Lexus CT 200H heads down electric ave
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Car manufacturers are masters at coming up with catchy marketing lines, and Lexus has a cracker for its revised small hybrid, the CT 200h:
“You don’t recharge it. It recharges you.”
The line tackles head-on one of the model’s weaknesses, especially when compared with the fast-improving economy and range of newer and technically advanced pure electric vehicles.
The compact luxury CT 200h has been around for some years, but late last year it underwent a serious refresh, which ensures it should be considered when buyers contemplate a new premium small car.
The now-familiar Lexus spindle mesh grill gives the model an impressive frontal appearance, while other exterior changes such as new rear lights and other titivations have produced an impressive and purposeful-looking five-door hatchback. The changes have produced a surprisingly contemporary appearance
Other upgrades have improved the safety of the model, which has always scored well in terms of interior comfort.
The dashboard dials are crystal clear, and the overall ambience inside the CT 200h is of luxury, with a large centre console separating the two front seats.
The new model has a 10.3-in multi-function information screen, including audio, climate air and navigation systems. The screen is set back in the dashboard, and despite its overall size, it doesn’t interfere with the driver’s line of sight towards the front of the car.
Like other Lexus models, the systems can be accessed and operated via a sensitive mouse, which takes a bit of getting used to. With practice, the mouse becomes easy to use.
The steering is direct and accurate, and take-off is quick and smooth, as you would expect from a hybrid. The transition from electric motor to petrol power occurs almost imperceptibly.
There is a 1.8-litre, four cylinder petrol engine, mated to a pair of electric motors.
The Lexus hybrid drive system claws power from both the electric and petrol motors, resulting in almost instant torque. There are four drive modes available — normal, ECO, Sport and EV.
The system is so efficient there is no sense of the model switching from battery to petrol or vice versa, or whether it is using the lot in combination.
However nor is it a particularly sporty model to drive, and at the speed limit the ride is comfortable but not exceptionally smooth, as are some cars built on more up-to-date platforms.
The car is quiet, and with eight airbags, including driver and front passenger knee airbags, plus a pre-crash safety system, along with driver aids such as a lane departure alert system, it is easy to see how the car qualifies for a five-star Ancap safety rating.
The leather steering wheel has a nice quality feel about it, as does the gear shift.
Certainly sitting in and driving the CT 200h is a pleasant experience, with the car delivering everything most buyers in this category would seek. And it feels like a safe and comfortably predictable car to drive.
It is not a high-performance hot hatch by any stretch, with total maximum power output at 100kW.
While Lexus says the car will deliver a combined cycle economy figure of 4.1-litres/100km, our test drive delivered figures around the 5l/100km.
For a compact luxury hybrid hatchback, the Lexus CT 200h represents good value for a list price of $51,690, especially when compared with other premium small vehicles such as the Audi A3 e-tron (from $69,900) or BMW’s i3 EV with range extender ($82,400).
Those might deliver more of a sporting European driving experience but that can come at a cost.
The compact Lexus delivers a luxurious interior — although the rear seats aren’t suitable for long trips — , and economical motoring, along with a four-year unlimited kilometre warranty.
Lexus CT 200H
Engine: 1.8 litre, four cylinder petrol engine, mated to a pair of electric motors
Pro: Luxurious interior for a compact hatch
Con: Tight rear seating