth, right up to the red line. Some people say the car is too quiet. If that's what you think, then fit a sports exhaust. Lotus have made the more recent cars (mine included) more sporty sounding from the drivers view point and I love it. The VVC version has more low down torque and is even more split in personality. At 4000rpm it goes AWOL.
QualityLoads Of Trouble Usually Serious (LOTUS). It's still not brilliant, but this is the best Lotus ever, with a Rover warranted engine and gearbox. It is solid and well made. Since it's launch Lotus have made changes to the car to overcome all major problems. Like any new car it has had its initial problems, more than my Rover 200 but, less than a Mercedes A-Class. My own car was faultless and perfectly silent and Lotus quality control seems to be continually improving.
Costs£22k for a car this good. Absolute bargain! (or it would be if it actually cost this much. Add all the 'options' and it's nearly £26k). It's very economical (>30mpg) due to it's very light weight (690kg) and modest 1.8 engine. It's fairly cheap to service, and my insurance was £440 a year. If my rear tyres see 6000 miles I'll be surprised. Servicing has been less than £50 so far, the next one will be about £200.
SummaryIn summary, if this your only car then it may not work for you. As a second car, it's the most fun you can have for this kind of money with four wheels and that clinched it for me. If you really want open top fun with practicality then buy an MGF or MX5. If you want the ultimate driving experience, then only an Elise will give it, this is the race car for the road. Each Lotus Elise comes free with an inane grin stuck to the face of its owner.
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Copyright © Rob Collingridge 2009 - Last updated 08 Oct 1999