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2010-10-06 08:24

Independent performance car manufacturers need to bring down their fleet CO2 averages in future. Small city cars are the way. Enter the Lotus, well, city car.

When the Paris motor show opened last week, few could have predicted that Lotus would wow attendees with an unprecedented six new models.

In a desperate drive to double sales, the respected sportscar manufacturer (and engineering consultancy) stole the show by debuting a new Elise, reincarnated Esprit and Elan models, a four-door Eterne and hybrid Elite.

The raft of new models bode well for the future of Lotus under the charismatic leadership of its new boss, former Red Bull racing marketing director and Ferrari North America prodigy, Dany Bahar.

Emissions issues

Unfortunately, despite subscribing to company founder Colin Chapman’s mantra of lightweight design to maximize performance, even Lotus cannot escape the tightening demands of stringent emissions regulation.

Bar the next-generation Elise, all other Lotus future sportscars will be powered by a forced-induction version of the Lexus IS-F 5l V8, or an increased capacity 4l version of Toyota's  V6 found in the current Evora.

With most of the future Lotus product portfolio set to be V6 and V8 powered, the company’s emissions footprint will increase alarmingly. In an attempt to balance this issue, Lotus’s sixth unveil at the Paris motor show was a novel city car.

Much in the way Aston Martin is attempting to reduce its fleet CO2 emissions with the (hugely) controversial Toyota iQ-based Cygnet, Lotus hopes its city car concept will do the same with less brand image depreciation. Featuring the company's new thin-slit headlights and etched with clean lines, we think Lotus is very much working in the right direction with regards to the city car's styling and proportions.

The Paris city car concept was neatly executed, although Lotus admits it will need to find a partner to provide the final production platform. Hethel specializes in aluminium-riveted and chemically-bonded tub chassis designs, both of which are a trifle too advanced (and expensive) for a small city car application.

Wolf Zimmerman, who is the new engineering chief of Lotus and a former AMG-man, said that a flywheel hybrid drivetrain would be the preferred power-source solution for any production city car model.

The idea of Lotus producing a city car may rankle traditionalists, yet is far more in line with Hethel’s lightweight design heritage than Aston Martin dealerships having a Toyota hatchback sharing showroom floor space with DB9s...


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