The Lexus CT200h.
The Lexus CT200h.

Lexus CT200h road test review - green and luxury join forces

LEXUS aims to maintain prestige standards with its updated CT200h.

The luxury carmaker has resisted temptation to chase volume with a sharper entry level price. Instead the focus remains on delivering first-class customer service, a quality product and maintaining brand integrity.

"We have work to do in expanding our customer base. But we will do that through new and exciting product, great design and great customer service," Lexus Australia chief executive Sean Hanley said.

Still starting just short of $40,000, the CT200h is the variant which attracts Lexus's youngest customer.

This is the beginning of the hybrid family for the luxury carmaker, and it hopes to then entice buyers into the larger, more luxurious models when buyers look to upgrade.

Latest changes are more of a spit and polish on a successful model for Lexus, with the drivetrain remaining the same, while there are suspension and chassis changes, feature improvements, exterior tweaks, and lower pricing for the two of the upper-echelon models.

Comfort

Well bolstered seats feel plush, and soft-touch materials feature across the dash and doors.

F Sport and Luxury models gain leather trim, although the base variant gets a suede-feeling fabric.

Changes have been made to the central Lexus computer system which maintains its mouse-style operation in the up-spec variants but has done away with the side-mounted buttons. Instead now you push the controller for "enter".

Entry-level variants just get a dial system, which we actually found more intuitive to use. The mouse can be difficult to navigate quickly, although it is probably something you would get used to quickly with everyday operation.

Being mindful this sits in the compact genre, there is limited rear leg room - which is similar to the Mercedes-Benz A-Class or BMW 1 Series. Those up front need to shift forward, and with some generosity four adults can be chauffeured without complaint.

On the road

Eerily quiet when you first hit the "ready" button, the CT200h will operate on battery power at start-up and low speeds. When you accelerate or start to gain reasonable speed, the petrol engine kicks into gear.

Even when under way the hatch remains hushed courtesy of suppressed NVH which has been further improved. Battery power supplements the petrol engine, and all the recharging is done during normal driving, such as coasting downhill or under braking.

Buyers love the outstanding economy and "normal" hybrid technology - it requires no plug-in technology or alternative fuel source - just fill up at the bowser and get back on the road.

The ride can be firm, and pot holes and sharp ruts can be felt through the cabin. Yet, for the vast majority of time, any journey is hushed and serene.

No shrieking violet in the bends, the CT200h offers responsive steering and corners flat courtesy of increased body rigidity.

Just don't expect a race car. Depending on which drive mode you select, acceleration can be understated - especially in "eco".

Select "sport' and "normal" and the luxury hatch is more responsive. With steady use of the right foot it remains more than adequate with frugal performance.

What do you get?

Entry-level models don't quite look as polished internally, but still have a reverse camera, 17.7cm colour screen with 10-speaker CD stereo, automatic wipers, dual zone climate controlled air con, alloy wheels, Bluetooth phone connectivity, push button start and cruise control.

F Sport variants also gain leather trim, heated front seats, sat nav system, performance suspension, 10-way electric driver seat, contrasting black roof, larger rear spoiler and 17-ich alloys.

The range-topping Sports Luxury variant ticks all boxes, with additional features including radar cruise control and various passive safety systems which help avoid collisions, reversing sensors, sunroof and a cool 13-speaker Mark Levinson stereo.

There is also a swag of enhancement pack options, primarily with the base model Luxury which vary in price from $3250-$9750.

Given most CT200h buyers spend about $45,000, don't expect too many stock-standard hatches.

Enform program

New across the range is the Enform program which uses your smartphone connectivity for access to a range of information.

By downloading the Enform app, you can send locations to your car so your destinations are ready to go when you are. It also enables you to search for restaurants, businesses, weather information and has a fuel finder to help locate nearby service stations.

There is even a 24-hour call centre. Operators can help drivers with everything from locating closest Lexus dealers and roadside assist to finding a specific destination.

Practicality

In the centre console is a handy slot for smartphones, next to the 12-volt plug, auxiliary and dual USB ports.

Two deep cup holders can cope with larger bottles also sit in the centre, while 600ml bottles can fit in the doors.

Rear seats fold in a 60:40 fashion for a flat cargo space, although the hybrid batteries mean the boot floor sits high and impedes luggage area.

Running costs

Achieving fuel consumption of less than five litres for every 100km is achievable. It does require some judicious use of the right foot.

Lexus has reasonable service costs, especially when compared to the Europeans, and owners are assured of a free loan car or a vehicle pick-up/drop-off when it comes time for servicing.

Funky factor

There has been some styling massaging. We were particularly smitten with the new F Sport which features the now signature Lexus spindle grille. It's quite a classy looking hatch which doesn't shout its green credentials.

Across the range there are new rear bumpers, changes to the headlamp design, aerodynamic enhancements, along with different wheel designs as well as new colours inside and out.

VITAL STATISTICS

Model: Lexus CT200h.

Details: Compact five-door luxury hybrid hatch.

Engine: 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol-electric hybrid generating maximum power of 100kW (combined) and peak torque of 207Nm (combined) @ 4400rpm, 650V electric motor.

Transmission: Continuously variable automatic.

Consumption: 4.1L/100km (requires premium unleaded). CO2: 95g/km.

Bottom line plus on-roads: Luxury $39,990, F Sport $48,990, Sports Luxury $56,990.

WHAT MATTERS MOST

What we liked: F Sport styling, doesn't look like a hybrid, economy and drivetrain longevity.

What we'd like to see: Extra low-end acceleration punch, increased boot space.

Warranty and servicing: Four-year 100,000km warranty, eight-year hybrid battery warranty. Servicing intervals are annual or every 15,000km.


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