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by Jez Spinks

A compact Lexus SUV that will compete with the likes of the Audi Q3 and BMW X1 is inevitable owing to stricter emissions regulations, says the Japanese luxury brand.

The smaller sibling to the Lexus RX and LandCruiser-based LX570 has been rumoured for a while and the company has previously admitted it’s keen to build it without officially confirming its existence in the product pipeline.

The president of Lexus International, Kiyotaka Ise, revealed to CarAdvice at the 2012 Paris motor show, however, that it wouldn’t only be a desire to capitalise on the booming SUV segment that would determine such a model’s production.

“As CO2 emission regulations get stricter that type of vehicle [compact SUV] is going to be necessary,” said Ise-san via an interpreter. “[That’s] about as much as I can say on that [subject].”

Ise-san admitted Lexus was taking a long time to expand its SUV line-up beyond the RX and LX.

Audi offers the Q3 (pictured below), Q5 and Q7, and will in the near future produce spin-off versions starting with the Q2 that was previewed in Paris by the Audi Crosslane concept.

BMW covers the size spectrum with the X1, X3 and X5, and the coupe-style, X5-based X6 will be joined by at least the X3-based X4.

Mercedes will belatedly add a compact SUV, based on the A-Class platform, to its range of luxury soft-roaders.

A vehicle smaller than Lexus’s current entry-level model, the CT200h hatchback, is unlikely, though, according to Ise-san

“If you look at our markets, particularly the US, Japan and China, big is considered premium,” he said. “So for time being CT is our smallest [vehicle offering].” He added that the European market wasn’t such an issue in terms of perception of size and premium branding.

Lexus, though, could offer a regular petrol engine in its CT hatch. The rival for the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series has remained since launch with just a single drivetrain – a petrol-electric arrangement borrowed from the Toyota Prius.

Ise-san says the hybrid drivetrain reinforces the premium aspect of the hatch but admits consumer demand could persuade them to offer an alternative.

“Some customers are asking [for a petrol engine],” said Isa-san. “[So] it’s worth thinking about.”

Lexus used the 2012 Paris motor show to unveil its LF-CC concept that previews the company’s next-generation IS.

Ise-san, however, suggested the production version of the 3-Series coupe rival may adopt a different badge to the IS sedan.

“We’re not saying this is an IS coupe,” he said, “but it is a D-segment [3 Series class] car.”

Ise-san said the new IS sedan and the spin-off two-door will challenge the BMW 3 Series for driver enjoyment.

“That is correct that we are targeting the 3 Series [with the new IS],” Ise-san said through an interpreter. “From GS we are calling it now a new chapter [for dynamics]. This will flow [on] for IS.

“We are targeting a younger audience. In terms of design and performance it is becoming more aggressive.”

The new Lexus IS is due in 2013.

 




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