The Lexus CT 200h F Sport combines Prius-like efficiency with traditional hot hatch ride and styling
Model tested: Lexus CT 200h F Sport: $49,900
The CT 200h F Sport was never designed to be a sports car. It’s an ultra-frugal hatchback with a sporting theme and decidedly more character than the rest of the line-up. As a result, the F Sport competes with other high-end fuel-misers like the Audi A3 2.0 TDI ($44,900), Mercedes-Benz B180 CDI ($49,090), MINI Cooper SD ALL4 Countryman ($52,100) and the Toyota Prius i-Tech ($45,990).
Depending on the conditions and your own mood, you can select between four driving modes. EV mode relies only on the battery and electric motor for propulsion. It works at speeds of up to 45km/h and will power the car continuously for around two kilometres. However, thanks to the CT’s regenerative braking system (which collects braking energy and stores it in the battery), you can easily travel twice that distance in slow city traffic or on quiet urban roads. In EV mode, the CT is reminiscent of a tram, quietly (and somewhat addictively) whirring and whistling as it accelerates and brakes.
Normal mode is similar to Eco, although the accelerator is a little more responsive and the ratio of electric motor to petrol propulsion is more balanced. Both work well around town when you’re after a smooth, efficient drive, but the delayed reaction from the throttle does take a while to get used to and can frustrate at times.
The best thing about being in Sport mode in the F Sport model is the mood change within the cabin. The instrument panel illumination changes from deep blue to bright red and a tachometer replaces the standard Eco gauge. Even though the CVT doesn’t peak and blip like a traditional transmission, you still get a kick out of watching it rev spiritedly towards 5000rpm.
The Prius – at 3.9 litres/100km – is the only petrol-powered vehicle that pips the Lexus for economy in Australia. The other competitors mentioned above are all diesels and still trail the F Sport by a considerable margin: Audi A3 (5.7 litres/100km), Mercedes-Benz B180 (5.6 litres/100km), MINI Countryman SD (4.9 litres/100km). In terms of emissions, the CT 200h is the second-cleanest internal combustion car in the country, with a 95g/km CO2 average.
The stereo is a treat to listen to from every seating position, but unfortunately you can’t stream music wirelessly via Bluetooth. The centre console contains USB and AUX ports, as well as a removable holder that perfectly fits an iPhone. Oddly, however, as the holder sits on top of the ports, you can’t use the two at the same time. You have to stash you phone or music player elsewhere when it’s plugged in.
The satellite navigation is also a concern, something I found when programming a simple nine-kilometre trip from Sydney’s North Shore to the Fish Market in Pyrmont. The system located the destination and mapped a course, but lost all sense of direction somewhere along the way. I was intent on seeing just where it would take me, but gave up once I was beyond Sydney International Airport (around 15km off course) and still heading the wrong way. The CT 200h may be one of the most fuel efficient cars on the market, but if the sat-nav guides you on paths twice the necessary distance, the economy advantages will be quickly eroded. That said, perhaps I simply got it wrong.
Safety is first-rate with eight airbags (dual front, side, curtain and driver and passenger knee) and all the standard electric systems (ABS, electronic brakeforce distribution, brake assist, stability control and traction control), as well as emergency flashing brake lights and LED daytime running lights.
But for some people, all that tech will be too much. If all you want are two simple things – Prius-like fuel consumption in a package that looks and rides like a traditional hot hatch – the Lexus CT 200h F Sport is the only car in Australia that fits the bill.
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