Obvio!, Lotus to create multifuel, microsports cars

It's really easy to get excited when you hear Lotus is teaming up with a Brazilian carmaker to produce a small (89" wheelbase), light (1,648 lbs), three-seat sportscar called the 012. Then to hear it gets 40 mpg on the highway from its 1.6L 4 cylinder and offers a choice of paddle-shifted CVT or 6-speed manual and it's starts to sound very interesting especially when the list base price is only $28,000! And there's more? Sportier models offer 170 hp, and 250 hp Tritec engines. With that power to weight ratio, you'll be the Autocross king! My god, that's better than the GT3, the Sport Exige and even better than the Caterham R400! Those numbers, according Obvio, the company planning the 012, are attained while running ethanol or compressed natural gas. Pump good old gasoline into the tank and see a 10% boost!

If only you didn't live in the lawsuit-happy U.S.A . With luck, you'll get to drive it on your vacation to Brazil next summer.

Cancel the trip, because ZAP!, the company importing the first Smart cars into the States, has signed a contract with Obvio to buy 50,000 of their little funcars over three years beginning in 2008. There will also be an electric plug-in version of the car, with 0-60 times in the 4.5 second range, a top speed of 120 mph and a starting price of $59,000.

If you like your sporty economy cars to look more econ than sport, check out the Obvio 828 and more details on both models after the jump.

[Source: Motor Authority]
Lotus is also helping Obvio develop the slightly more practical 828 which boasts the same impressive performance numbers of the 012, three seats and small profile, but base price starts much lower at $14,000. It will also be available in an electric version, 828E, with a starting price of $49,000.

Both cars' engines are sourced from Tritec, a Brazilian engine manufacturer that was set up in 1997 by Chrysler and Rover. The 1.6L engine used by Obvio is the same as used in the first generation Mini and the PT Cruiser. The 170 hp option mentioned in Obvio literature is probably the same powerplant used in the last gen Mini Cooper S.

These wee little performance cars face enormous regulatory hurdles before they ever roll side-by-side with Escalades and Chargers. Add in the fact that the promotional material on the Obvio website lists just about every gee-whiz gadget you can stuff into a car as optional equipment and our skepticismometer starts to reach the red. Involvement by Lotus is encouraging, however, and we hope to see what a 5.2:1 power to weight ratio feels like.

Obvio's site is filled with page after page of company history, design sketches, development videos and photos. You get a good sense of the enthusiasm the young company has and, as you can tell from this post's introduction, it's infectious. We think an efficient, multi-fuel, sporty vehicle will find several U.S. buyers at a $14,000 low-end. Whether Zap! can sell 16,000 of them a year here is a question to be answered. Hopefully in 2008 we'll get a chance to see how the 828 and 012 stack up against Smart and other mini cars.

From left, Smart ForTwo, Smart Crossblade and the Obvio 828.

Obvio !

Vehicle dimensions and weight





1,650 mm (65 in.)

1,800 mm (71 in.)


1,750 mm (69 in.)

2,250 mm (89 in.)


1,500 mm (59.0 in.)

1,500 mm (59.0 in.)

Overall lenght

2,650 mm (104 in.)

3,200 mm (126 in.)

Curb weight

600 kg (1,318 lb.)

750 kg (1,648 lb.)

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