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Lexus CT200h 2011 review: road test

The flashy $49,990 1.8-litre F Sport model (pictured) is not surprisingly proving to be most popular.

The CT200h is unchartered territory for the Toyota's luxury car arm. It's both a hatch and smaller than anything that Lexus has produced so far. The drive train is also skewed towards economy rather than performance, in contrast ot its other hybrid offerings. But the larger 2.4-litre based hybrid system from Camry may find its way into the car, if the recent appearance of a concept with this power train at the famous Nurburgring is any indication.

The Lexus CT is turning heads and could easily become the biggest selling car in its segment, as well as the biggest selling Lexus based on price alone. The main focus of the CT, it's raison d'etre is to lure younger buyers to the brand. Being a hybrid, it offers an important point of difference between it and its European rivals. Until now, the only Lexus that has been vaguely attractive to the Gen-Ys has been secondhand examples of the sporty IS sedan.

Value

Priced from $39,990, the five-seat hatch comes in four grades, Prestige, Luxury, F Sport and Sports Luxury.  Our test vehicle, the flashy $49,990 1.8-litre F Sport model is not surprisingly proving to be most popular. Climate and leather with heated front seats are standard. Driver's seat is power adjustable and the F-Sport adds 17-inch wheels and sports suspension. Also gets satnav, Bluetooth and killer 10-speaker audio.

Technology

It's all about the tech. Lots of LEDs used to reduce power consumption. Gets 5 stars from the Government's Green Vehicle Guide, same as a Prius with a C02 output figure of just 95g/km. One of the most interesting aspects of the car is the drive mode system that alters throttle response, electric-drive voltage and steering feedback, as well as the stability control parameters when switched to sport mode. Just so you won't have any doubts about which mode you're in, the ambient lighting changes from blue to red when the driver selects sport mode and the eco meter magically changes to a rev counter, unless cruised is activated.

Design

CT stands for compact technology. The car sits on an all-new platform but employs the same hybrid powertrain as Prius, with a 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine along with an electric motor to give it some extra oomph when needed. Unlike other Lexus models, drive is through the front wheels with a continuously variable style CVT transmission.

The combined output of the two motors is a conservative 100kW but it performs better than the figures might suggest. The car's biggest selling point is, of course, its fuel economy, officially rated at 4.1 litres/100km (less than a Prius). We got 554km from our first tank at a rate of 5.8 litres/100km.

Safety

Electronically controlled anti-lock brakes, with brake assist and electronic brake force distribution. Also gets stability, traction and hill-start assist control. Comes with a total of eight airbags, including knee bags for both the driver and front passenger. Also the first Lexus with a rear seatbelt monitor system. This model comes with a reversing camera for added safety.

Hasn't received a rating from Australian NCAP yet, but has achieved 5 stars for safety in European crash tests.

Driving

Here's a chassis that's crying out for something more. Tackles corners with confidence and composure, but you have to put the boot in to get the best out of it. Has a small 45-litre fuel tank and prefers premium unleaded which gives it a range of over 1000km.

The switch to performance mode makes a significant to throttle response, releasing more power to the electric motor. In sport mode, the stability system allows some slide to fully exploit the vehicle's dynamic abilities.

Verdict

Not bad. Quiet and comfortable. More likeable than we anticipated. Certainly stands out in electric blue with black alloys. Rides and handles well but a little more power would be lovely — you can't argue with the economy though.

Pricing Guides

$17,425
Based on 18 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$13,995
Highest Price
$22,900

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
CT200h F Sport 1.8L, ULP, CVT AUTO $16,888 – 19,880 2011 Lexus CT 2011 CT200h F Sport Pricing and Specs
CT200h Luxury 1.8L, ULP, CVT AUTO $15,900 – 22,900 2011 Lexus CT 2011 CT200h Luxury Pricing and Specs
CT200h Prestige 1.8L, ULP, CVT AUTO $13,995 – 17,900 2011 Lexus CT 2011 CT200h Prestige Pricing and Specs
CT200h Sports Luxury 1.8L, ULP, CVT AUTO $14,080 – 18,590 2011 Lexus CT 2011 CT200h Sports Luxury Pricing and Specs