Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/07/13/review_cars_lexus_ct200h_hybrid/

Lexus CT200h hybrid

Too posh to rush?

By Alun Taylor

Posted in Science, 13th July 2011 12:00 GMT

Review Give Toyota its due, it's wringing the maximum amount of value from the Hybrid Synergy Drive power train. The 1.8 VVT-i Atkinson Cycle petrol engine and associated electric motor have already turned up in the Prius and Auris Hybrid, and now you can have them in a posh frock with a Lexus badge on the nose.

Lexus CT200h

Lexus' CT200h: the nose looks better than the rest

Called rather inelegantly the CT200h, Lexus' new baby is being billed as the first full hybrid in the premium compact sector. Or, to put it another way, a semi-sporty but still eco-tuned posh hatchback to compete with the likes of the Audi A3 and BMW 1 series.

Of course, sporty the CT200h really is not. Yes, when you turn the settings dial to Sport, the instrument cluster turns from blue to red and the charge/power gauge is replaced by a rev counter, but the basic performance profile of an Atkinson four-pot and CVT transmission remains when accelerating hard at low speeds: a surge in revs followed eventually by some forward motion when the gearbox catches up.

Lexus CT200h

Not a Mazda 3 - even though it looks like one

In Sport mode, which maximises the electric motor’s output and sharpens throttle response, the engine and electric motor deliver a combined power output of 134bhp, enough to get the Lexus to 62mph in 10.3 seconds and on to a top speed 112mph.

Those numbers are not the whole story, though, because there's a useful amount of torque available in the mid-range. Press the throttle at 50mph and the CT200h lunges towards the horizon with a satisfying lack of fuss.

Lexus CT200h

Rear window visibility is way better than you get out of a Prius

What you lose on the low-speed acceleration swings you gain on the driving roundabouts thanks to the 81bhp/153 lb-ft (60kW/207Nm) electric motor, which will propel you silently along the road for a mile or so at speeds up to 28mph - a useful feature in stop-start traffic.

My ride's here

The CT200h’s combined-cycle fuel consumption of 68.9mpg and CO2 emissions of 94g/km are impressive for car in this class. Both those figures are a gnat’s todger worse than the Prius and Auris Hybrid, but then the CT200h is heavier than the latter and less slippery than the former, with a drag coefficient of 0.29 versus the Prius’ 0.25.

Lexus CT200h

Not an unpleasant look, but anonymous

Combined with a 45 litre fuel tank, the Lexus has a theoretical maximum cruising range of 682 miles, but you'll have to drive very carefully to get close to that figure.

In the real world, I was getting around 57mpg.

On the open road, the Lexus is more refined and more poised then the Prius. Road holding is altogether better thanks to double wishbone rather than torsion beam rear suspension. Throw it into a corner and the Lexus stays flat and tucks in with none of the wallow the Prius would sometimes display.

Lexus CT200h

Ride quality is also rather impressive. You may not be wholly isolated from the vast potholes that riddle Britain’s B-roads but you don’t feel like they are shaking the fillings out of your teeth when you hit them.

The cabin is a similar step up from Toyota-land, with aluminium inserts and soft-touch plastics everywhere. You don’t get leather seats with the base SE-I spec, but the cloth is so lasciviously pleasant to the touch I was tempted to take a quick spin in the buff just to get the full effect. More importantly the seats are extremely comfortable and supportive.

Lexus CT200h

Sculpted flanks all the rage these days

The optional 8in screen satnav, communication and entertainment system is controlled with the help of what Lexus calls a Remote Touch unit. Think of a large PC mouse stuck to the centre console with a flat-headed joystick at the top and Enter buttons on either side, and you get the idea.

Inside the Lexus CT200h

Lexus CT200h

The cabin is very pleasent and very well made

Lexus CT200h

The enormo-screen satnav is an 1850 quid option

Lexus CT200h

Having a mouse in the car actually makes sense

Lexus CT200h

Point and click

Lexus CT200h

Turn the dial, dash turns red and you go fast(er). EV mode is all battery

Kylie eleison

It’s an easier way to navigate menus than the system controllers you'll find in modern BMWs and Mercedes - you just point and click as you would a PC. It so easy to use you can even do it on the move without diverting too much attention from the job of driving.

Standard kit is reasonably plentiful and includes a USB audio socket, tyre pressure warning system and leather steering wheel, but cruise control really should be standard across the range - it’s not even an option on the SE-I model.

Lexus CT200h

It's not actually a large car - this antipodean songstress (not included) is really very small

After 22 years, Lexus seems as far away as ever from a design philosophy that gives its cars an immediate visual identity. Of course, anonymity is not necessarily a bad thing - all BMWs look very BMW-ish, but that means I don’t much like the look of any of the current range.

Externally, the CT200h is apparently the latest expression of Lexus’ L-finesse design ideology and to be fair it’s not an unattractive car, but it just looks a little too much like a big Mazda 3 in my eyes.

Lexus CT200h

Room for the odd dead body or two in the back

The CT200h range starts at £23,485 on the road, £2500 more than the Prius. Add the fold-away satnav system and metallic paint and that figure rises to £25,845. For the same sort of money you could get a five-door BMW 118d which is dynamically superior - not just to the CT200h but to everything else in the class - and maybe even as economical in the real world, but it’s less spacious, less well-equipped, as ugly as sin and it lacks that magic EV button.

Verdict

By moving its hybrid offering into the - ahem - premium compact segment, Toyota Lexus has dodged the inevitable value-for-money questions that bedevil its other hybrids. The CT200h is not cheap but it is pleasant to drive, quiet, comfortable, spacious, versatile and very well bolted together. If you're looking for a car in this class and don’t have any boy-racer pretensions, it should do you very nicely. ®

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