Lexus CT200h Review
The name Lexus has long been synonymous with big, petrol powered luxury saloon cars. Their early foray into more economical technology was the largely forgotten IS220d which borrowed a diesel engine from the humdrum Toyota Avensis. This blend of ordinary and luxury fell short of the German competition from Audi, BMW & Mercedes and the car was quietly phased out in 2012. Lexus has, however, gone in a different direction than the competition by looking towards Hybrid technology. Starting at the top, Lexus has rolled out LS, GS and RX models all equipped with battery and petrol power combined. This increased development activity and the need to drive the brand into new markets has resulted in the A3/Golf/1 Series rivalling CT200h.
From the outside, the CT200h has a very familiar Lexus look to it with sharp, angular lines accompanying the “family” grille and the trademark blue Lexus Hybrid badges adorning all sides of the car. In all honesty, this car is best viewed from the front quarter as the packaging towards the rear (where the hybrid technology is housed) is fairly bulky and awkward looking. This has a further knock on effect when you open the boot and find that space is disappointing in comparison to the Audi A3 or VW Golf. This is largely due to Lexus fitting a false floor to allow secure storage of higher value items beneath which, whilst a nice touch, does detract from the overall usability of the space. The driving position is good but does take a deft touch to adjust to get the seat “just so” but the rear seats are largely reserved for children or smaller framed adults due to restrictive head room.
On the move, the first thing that is noticeable is the cabin noise, or lack thereof. Lexus have distanced this vehicle from the Toyota Auris/Prius with which the car shares a powertrain by concentrating hard on refinement. This means that noises are controlled very well, unless pushing hard, meaning that trips around town are a joy. Once out of town, the car performs very well even if progress is slightly boisterous with the standard CVT gearbox reluctant to allow quick gear changes. The chassis is tuned towards the sporty end of the market and has excellent grip levels and offers decent feedback when you turn in quickly to a corner. Sadly, this means that ride quality is way off the class leading standards we had hoped from the car with bumps and ruts unsettling the car with far too much ease. It would be a trade off we would happily accept if the car had a gearbox capable of producing anywhere near the “smiles per mile” that can be had behind the wheel of the BMW 1 Series or if the CT200h could actually achieve the 68.9mpg economy that Lexus boasts about. Realistically, we managed a figure in the late 40s on a varied route which could easily be attainable by any of the diesel engined prestige competition.
So, the Lexus CT200h is an interesting alternative to the other vehicles in the sector and with emissions of only 94g/km it may well be enough to swing your vote. For us, though, Lexus have got the packaging of this car slightly wrong. With the willing and capable chassis that it has, this car would be amazing if they had the foresight to team it with a strong turbo diesel engine and a conventional manual ‘box, but sadly this is just not going to happen. As it is, they have created a car with outstanding refinement and an interior quality that many car makers could only dream of but that has too many contradictions for us to wholeheartedly recommend it over the competition.