Lexus CT200h

30 Sep, 2010 3:40pm Andrew English

Our verdict on classier version of Toyota’s hybrid Prius, and new entry point to luxury arm’s range.

Verdict

3
As an entry point to the Lexus range, the CT 200h works well, and fills the gap between the Prius and RX hybrids. But claims of sporting ability ring hollow. The chassis doesn’t have the agility, the steering is too wooden and the long-stroke engine is too laboured. Nevertheless, with fuel prices rising, this distinctive and efficient four-seater hatch makes sense. It’s likely to sell strongly – although so will its rivals.

MEET the compact Lexus that’s taking on the Audi A3 and BMW 1-Series! The five-door CT 200h is not only the Toyota luxury brand’s first small executive car, but it will also be the first hybrid in its class when sales start in March.

It’s priced at £23,485, and is effectively a revamped Prius on a new independently sprung chassis with a handsome if rather uninspiring body, available in sombre silver, grey or blue.

Under the skin is the familiar Prius driveline, comprising a four-cylinder petrol engine, an 81bhp electric motor and a nickel metal hydride battery. The brilliance of this is that the engine can drive the front wheels and/or charge the battery at the same time.

It’s a highly efficient way of recouping braking energy as electricity, and means the Lexus (as with the Prius) has excellent fuel consumption in town, and is also capable of running for short distances on electricity alone.

Over 1.5 million examples of the Prius have been sold, and apart from the recent US recall, they’ve proven reliable. Yet Toyota has never positioned the Prius as sporty; the CT 200h fills the gap.

Step inside and the luxurious layout is just what a Lexus buyer expects. Leather seats (in all but the entry SE-L) with soft-touch plastics and aluminium inserts set the tone, and the facia is stylish.

The seats are comfortable, with excellent but unobtrusive side supports. They adjust for height, and combine with the rake movement on the steering column to make for a decent driving position. In the rear, leg and headroom are cramped, while the 375-litre boot is shallow. Fold the seats and it expands to 985 litres.

Visibility could be better, though, especially through the pillar box-like front windscreen and rear three-quarters.

The dash is a study in classy information display, with the familiar moving diagram showing energy flows and an electric blue battery charge gauge. The latter changes to a regular rev counter when drivers engage sport mode.

Doing so releases the system’s full 650 volts, and allows the engine to rev harder, with more dynamic software mapping for the throttle and electronic power-steering. It also reduces the abruptness of the stability and traction control electronics.

By contrast, Eco mode limits power, softens the respective electronic mapping and reduces the air-conditioning effect. Press start and the four-cylinder engine sounds anything but sporting. Eco mode hampers responses, but in Normal, the 1,370kg Lexus pulls away briskly, with direct and well weighted, if lifeless, steering.

On our SE-L model’s optional 17-inch wheels, the ride is harsh and the tyres are noisy on some surfaces. The rigid bodyshell is a vast improvement on the Prius and the independent rear suspension copes with corners better, but there isn’t much joy in driving the Lexus hard. Engineers admit they would prefer a more agile set-up.

The brakes are powerful if wooden in feel, with a soft initial bite as the regenerative braking starts, then progressively harder stopping when the friction linings are deployed. Plus, generous safety equipment includes eight airbags, on top of the stability and traction control.

Rival: BMW 118d
EDGED out by the Lexus on eco credentials, but the BMW is light years ahead on performance and dynamics, and is arguably more frugal over a long run. A class act.

Disqus - noscript

Hideous from any angle and with BMW's off-cuts inside. Good grief..how on earth did this get to be made?

Such a shame the exterior is so bland and looks like a re-hash Corolla. Are they playing safe for the American market? The IS is so much better looking and masculine. The interior looks great and from the pictures looks plush. Knocks the 1 Series and perhaps the A3 into touch for interior quality.
I can bet the spec sheets will be packed.
I reckon this will be a good seller for company car users who are being constantly pressured by Tax and cost of running.

I saw it today in the flesh in The Hague and I love it! If u ask me it makes the 1 series and the A3 seem so unrefined and common. I sat in it but didnt drive it, but i can well imagine that its not as sporty or responsive as the competition. However if you want a welll priced, beautifully built, high class, solid cruising car AND you love the way hybrids drive (which i absolutely do.. Thats a very particular matter of taste though) this car cannot be beaten unless you can afford its big sis the rx400h! Trust me this car is LOVELY to sit in. The quality of the interior is very lexus.. If you're a boy racer in suit or pimp though, youre better off with one of the others. This is a car with class, not a run of the mill compact. However i suspect that it will only appeal to people who love that particular special silient cruising which comes with hybrids. Clearly the lexus brigade seem to love it given the number of lexus hybrid versions around. I think the auto express reviewer was a little brutal. But clearly hes a boy racer not a cruiser. Ok that came out wrong ... Ahem.. But u get my drift.. :-) ill be getting one next year if i pimp my gf often enough :-))

I saw it today in the flesh in The Hague and I love it! If u ask me it makes the 1 series and the A3 seem so unrefined and common. I sat in it but didnt drive it, but i can well imagine that its not as sporty or responsive as the competition. However if you want a welll priced, beautifully built, high class, solid cruising car AND you love the way hybrids drive (which i absolutely do.. Thats a very particular matter of taste though) this car cannot be beaten unless you can afford its big sis the rx400h! Trust me this car is LOVELY to sit in. The quality of the interior is very lexus.. If you're a boy racer in suit or pimp though, youre better off with one of the others. This is a car with class, not a run of the mill compact. However i suspect that it will only appeal to people who love that particular special silient cruising which comes with hybrids. Clearly the lexus brigade seem to love it given the number of lexus hybrid versions around. I think the auto express reviewer was a little brutal. But clearly hes a boy racer not a cruiser. Ok that came out wrong ... Ahem.. But u get my drift.. :-) ill be getting one next year if i pimp my gf often enough :-))

aerob14b says:
November 28, 2010 at 10:58 pm
Gentlemen,
I may not be a Lexus owner; I may not even purchase a CT200 next year following the launch and subsequent test drive, however, I cannot see the point of dismissing it out of hand before I have experienced the vehicle for myself. I do not consider pure price; or, paper performance figures to be of any relevance without an actual test drive.
There are many consumers who voice negative comments about Apple products without even trying these for themselves; then there are those users who know better because they actually own them! If in any doubt about the Lexus brand one should seek the advice of an owner; or, try the product for yourself before being negative. One could always read the JD Power Customer Satisfaction Survey as year upon year real Lexus customers give their opinions – real customers not just review writers.
Many years ago my father gave me some sound advice: – one is born with two eyes, two ears, but only one mouth – us it wisely!
Reply

I have seen the new lexus in the flesh, it is a great looking car with an excellent fit and finish, lightyears ahead of the 1 serie of BMW or a Golf. Interior quality is the best in it's class, no doubt about that. The looks are 'Japanese' and al little different but the car looks got, far better than the photo's suggests. All the nonsense about sportiness, the car handles excellent, on par with the BMW. It is not as fast as the BMW or Golf but has a better fuel consumption. The car is a winner and my next choice. There is no better quality car available in this class..... .

Our family cars are currently an Lexus RX300 and a Celica T Sport. In less than a weeks time the T Sport will be traded in for a CT200h SEL Premier. This decision was made following an hours test drive on a variety of roads from town to fast country. In our opinion this car feels properly sorted and is [weirdly] like a cross between the said celica and the RX. People who call this a posh prius mis-understand the engineering finesse behind this car

Yes it is not mega quick (if I wanted another sports car I would have bought a 370Z) , and it is quite expensive (cI ould have bought a Jag XF)...but it is quiet and combines lexus understated luxury with fuel efficiency, and solid handling. The dash layout is very intuitive and felt right from the first minute in the seat.

At the end of the day you make your own choices but please drive this car before comparing to other marques. This car will set a new standard for others to meet and due to lower production volumes will seem all the more special.

Key specs

Price: £23,485
* Engine: 1.8-litre 4cyl petrol
* Motor: AC synchronous electric motor, 6.5aH NiMH battery
* Transmission: CVT, front-wheel drive
* Power/torque: 97bhp/142Nm (engine); 81bhp/207Nm (motor)
* 0-62/top spd: 10.3 secs/113mph  
* Econ/CO2: 68.9mpg/96g/km
* Equipment: Electronic power-steering, reversing camera, Mark Levinson audio, sat-nav, leather
* On sale: March

AEX 1334
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