New Lexus CT 200h first drive

Lexus CT 200hJoining the expected 400,000 new cars which will hit our UK roads during the new ‘14’ registration plate month of March will be the new Lexus CT 200h petrol/electric hybrid.


Whilst Lexus describe it as ‘new’ it is actually a mid-life refresh with an upgrade of specification and the chance to adjust prices, mainly in a downwards direction.

Available from £20,995 for the entry level S model in the six strong line-up, this price is a £1,000 reduction and other prices have fallen by up to £1,500. Prices range up to £29,495 for the Premier version which is £1,500 lower than before. Customers can now get into the CT 200h from as little as £219 a month using the Lexus Finance contract hire and personal contract purchase plans

The good news continues with lower emissions starting from 82g/km so company car drivers will only pay 11% Benefit-in-Kind tax from the new tax level which comes into force in April. Insurance is not going to be a budget buster either as the groups range from 18E to 20E which are very competitive in the premium brand C-segment where the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series are the main competitors.

At the European media launch in Rome, Julian Lea, product planning manager for Lexus UK said, “The CT 200h was first introduced in January 2011 and has become the entry point to our brand for new customers. The majority of CT 200h sales go to conquest customer and around 70% of them have never previously owned a Lexus. It is a vital car for us in the UK and it has been the most reliable car we have ever built in our 25 year history.”

He added that Lexus UK expects to sell around 4,200 of the CT 200h five door hatch in a full year of sales and advance orders are 30% ahead of our plan. Business and fleet customers will take up around 75% of UK sales due in part to the very low personal tax levels.

Lea said of the six levels of specification, S, SE, Advance, Luxury, F Sport and Premium, the £23,995 Advance variant will be by far the most popular as it has £1,000 more specification than the old model with no price increase. Lexus claim this version has a £4,500 spec advantage over the competition. Further good news for customers is the new CT 200h, according to CAP one of the industry’s RV monitors, will have a 4.4% better residual value than the previous versions due in part to lower servicing costs and the higher specification at lower prices.

Lexus CT 200hLexus CT 200hMuch of the improvements in technical and specification changes have come from customer feedback and heading up the Lexus engineering team for the revised CT 200h has been Chika Kako a female Chief Engineer who joined Toyota Motor Corporation in 1989. She said her task had been to improve the image, styling, driveability, ride comfort without handling compromise and 94 measures has been implemented to improve noise intrusion, vibrations and ride harshness. There have also been aerodynamic tweaks including laser welding to provide a stiffer and strengthened bodyshell. Other changes include the use of underbody covers to improve the air-flow under and around the body. The electronic mapping of the CVT automatic transmission has also been changed to provide a more linear response and to reduce noise and vibrations.

Inside there has been increased attention to detail to improve the visual appearance with higher specification including a seven-inch slim-line monitor on the centre console, new style steering wheel, upgraded multi-media system and two navigation systems are now offered with the premium version including such features as Google Street View.

Externally the styling changes all round have improved road presence with the most noticeable being a much stronger appearance wider and lower ‘spindle’ design grille, the F Sport variant has a mesh grille and a new rear spoiler. New wheel designs and a shark’s fin antenna have been introduced across the range.

The best selling Advance version additions now include parking sensors, heated front seats, fully integrated navigation system and 17-inch alloy wheels. Items such as electrically operated windows, electrically operated and heated door mirrors, air conditioning, push button start, DAB radio, Bluetooth and, after customers requests a space saver spare wheel replaces the inflation kit, are all standard features for all models.

All models user the Toyota/Lexus petrol/hybrid system with a 98bhp petrol engine coupled with an 81bhp electric motor with drive through a CVT automatic transmission. In addition to the hybrid’s Normal drive mode there are three on demand drive modes, EV (electric power only) Eco and Sport, all selected by using a rotary control or the EV switch on the centre console.

Lexus CT 200hLexus CT 200hLexus CT 200hWith a combined system output of 134bhp the CT 200h has a top speed of 112mph and zero to 62mph acceleration time is 10.3 seconds. Now meeting Euro 6 standards CO2 emissions start as low as 82g/km for the base S grade model with 15-inch wheels. These go up to 88g/km for 16-inch wheel versions and 94g/km for 17-inch wheels but all are road tax exempt and all allow company car drivers to pay a low 11% Benefit-in-Kind tax penalty.

Lexus were also quite rightly keen to point out at the media launch that this hybrid system does not need costly particulate filters or fuel additives to meet the Euro 6 emission requirements and the system generates less NOx and particulate emissions than equivalent diesel engines. When running in EV electric power only mode there is no CO2 or NOx emissions at all. On our test driving route around the traffic congested streets of Rome and in the rural Italian countryside the CT200h with the equivalent of the UK’s best selling Advance specification, the real-life fuel economy was 50mpg. This was short of the official 68.9mpg quoted for the Combined Cycle for models with 17-inch wheels but given the amount of traffic and the road conditions I wouldn’t expect a modern 1.6/2.0-litre turbodiesel engine to do any better.

The latest edition of the CT 200h is now somewhere near where it should have been in the first place. Most noticeable is the improvement in ride quality. It is still on the firm side but much improved and it coped pretty well with the appalling road surfaces, what’s left of them, in financially bankrupt Italy. The cobbled streets of Rome are as well known as the manic driving behaviour of its car users and scooter riders. Outside the busy city streets the rural road surfaces are much worse than in the UK with huge potholes and with massive sections of road surface which have subsided. Just as bad were the weather conditions with flooded road surfaces which I doubt offer much grip or predictability even in the dry. Suffice to say this CT 200h coped well but still falls short of the sharp handling and compliant ride offered by a BMW 3 Series for instance.

The re-mapping of the electronic CVT transmission has improved driveability but is still noisier and less responsive than the latest twin-clutch fast response automatic gearboxes. The steering still feels numb but it is light and easy on the arms and wasn’t unduly bothered by the appalling road conditions. The brakes retain their over sensitive response which are still head-snapping if a little too much pressure is applied to the pedal.

Where the CT 200h scores better praise from me is for the official low CO2 figures which means lower taxes for company car drivers and no road tax for business or retail buyers. Those, together with the price reductions, are good reasons to consider the latest generation of the CT 200h and it looks good as well with more exclusivity of ownership value than the other volume selling premium brand compact executive models.

MILESTONES: Lexus CT 200h Advance 5-Door compact executive hatchback. (Best selling model). Price: £23,995. Engine/drivetrain: Petrol/electric full hybrid, 1.8-litre, 98bhp/105lb ft petrol unit plus an 81bhp/153lb ft electric motor, electronic controlled CVT auto transmission. Performance: 112mph, 0-62mph 10.3 seconds, 68.9mpg Combined Cycle (50mpg on test), CO2 94g/km, VED road tax £0, BIK company car tax 11% from April. Insurance group: 19E. Warranty: 3-years/60,000 miles, hybrid components 5-years/60,000 miles. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,350mm, W 1,765mm, H 1,455mm, boot/load space 375 to 985-litres. For: New lower prices for most models, new higher spec for all models, low emissions lead to low taxes and running costs, smart looks, classy revised cabin, better ride comfort. Against: Still a firm ride, sedated steering response, a more progressive braking pressure response is needed, foot operated parking brake. Miles better news agency

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