The important hatchback
Lexus South Africa recently invited us to the launch of the CT200h, the third hybrid available locally from this luxury Japanese brand. Slotting in behind the snazzy RX450h SUV and refined GS450h saloon, the CT200h is the world’s first full hybrid luxury compact car.
The newcomer is, by Lexus’ own admission, a very important new product which represents the entry into their brand while redefining the compact hybrid segment. Since its international launch earlier this year, the CT200h has already accounted for 35% of European and 10% of American Lexus sales.
As part of the Toyota Group, the company can boast with over 3.2 million hybrid sales since the pioneering Prius was introduced in 1997. Spearheading the luxury challenge (especially in the U.S.), Lexus can also boast with numerous JD Powers and Synovate Customer satisfaction awards.
Grandpa Prius also donated a few components to the CT200h, chief among which are some drive-train components. A 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine (73kW) works in conjunction with a 60kW electric motor through a CVT automatic gearbox and Lexus’ own power split device.
This unit determines the best power delivery from both sources through the continually variable transmission to produce optimum performance and/or economy. The petrol engine’s maximum 142Nm of torque is paired up with the e-motor’s instantaneous 207Nm to provide smooth forward momentum.
A giant Nickel-Hydride high-output battery stores regenerative energy from braking or deceleration, which the vehicle uses to waft along silently or assist the petrol engine. The electric motor also doubles as a generator to restart the engine as need be.
A 4-mode driving dynamics system with full electric mode (named “EV”, available up to 45km/h), Sport, Normal and Eco allows you to change the vehicle’s driving characteristics. Drive it sensibly and Lexus claim an average fuel consumption of 4.1L/100km and CO2 emissions of just 94g/km.
The CT200h responds to Sport mode with sharper reactions and a red instrument glow; the consumption dial also changes to a rev-counter. Engage Normal or Eco and everything reverts back to a soothing blue. Lexus’ claimed consumption figure (promising over 1,000km from the 45L tank) is entirely plausible, as we soon found out…
Our launch route took us through various parts of the Peninsula and my driving partner immediately threw down the gauntlet of consumption. Rising to his challenge, I instantly adopted the world’s most careful driving style, got overtaken by every truck and bus in sight, with a result of just 3.4L/100km.
Normal commuting yielded high fours and low fives, but a well-timed reset and even slower driving style handed the imaginary prize to my challenger at just 2.8L/100km. I can’t stress enough how incredibly slowly we were driving, but have to add that the results are phenomenal – if you have the time.
Should you find yourself in this fortunate position, you will have plenty of time to admire the new CT200h interior. Good plastics and soft leather pair up with crisp dials and a futuristic dashboard, LFA inspired steering wheel, decent room for all passengers and comfortable seats.
Available in either S or F-Sport trim, the 1,400kg CT200h is only available with the abovementioned hybrid drive train. Being a Lexus, every imaginable toy comes as standard and the only optional extras (depending on model) are paint, moon-roof or an F-Sport package.
The exterior of the hatchback Lexus seemed a little overdesigned and busy in the initial photographs, but cuts an agreeable shape in the flesh. Modern light clusters and good proportions compliment a sound design which need not shy back from comparisons with fellow C-segment hatches.
Other than crawling around town and holding up Golden Arrow busses, we did find a few empty roads to test the CT200h’s dynamics. The steering is meaty and quite responsive, the chassis is taught with decent damping for comfort, while the car provides high grip levels in corners.
Unfortunately, the brawny torque and one-speed gearbox aren’t suited to spirited driving; they fit the economical hybrid formula perfectly but leave you frustrated when negotiating a winding road. The brakes will also take some getting used to as their dual purpose makes them incredibly harsh and hard to modulate.
In keeping with Lexus claims of refinement, innovation and driving enjoyment, the CT200h is more suited to sensible motorist looking for style and cutting-edge tech. The amazing hybrid gadgetry is enjoyable in every situation except hard driving; hooligans best look elsewhere.
The CT200h is sold with a 4-year 100,000km warranty and prices start at N$343,300.
[ August 2011 ]
CT 200h S N$343,300
CT 200h F-Sport N$398,500
CT 200h F-Sport 10SP HDD N$434,200