21.3.2011 Lexus CT 200h review
Lexus's petrol-electric hybrid entry into the premium hatchback sector makes strong financial sense for companies and company car drivers, but despite its sporty looks is not as lively or fun to drive as rivals from BMW and Audi, and it only comes with CVT transmission with no manual over-ride.
The cabin is top quality and the car feels built to last, but a Prius feels more comfortable and somehow more modern. But for head to rule heart I would need a calmer lifestyle and more city driving to put this Lexus on my choice list. Battery guarantee is five years/60,000 miles while the rest of the car is three years/60,000 miles.
Review by Russell Bray for nextgreencar.com
If you are used to a torquey diesel engine from Audi or BMW you are going to find the Lexus slow and even lacking in refinement if you use the engine hard. The CT200h uses the same 98bhp 1.8 litre petrol engine and continuously variable transmission (CVT) as the Toyota Prius. With power boosted by the 81bhp electric motor, total power is 134bhp at 5,200rpm, not the 179bhp you might expect. Maximum torque of 254 lbs ft arrives at 2,800rpm. The slurring action of the auto transmission does not suit the car's sporty image. Acceleration to 62mph takes 10.3 seconds but takes considerable effort. Top speed is 112mph.
Despite a good driving position and a chunky, fat rimmed steering wheel, the Lexus feels a heavy car and rather wooden in its handling responses. That's even though the batteries for the hybrid drive have been positioned so that there is 55kgs of the car's weight on the rear wheels and 50kg on the front compared to around 90kgs on the front for most diesel rivals. The ride was very firm on the 17 inch diameter wheels of the SE-L test car. The steering has that slightly disconnected feel you get with most electric power assistance systems compared to hydraulic ones, which use more fuel.
Rather predictable five-door hatchback. Despite wide shouldered front bumpers and wide headlights the CT200h isn't instantly identifiable as a Lexus, unlike Alfa Romeos where their identity is obvious even without a badge. The CT200h looks much better in certain colours and not so good in others. Luggage capacity of 375 litres can be extended to 965 litres by folding the rear seats. Now she has broken the big 40, tiny entertainer Kylie Minogue apparently prefers to supplement her income by plugging Lexus cars rather than Fords. What that says about either I haven't a clue. Length 4320mm.Width 1765mm.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
Like parent company's model, Toyota's Prius, the Lexus CT 200h can be driven in four different modes: as an electric car, in economy mode, normal or sport. All are selected at the twirl of a dial. Sport mode releases more power from the electric motor, quickens the steering and accelerator responses and converts the eco 'power' gauge on the dashboard to a rev counter.
Squashy, heated leather seats of SE-L test car were comfy and supportive, but some people might find them too narrow. What you need, but don't get, is paddle control of the CVT transmission. The dashboard is classy but I didn't like the way the centre console seemed designed more for left hand drive.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
This is the Lexus's ace with 94g/km carbon dioxide emissions meaning you don't pay any road tax or the £10 a day congestion charge if you venture into London. Official fuel figures are 67.3mpg (urban), 70.6mpg (extra urban) and 68.9mpg (combined cycle). Using eco mode mostly in town and sport on country roads the test car's consumption according to the on-board computer averaged between 46mpg and 50mpg so you need a gentle touch to beat BMW's 118 diesel. The Lexus though has about £1,500 worth more of standard equipment and Lexus claims that over three years, low BIK tax would save company car drivers £3,770 compared to a 118d SE automatic.
CO2 emissions of 94g/km are class leading, NOx emissions are very low (3.3mg/km) and there are virtually no particulates. These are figures that a diesel cannot match. In electric vehicle (EV) mode there are no emissions but range is only a mile at speeds under 25mph providing there's enough 'kick' in the batteries. Atkinson cycle petrol engine reduces intake and exhaust energy losses while exhaust gas recirculation and third generation exhaust heat recovery further improves the petrol engine's efficiency. The electric motor works as a high-output generator during regenerative braking. The car's air conditioning is powered by the hybrid batteries to reduce engine load. Although slightly more damaging to the environment than the Toyota Prius, the CT200h's Next Green Car Rating of 34 is class leading.
You'll have few moans about the interior, especially if you go for the ten-speaker audio and full map satellite navigation. All CT200h versions have LED running lights, dual zone climate control, alloy wheels and darkened rear, side windows. SE-I model standard features include Bluetooth, 17in alloy wheels and push button start. Leather upholstery, heated front seats and parking sensors are standard on SE-L models from £25,200. Lexus's radar-controlled pre-crash safety system, which starts braking if you are heading towards an obstacle and adaptive cruise control are among the high tech options.
Model tested: Lexus CT200h
Body-style: Compact premium hatchback
Engine/CO2: 98bhp 1329cc petrol / 94 gCO2/km
Trim grades: SE-I, SE-L and SE-L Premier
On-road price: From £23,485. Price as tested £25,200
Warranty: Three years/ 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Available now
Review rating: 3.0 STARS
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