What should I be paying?
Lotus Elises tend not to be their owner’s only car. Yes, let’s go ahead and satisfy every trope right now – it’s a second or third car, track toy or set of weekend wheels. But you could use one as your only car in any number of circumstances. Just you and your significant other? No worries. Divorced with just one kid? If the alimony allows, go nuts. Live in the city and commute by bike/bus/tube? A weekend car makes complete sense – escape to the countryside or track, and indulge in real driving.
OK, packing for longer trips away will probably require a Buddhist approach to personal possessions, an itinerary that includes a lot of nudist beaches or a tacit agreement to overlook your significant other wearing the same shirt for five days in a row. But you’re a resourceful type, aren’t you? Luggage racks and boot bags weren’t invented for people with too much luggage space. As standard, there’s 112 litres available behind the engine, and any number of Lotus owners will tell you how entirely possible it is to go away for as much as a week with that much space.
As for fuel economy, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t get more than 30mpg – that scant weight is on your side again, as the 1.8-litre engine sips away at the dino-juice, regardless of supercharger. And it follows that you’ll be easier on tyres, brakes and suspension as well, even on a track. As Colin said, light weight makes you faster everywhere. What he failed to mention is that light weight also means less force and stress on all the important oily bits underneath and around you.
And now for the elephant we’ve been tiptoeing around as it sits in the middle of the room and makes itself comfortable: reliability. Yes, it’s the other Lotus trope, invoked about as often as the one about simplicity and lightness. Lots Of Trouble, Usually Serious is the phrase used most often, and it’s fair to say that Lotus has a history of things breaking. These days, the engines are Toyota-sourced and bulletproof, the body’s aluminium, carbon-fibre and fibreglass construction means that corrosion isn’t much of a concern, and there isn’t a panoply of active tech to go haywire when you least expect it. But this is still a low-volume, handbuilt car, with all that it entails. In our experience, issues tend to stem from the electrical system.
It might be cost effective to run, but the Elise is no longer a low cost roadster to buy. You're looking at upwards of £40k for the privilege, and options – such as they are – aren't cheap. Still, it's on par with the other lightweight people like to talk about, the Alpine A110, and less than a Porsche Boxster.