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Slightly restyled, a basic new Lotus Elise now costs £27,450 in the United Kingdom. In the United States, a new Lotus Elise is a much more powerful car but is priced from $47,250. Before you go and point out that £27,450 equals about $40,000 in the USA, consider this: Brits are able to buy a Lotus Elise for about the same price as a Nissan 370Z. If only the same were true for us. Brits pay way less for a simple Lotus Elise than for a BMW 135i – reverse the story for American consumers.

I don’t care about the reasons why; the costs of manufacturing and selling in the UK versus manufacturing in the UK before shipping little convertibles on big boats across the Atlantic to sell in a few widely spread dealerships. I just wish…. I wish a Lotus Elise was the high value proposition here that it is there.

Comparing a Nissan 370Z and a Lotus Elise is not so unlike comparing apples with oranges. One is a V6-engined Japanese brute, fun to drive in an “I’m the boss” kind of way. The other is designed in Hethel, and in base UKDM form, uses a 1.6L with just 134 horsepower. A Lotus Elise works with the road as an unindicted co-conspirator, flowing and bobbing and weaving with dexterity; permitting its driver to feel every crevice in the asphalt. The fact that British buyers can choose between such differing driving environments at the same price point ought to make North American consumers green with envy. 

Green, you say? The 2011 Lotus Elise 1.6 generates just 155 grams of CO2 per kilometre. Using the U.S. gallon with the EU fuel economy cycle, the 2011 Lotus Elise is a 38.3 mpg car. As a result of entering the ring as a featherweight, the Lotus Elise, even with “just” 134 horsepower, accelerates to 60mph in less than six seconds. Yeah, the Nissan 370Z is quicker, but also far less efficient. The EPA rates the manual-transmission 370Z at 21 miles per gallon. 

Yet again I must point out that this is not a comparison test between the Nissan 370Z and the 2011 Lotus Elise 1.6. Both cars seat two. The Z’s interior is outfitted with required technology; Lotus would rather you not ask for extravagance. Claims have been made by outside sources which say the Lotus Elise is the best-handling car in the world. Nissan 370Zs are handlers, yes, but make a lot of headway with grip; less with supple manipulation. 

Imagine back-to-back test drives knowing the monthly payments would be nearly identical. The Lotus would use far less fuel, the 370Z would keep you comfortable. Nissan’s 370Z could power you out of corners like the 332-bhp rocketship it is, Lotus’s Elise could be steered straight through with the throttle floored. 

Lotus has no plans to certify the 1.6L Toyota engine for its North American Elise lineup. It’s hard to blame the tiny Malaysian-owned company. Its sales volumes on our shores are a drop in the bucket of what’s required to mount a full challenge on the North American sports car establishment. One wonders, however, at the possible Marketplace strength of a reliable, evocatively-badged British convertible with sky-high credentials and efficiency on its side. 

Indeed, one wonders.

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