Lexus CT200h (2014) Review

IMG 1147

The Lexus CT200h is the entry-level offering from the Japanese luxury manufacturer; it combines technology from the Toyota Prius to whoosh it along as greenly as possible with typical excellent Lexus build quality to provide a sort of upmarket, sporty hybrid offering. Whilst hybrid and sporty have only recently come in contact with each other (think Porsche 918, LaFerrari and McLaren P1) can it work in an everyday hatchback?

Lexus CT200h has new bits on it

This being the facelifted model of the CT200h, Lexus has made sure it has improved the offering and made it feel like it belongs inside the Lexus stable. The CT200h has been strengthened to make the body more rigid whilst the suspension is now more tuned to passenger comfort.

There are also a few notable changes to the exterior as the front end receives the edgier styled front bumper. The wheels are 10-spoke 16-inch alloys, the rear bumper has been redesigned whilst the taillights now incorporate the distinctive Lexus ‘L’ shape to them.

Lexus has narrowed its CT200h offerings to just the single model as it drops the CT200h F-Sport from the range. This is a good thing as the sportier model had an unexpectedly firm ride.

Have the changes helped?

The most noticeable change to the CT200h is the improved ride. The stiffened chassis has helped so much. The CT200h corners with great agility and poise and remains flat when asked to dart into a corner. The ride is firm, but not crashy,yet if you hit a bump in the road the CT200h deals with it nonchalantly, there’s no fuss or flex felt anywhere else in the cabin. The steering may feel a little lifeless, but it’s well weighted and you get good feedback through the chassis to relay the car’s state.

The ride quality is also superb, Lexus has worked hard on improving the NVH levels in the car and it is now worthy of wearing the Lexus badge. Nothing rattles, nothing vibrates and everything feels like it will last for decades without shifting a millimetre.

Any better inside?

That depends on how you look at it. The specification has been upgraded slightly with some new leather touches to the shift lever and dual seat heaters as well. However the switches to work the seat heaters seem archaic and sourced from a ‘90s hi-fi system to adjust the left-right audio balance.

The rest of the technology feels outdated as well; the radio is plainly from a Toyota Hilux/Fortuner and most of the buttons in the cabin hark back to the days of my mom’s Toyota Corolla Sprinter circa 1991. We wait to see the updated interior that Lexus has launched recently that is said to bring some modernism to the CT200h’s ageing cabin. The rear seats fold flat though, so that's something cool to shout about, I slotted my mountain bike in and out of the CT200h with absolute ease thanks to the flat rear load-bay.

Hybrid Drive

Power to the wheels is sourced from the Toyota Prius electric/petrol motor combination. The Electric motor takes over from the petrol where it’s able to, like at slow speeds or at initial pull away. It keeps the consumption low and the batteries are topped up by regenerative braking. The energy produced by braking is diverted back into the batteries and keeps them charged for later use. The combined output of both the electric motor and the petrol motor comes to 100 kW but you’d never really notice because it’s so heavily tuned towards fuel economy.

Throttle response is sluggish even when in Sport mode and it’s easy to get annoyed with the slow progress and consequently mash the throttle pedal to the floor. The CT200h’s engine gives better performance when hammered with the CVT gearbox whining away at high rpm not providing much thrill for all its hard work.

The CT200h, much like the Prius it shares its DNA with, is best used as an eco-friendly machine. Work less on G-force thrills and more on E-force skills – a term I’ve just coined for super-efficient or economical driving. The Lexus CT200h will easily return under 5L/100km when driven normally around town and Lexus claim it does 4.1L/100km of the combined cycle and that makes it one of the most economical petrol cars you can buy in South Africa currently.

Verdict

The Lexus CT200h is a much improved chassis, the strengthened body and improved suspension have made it a solid and impressive handling car. It’s fun to drive around town despite the economy bias of the engine and gearbox, and will always return an impressive fuel economy figure. The interior is still stuck in the mid ‘90s, but the updated 2014 models are said to have improved kit in them. The CT200h in this spec is actually cheaper than the Toyota Prius and is almost certainly the better car to own, although you probably won’t get the same 'green' kudos the Prius derives.

Second Opinion

I'm glad the CT200h F-Sport was canned as its ride was unacceptably harsh. This softer-riding version is way better, and the hybrid engine does a great job of returning low fuel consumption. Learn to drive the car correctly and you'll easily see figures of under 4.5L/100km. At one stage in peak hour traffic the car was consuming just 4.0L/100km, making this car great if you drive on congested roads often.-David Taylor

Lexus CT200h quick specs

Price  R408 500
Engine  1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol + 60 kW electric motor
Power  100 kW-e
Torque  142 Nm-e
Transmission  CVT
Wheels  16-inch alloys
0-100km/h  10.3 seconds (claimed)
Fuel economy  4.1L/100 km (claimed)
We like: . Refined ride and solid feel . Sporty handling for a hybrid . Build quality befitting of its Lexus badge

We dislike: . Tech inside a generation too old . Not fun to drive hard

Also consider: . Toyota Prius . Audi A3 Sportback . Honda Civic

Comments