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Lexus CT200h Limited

 

The Lexus CT200 hybrid is one of life’s little luxuries. But is it special enough to justify a $70k pricetag in Limited form?

Base price: $69,995.

Powertrain and performance: 1.8-litre petrol four with hybrid electric system, 100kW/142Nm total system output, continuously variable transmission, front-drive, Combined economy 4.1 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 10.3 seconds.

Vital statistics: 4350mm long, 1445mm high, luggage capacity 495-1500 litres, fuel tank 45 litres, 17-inch alloy wheels on 215/45 tyres.

We like: Styling now in line with larger Lexus models, gorgeous cabin, great Mark Levinson audio in Limited model.

We don’t like: Still a Prius underneath, turgid chassis, frustrating Remote Touch infotainment controller.

How it rates: 7/10

WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? The Lexus CT200h has been revised for 2014. There’s new styling in line with the Japanese brand’s current design ethos, including the dramatic-looking spindle grille, plus some equipment upgrades.

The CT is notable for being the first Lexus to take on the so-called L-finesse styling template without actually being a brand new model. Rather, it’s a facelift.

It comes in three models: our test vehicle is the luxury-focused Limited.

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? Rather like a Toyota Prius, which should not surprise because that’s essentially what the CT200h is underneath. The Atkinson cycle 1.8-litre petrol engine and battery-powered hybrid system are carried over from the Toyota, as is the basic platform that underpins the little Lexus.

That’s not necessarily a huge issue, as the technology is well-proven. But it does make the CT’s premium price a bit hard to swallow when you’re getting the same driving experience as a pretty mainstream Toyota model. You all know the drill by now: the petrol engine and electric motor can power the front wheels together or separately, depending on the driving conditions and state of battery charge. Energy normally lost through braking or coasting is recovered and used to recharge the electric system.

The CT is not a great driver’s car, with light steering and the dead-pedal effect you get from so many regenerative braking systems. But it does fulfil the role of executive-commuter extremely well, with outstanding refinement thanks to the seamless way the hybrid powertrain works. There is a pushbutton EV mode, but even when left to its own devices it will readily run between traffic lights solely on battery power.

Drive Mode Select is standard across the range, allowing you to choose between Eco, Comfort and Sport modes (Sport does actually liberate a bit more voltage from the electric system).

But don’t go looking for extra performance from the CT200h F Sport model: it might look more outrageous, but the powertrain and suspension package is exactly the same as any other CT variant.

IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? Forget the Prius mechanical package for a moment and the CT200h Limited’s cabin really does justify the $70k pricetag. It shares nothing with its Toyota sibling inside and feels quite lavish, with the same design features as larger Lexus models and some very high quality materials.

The Limited goes so far as to showcase wooden trim elements, which will be very much a matter of personal taste. But they are beautifully executed.

The CT cabin is snug, no question – but it doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a small car, or “hybrid luxury compact” in Lexus language.

The instrument panel is bright and clear, with the economy-dial magically transforming into a revcounter when you select Sport mode.

Unfortunately, being so intent on making the CT a proper Lexus means Toyota has also endowed it with Remote Touch, which is a joystick-type control for the information screen. It’s one of the more frustrating interior features of any brand on the market: the cursor does not follow the movement of the controller in a linear fashion, instead skipping to the closest icon as if drawn by a magnetic field. It must have seemed like a good idea to somebody way back there (it was first introduced on the RX crossover in 2009), but it’s incredibly frustrating. As is the nannying way the satellite navigation and phone functions lock out on the move, meaning that the front-seat passenger cannot operate them.

Overall though, the CT cabin offers a true luxury-car experience. Just don’t bring too much luggage: with batteries taking up space underneath, the shallow boot is just 345 litres.

Features unique to the Limited include dynamic radar cruise control and a pre-crash system, which recognizes when an impact might be imminent and gets the car’s passive safety features prepared in quite a bit less than the blink of an eye.

SHOULD I BUY ONE? Lots of carmakers have had a crack at luxurious small cars, but none have pulled it off quite as successfully as Lexus with CT.

This model only exists because it’s able to leverage the Prius platform, so potential buyers should perhaps think twice about whether they want to pay a premium for the Lexus badge and cabin experience.

It’s easy to understand why they would, though. You don’t just get the benefits of being a Lexus customer – you also get a gorgeous cabin environment and a wealth of luxury equipment in the Limited model.

EQUIPMENT CHECKLIST

  • Air conditioning: Dual climate
  • Audio: CD, iPod compatible
  • Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
  • Blind spot warning: No
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Cruise control: Adaptive radar
  • Driver footrest: Yes
  • Gas discharge headlights: Bi-xenon
  • Head-up display: No
  • Heated/ventilated seats: Yes/No
  • Keyless entry/start: Yes/Yes
  • Lane guidance: No
  • Leather upholstery: Yes
  • Parking radar: Front and rear with camera
  • Power boot or tailgate: No
  • Power seat adjustment/memory: Yes/No
  • Remote audio controls: Yes
  • Satellite navigation: Yes
  • Seat height adjustment: Yes
  • Self-parking technology: No
  • Split/folding rear seats: 60/40
  • Steering reach adjustment: Yes
  • Stop-start: Yes
  • Trip computer: Yes

Find a new Lexus CT200h for sale HERE.


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