The Lexus CT 200h is the first hatchback and the first four-cylinder vehicle from Lexus Australia in its 21-year history.
The Lexus CT 200h is the first hatchback and the first four-cylinder vehicle from Lexus Australia in its 21-year history. It is also the world’s first premium hybrid hatch, offering a more fuel-efficient alternative to the diesel offerings from the Germans.
The starting price makes the entry-level Lexus CT 200h Prestige between $1000 and $3590 more expensive than its key competitors – the Audi A3, BMW 1 Series and Mercedes-Benz B-Class. However, when compared with the diesel models in those ranges (which don’t come close to matching the Lexus for fuel efficiency), the value equation of the CT 200h begins to add up.
Lexus has taken the bold step of introducing the CT as hybrid-only model. Previously, Lexus Australia’s most inexpensive hybrid was the $89,788 RX 450 Hybrid Prestige, which means the CT has opened the technology to an entirely new buyer demographic.
After driving the $39,990 entry-level Prestige and the $49,990 F Sports model, we can confidently say the CT 200h meets the goals Mr Sadakata set out to achieve.
The compact Lexus features the same 73kW/142Nm 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine and 60kW/207Nm electric motor teamed with an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (CVT). Maximum power output is 100kW. The nickel-metal-hydride battery pack below the rear seat stores charge accumulated from vehicle braking and uses its energy to drive the electric motor.
Officially, the CT 200h consumes 4.1 litres/100km of premium unleaded fuel on the combined cycle and emits 95g/km CO2.
In EV mode, the vehicle uses battery power only, using no fuel and producing no emissions. With a fully charged battery, it will coast along silently below 45km/h for up to 2km – making it perfect for car parks and 40km/h school zones.
Oddly, this is where a large proportion of Mr Sadakata’s driving enjoyment comes in. With displays in the dashboard and centre console showing the flow of energy, charge state of the battery and overall fuel consumption, you often find yourself playing internal efficiency games, trying to keep your consumption down or seeing how far you can drive in EV mode.
The hybrid powertrain is very much understated in Sport mode, with the petrol engine taking the reins at almost every opportunity. The 10.3 second 0-100km/h acceleration time is far from sporting, although the changes, especially to the steering and pedal feel, make the CT instantly more engaging from a drive perspective.
The fourth mode, Normal, is the default setting and is tuned somewhere to the left of centre on the Eco-to-Sport scale.
Before its Australian launch, the vehicle was tweaked and then tested in local conditions with particular attention to NVH – although Australia’s suspension will share a global set-up rather than getting a unique tune.
Independent front and rear suspension gives the Prestige a comfortable and compliant ride. The F Sports feels even tighter thanks to its unique chassis calibration and suspension tune and the addition of performance dampers front and rear.
The Prestige is reasonably equipped for a sub-$40,000 small vehicle. Standard features include 16-inch alloy wheels, rear spoiler, heated mirrors, dual-zone climate control, six-speaker audio with CD player, USB and 3.5mm auxiliary jack, leather steering wheel, push-button start, cruise control and hill-start assist.
Similar to the RX SUV, the interior is laid out in two zones, with the upper display zone and the lower operational zone (a design that will underpin future Lexus cabin layouts). The foot-operated hand brake contributes to the clean, uncluttered console.
Shopping the Prestige against the entry-level Prius, the Lexus sacrifices 70 litres of boot space, rear head and leg room, keyless entry and head-up display. The Toyota's audio system also has two more speakers than the entry-level CT 200h and includes Bluetooth phone functionality.
In terms of efficiency, the Prius takes the points with combined cycle consumption of 3.9 litres/100km and CO2 emissions of 89g/km.
For an extra $10,000, the F Sports gets smoky 17-inch alloy wheels, sports bumpers, side skirts and a larger rear spoiler, front fog lights, side and rear privacy glass and exterior mirrors with memory, self-dimming and auto-retract function.
The driver’s seat is snug and supportive and electrically adjustable to the finest preference. All the Prestige’s plastic gaps are filled with their intended features in the F Sports.
Unfortunately, the modern and engaging instrument panel is juxtaposed by a dated central monitor. Its functionality is not questioned: navigation is easy to operate, hybrid performance data is accessible and phone Bluetooth pairing is user-friendly. It’s the way the thing looks and operates that will disappoint some prospective buyers. Older and less-tech-savvy shoppers won’t have any issues with it, but members of the Apple generation are likely to be underwhelmed.
Heading further back, the rear bench caters for two adults comfortably, and head and leg room won’t be a worry for anyone under six foot. The rear design is much better suited to children and smaller people, however. Taller passengers have to lean awkwardly to reach the rear armrests, and the flat seat bottom means taller passengers’ knees will be elevated. You tend to float around a little, although the well-bolstered seatbacks for the outer passengers do a good job of negating this. The centre seat is really only designed for children, and anyone with hips wider than a 12-year-old’s will more than likely be sitting on the seatbelt clips.
Thin A-pillars mean forward visibility is largely uninhibited. The small rear side windows enhance head check visibility, but the large surrounding panels mean you have to spend an extra moment making sure no one has crept into your blind spots.
The range-topping Sports Luxury adds Pre-Collision safety System and Pre-Collision Brake, radar-controlled Active Cruise Control, LED low-beam headlights and clearance and reversing sonar.
Furthering the CT 200h’s green credentials is the use of plant-derived bio-PET ‘ecoplastics’ in the luggage area trim, bamboo fibres in the speakers and the extensive employment of LEDs. Lexus says the CT 200h is more than 85 percent recyclable (the battery is 96 percent recyclable) and 95 percent recoverable.
He says Lexus believes it will “engage owners who want a lively, efficient city car with the flexibility and features of a luxury car”, and provide a gateway for first-time luxury buyers.
In terms of specifications and standard equipment, it compares closely with the Germans, and from a consumption and emissions perspective, the CT is the new benchmark in the premium hatch segment, no questions asked.