We get this question a LOT on LotusTalk. Maybe one of the most common and it has been discussed to death. So here you are, wondering the same thing. Can I buy this car and use it as my daily driver?
The simple answer is, well... maybe. It will depend on what your needs are as a daily driver. For example, if you went on a motorcycle forum and asked "Can I ride a motorcycle as my daily driver?" The answer is maybe. Some people do. Some would think you would be nuts. Many people here use their Lotus as a daily driver. Be it Seven, Elan, Elise, or Esprit. But never an Eclat.
For some people, daily driver means that they still have some other vehicle (family car, spouse's car, work car) that they can use. For others, this is their only car. For some people, the answer will depend on location. Road conditions, traffic, and weather.
There are some extra considerations you should think about. My answers will be based on the Lotus Elise, but should in general apply for the most part to any Lotus. YOU have to determine the value of these things and what it means to YOU. Which is the main reason that there is no one correct answer to "can this car be my daily driver." Review the following items and see how it would apply to you. You may have to use critical thinking skills!
1. Size and Safety, traffic, roads, visibility
3. Attention and perceptions
5. Passengers, Ingress and Egress
6. Noise, Comfort
1. SIZE AND SAFETY, TRAFFIC, ROADS, VISIBILITY
The Elise is a smaller car and this will be apparent when driving on the road next to an Escalade. It takes a little bit to get used to the feeling, but you will. Any smaller car carries some extra risk (though you gain some safety by nimbleness, great brakes). The Elise has an excellent safety record and uses large door crash beams and an integral rollbar. It is a safe car.
Driving a small (low) car like the Elise means you are not easily seen. If you are behind, or to the passenger side of a taller vehicle like an SUV or Van, they can't see you. This means you should adopt some different methods or techniques. Do not drive on the passenger side of most cars. Do not follow too close for a distance (they will forget you are there). Do not pull up at a stop right behind someone taller (try to move over to the left to be seen in their side mirror). Try to avoid passing cars on the right (as you should anyway). Pretend you are a motorcycle, but much lower. Keep alert to avoidance and where your escape route is.
Low and fragile. Take special care about hitting road debris. A tire tread can cause a lot of damage on an Elise. If you drive roads with a lot of debris (some Los Angeles freeways), maybe this is not the right car for the commute.
Roads. The tighter suspension and shorter wheelbase mean that the Elise can hop over bridge connections and jar over broken roads, specially concrete. If you drive a lot on less smooth roads, the jarring can get tiresome. This is a lot worse IMO on a sport package Elise than a non-sport, mainly due to tires.
Visibility. In the Exige.. lol. But even in the Elise, it is not so good. You can make it a lot better, with the installation of the concave mirrors. But you are in a low sportscar with blind spots, so take extra care when changing lanes.
Included in this is entrances and exits. The low ground clearance and longer front overhang mean that the front of the car can easily scrape on entering a driveway, or into a gas station. You need to review each and every ramp to see if clearance is a problem (try using an angled approach, but always be VERY willing to say screw it and find another entrance or station or whatever). Hitting the clam on the pavement is a bad thing. One thing to really look for, is the evil parking lot where the entrance is not a problem, but the exit is.
Parking garages. SOME garages have a pretty sharp angle where the ramp to the next floor is joined. Worst nightmare is getting "high sided" on a point. Know your garage and know if you can drive it and get out.
Parallel Parking. Due to the low height of the car, people will often not see it. And even if they do, some people routinely park by tapping the other car lightly. But on an Elise, this can cause a LOT of damage. Do not parallel park the car. And if you do, only take the most forward position as most incidents are from people backing up and not seeing the Lotus.
Even normal side by side parking is more potentially damaging in the Lotus. The low height means people will not see you in that tall SUV to your left and they swing out and clip you as they go to leave. Or swing in to park in your space, not seeing the car until it is too late. Don't pull up too far, leave your butt hanging out more even with the other cars. Also, on the same token, get used to not pulling up as far because if you hit the parking berm, you will damage your clam. Do not drive up and use the tires against the concrete berm method. Stop 4 feet back.
And if you are at a place known for large people hauling large things... park far away. You don't want people trying to fit a cart next to your car, or moving 2x4 wood next to your car. This includes Home Depot, Walmart, Ikea, Costco. Park at the far edge of the lot.
Valet parking. Are you nuts? Maybe if you know them, but better to tip and ask if you can park it yourself. Or just don't.. some valets end up parking your car around the corner where the crack gang hangs out.
So what is left for parking? Walking is good exercise and you can apply some rules for determining good spaces.
3. ATTENTION AND PERCEPTIONS
Two main issues here. One is attention. Now many of us have a little inner attention whore and some attention is fun. Nice to get the occasional wave or question. But often, the attention can get too much. As stated before, this is really dependent on the person. For example, Dennis of dpcars said he had to sell the Elise a ways back, because driving it was like having to put on a tux for a prom, every time he just wanted to go to the convenience store. You will not travel incognito, if you were going to the local strip club, all your neighbors will mention it the next day. Stopping at a gas station means you will probably get a question or two. After a while, some of the questions can be old..such as "Lotus? Who makes that?" and the popular, "how much did you pay for that?" and "how many cylinders/what is the top speed/what does it do in the 1/4mile." Most people mean well and we are really ambassadors of the brand. People will also tend to drive up to the car, regardless of your speed. You can be driving 85mph and see some old minivan speeding like a bat out of hell, just to get along side of you. Except mostly, they hang out in your blind spot, which makes lane changes difficult. You can see people taking pics or video from the next car. And sometimes, it really brings out the stupid in people.
The other issue is perception. Some people think you are driving the most expensive car in the world for some reason. And they don't like it. You are instantly a dick for rubbing their face in it. Not too many, the car brings out more positives than say a Hummer or Lambo, but still... it happens. The kid in the Civic with a fart can will want to race and will do dumb stuff. The Mustang guy will challenge you and cop an attitude. You may find this is not the right car for business, because of the perceptions (right or wrong!) of your customers, clients, or their employees. You will be seen as too flashy, too risky, too much a big spender, maybe even someone that will not live long in a car like that.
This one may seem a bit obvious. There are limitations on hauling. Duh. There are things you can haul quite easily. A couple of duffel bags for travel, no problem. Your helmet might fit in the boot. Maybe. There is a little room behind the seats. And if you don't have a passenger, you have all the space in his seat and in his footwell to carry all kinds of stuff. But there are limitations. The rear boot, is not bad... but the mouth opening is quite small. So little items that you can push around the wheel wells works well. Soft items work well. A roll-on luggage bag, probably will not fit in the mouth. So trips to the store also have the same limitations. You can pick up a couple bags of groceries, specially if you are willing to take them out of the bag, nothing is frozen (or your trip is not too long), or you can use the passenger seat. But heavy stuff, bad idea, specially in the boot. It can't handle heavy loads and the back of the tail lights are exposed and the wiring connectors can get broken. If you have a hardtop on the car, there is also more of a limit on getting bulky items in through the door into the passenger seat.
But then... you should have friends with trucks, right?