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Lexus CT


Alfa Romeo Giulietta

Summary

Lexus CT

There are two ways to look at the Lexus CT200h; as either the cheapest model in the Japanese company’s range, or as a planet-saving hybrid.

Either way, the four-door, five-seat CT200h hatch – which has been updated for 2018 – differs from the rest of the Japanese luxury brand’s lineup for a number of different reasons.

Safety rating
Engine Type1.8L
Fuel TypeHybrid with Premium Unleaded
Fuel Efficiency4.1L/100km
Seating5 seats

Alfa Romeo Giulietta

Richard Berry road tests and reviews the new Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce hatch with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

Nobody just buys an Alfa Romeo, in the same way that nobody goes out and just buys a top hat. Yes it's functional and yes you'll looking amazing in it whether you're male or female, and people will pay you compliments - possibly question your judgement, too, but it's not the obvious choice and buying one is a conscious decision. See, you don't even know if I'm talking about the top hat or the Alfa any more.

At backyard barbecues and dinner parties throughout Australia you'll overhear people saying: "My heart says yes but my head says no." They're not discussing robbing the convenience store on the corner after dessert, but they're more likely to be talking about buying an Alfa Romeo. See Alfas are famous for their stunning beauty, their racing pedigree and their performance, but in the past they've been infamous for their reliability issues. You knew that, right?

The top-of-the-range Giulietta Veloce with the dual-clutch auto is the best reference to the brand's performance pedigree. This version has only just arrived on the market, and follows a major styling and technology update to the Giulietta in 2015.

Like most test cars, we lived with it for a week. Is it too small to be a family car? What's wrong with the glovebox? Is it as racy as it looks? What's with all the water? And is it just me or are my hands too small to drive this car? We'll even be able to point you in the right direction for a guide to Giulietta's reliability.

Safety rating
Engine Type1.7L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.8L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Lexus CT7.3/10

The cheapest Lexus of them all isn’t chasing badge snobs with the CT200h as blatantly as Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi do with their entry level cars… but it’s perhaps not quite the Lexus you’d expect it to be.

It has a lovely front-of-cabin, for example, but there’s a lot of last-gen Prius in plain sight in the rear of the cabin.

The hybrid powertrain, too, is noble in concept, but the day-to-day reality is that it’s not as nice to drive, especially town to town, as a regular petrol-powered car of similar size.

The foot brake, silly multimedia joystick and odd gearshifter also spoilt the party a bit.

Empty nesters who are looking for a nice city runaround with a tinge of greenwash about it will love it… and if the current Prius is anything to go by, the next CT will be a very good thing indeed.

Is the Lexus CT200h the sort of hatchback you'd like to drive? Let us know in the comments section below.


Alfa Romeo Giulietta6.3/10

So much right and some things not quite right – the Giulietta has the Alfa Romeo mix of highs and lows which the brand is famous for. There’s no mistaking that this is a unique and sexy looking car, with the practicality of a five-door hatch plus impressive handling and performance.  More heart than head decision here though it seems, but romantic Alfa enthusiasts should adore it.

Have you got a 'classic' Alfa Romeo experience, good or bad? Tell us in the comments below.

Click here to see more Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce pricing and spec info.

Design

Lexus CT

There are some light external revisions for the latest update of the compact Lexus CT200h. New grey 17-inch alloys are unique to the Sport Luxury, along with a black roof treatment, new L-shaped LED driving lamps that match new-design LED tail-lamps, while Lexus designers have also added its new spindle grille to the brand’s smallest model.

It manages to be inoffensive, but it doesn't really reflect the brand's latest design language of 'real world concept cars' like the NX and the LC ranges.

Inside, a couple of new leather colour options are available for the CT200h, while the addition of the wide-format 10.3-inch screen to the top of the centre console is the single largest change. Interestingly, the steering wheel controls appear to have regressed a little from the previous model, no doubt brought about by the addition of the new driver aids.


Alfa Romeo Giulietta8/10

Alfa Romeo couldn't design a boring car even if it was handed a picture of a Toyota Camry and told to copy it or else. The Giulietta is no exception.

There's the deep 'V' grille shared with the new Giulia sedan and 4C sports cars that make up the current Alfa model line-up. There's the bug-eye headlights with pretty inset LEDs and the chiselled bonnet, a side profile which looks like that of a mini Porsche Cayenne and a cute-but-tough bottom with its elegant taillights and twin exhausts.

The latest update brought a honeycomb mesh grille and a slightly different design to the headlight and LED foglight surrounds. The tail pipes were also given a styling tweak, so too were the alloy wheels.

The cabin saw new materials and finishes added. The Veloce had the Alfa Romeo logo stitched into the integrated headrests, shiny sports pedals, and lashings of faux carbon fibre trim on the doors and dash.

You can tell a Veloce from the outside by the red Brembo brake calipers behind the front wheels, 18-inch alloys, its chunkier exhaust tips poking out of the diffuser, red pin-striping to the front and rear bumpers, and the black window surrounds.

Okay, how big or small is it? Here's some dimensions for you. The Guilietta is 4351mm long, 1798mm wide, 1465mm tall and the Veloce with its sports suspension is 9mm lower than the others with 102mm of ground clearance.

Compared to say a Mazda3 hatch the Giulietta is 109mm shorter end-to-end and only 3mm wider. But if you're considering an Giulietta why are you looking at the Mazda3 anyway? That would be sensible - Like comparing Cancer Council hats to top hats.

Practicality

Lexus CT

The CT200h basically replicates a small hatchback in terms of interior size. It'll seat five, but if you try to put three adults across the back, they won't be particularly happy about it. 

The roofline is quite low and the car’s waistline is high, which makes the glasshouse feel small. Room in the front is adequate, but only just for taller drivers; the sunroof, as fitted to our test example, takes away a good chunk of headroom, despite the CT200h standing just 5mm lower than a Corolla overall. 

The seats themselves, too, are mounted just a touch high to be comfortable for taller drivers, while rear seaters will complain bitterly about being stuck behind my (184cm) driving position. However, my more diminutive wife pronounced herself very comfortable behind the wheel and in the passenger seat.

A nice, small steering wheel sits in front of a single-dial dash that sports two digital screens either side. The left-hand screen changes when you change the drive mode dial between Eco, Normal, and Sport. And there's also a full EV mode button in handy reach. 

Two cupholders are line astern between driver and passenger, although storage is at a premium thanks to the size of the car. Climate and multimedia controls - and even an old-school CD player – flow right through underneath the centre console, which steals away valuable space. There are no extras like wireless charging bays, nor is there Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

There are bottle holders in the door, but don't try and stash anything that's over one litre in size because it just won't fit.

It's quite an austere proposition for rear-seat passengers, with no bottle holders in the doors, no cup-holders and no charging points. There are fixed vents under the front seats and on the right side of the rear area, so it's not a complete desert, and there are ISOFIX mounts for two child seats in the rear.

Another practicality issue that's unique to the CT200h is the gear shifter. It operates as a spring-loaded joystick, and unless you're watching the dash indicator, it can be tricky to know which gear you're in. Other car makers have actually recalled cars with this style of transmission stick, and it's certainly something that you have to get used to. 

Likewise, the old-school foot brake is certainly an anachronism in something like a Lexus.

Based on the previous generation Prius, the nickel-metal hydride battery for the CT is hidden underneath the rear seat, so it doesn't steal away too much boot room. However, the boot floor is still quite high, and the area is rather small at 375 litres with the seats up. There is 985 litres available when you drop the seats, but the aperture is short and narrow, so larger items will be a squeeze. There is a space-saver spare nestled away underneath the boot floor, too.

Another practicality note in the negative column is Lexus's insistence on the odd joystick control for its multimedia system. It's simply not very good. It’s imprecise when compared to a touchscreen, the action and feel of our test unit was very much less than premium, and it’s just awkward and clumsy to use. The CT is not the only Lexus to use it, but we wish the company would just see the light and ditch it all together.


Alfa Romeo Giulietta5/10

Beautiful things tend to favour form over function. The Giuletta tries to do both and succeeds…but also fails in places.

Successes first: despite its coupe looks it's actually a five-door hatch with ‘hidden' handles for the rear doors placed up at window level near the C-pillar. So good is the two-door disguise that our photographer climbed into the back seat through the front door.

Rear legroom is a bit tight back there and at 191cm I can sit behind my driving position but I'd hate for me to be sitting behind me because my knees are digging hard into the seat back.

Headroom isn't much chop either and I literally can't sit in the back seat and hold my head high – a combination of that sloping roofline and the optional double sunroof reduces the head space.

A major practicality fail is the lack of storage throughout the cabin.

My wife's phone kept mysteriously appearing in the footwell every time we left it in the glove box, like there was a tear in the time-space fabric, but then we realised it was slipping through a gap.

There's no centre armrest storage bin in the front – actually there's no centre armrest. There is a pop-up hidey-hole on the dash but with only enough room for a pair of sunglasses.

The two cup holders in the front are small. It's safe to say that unless you have somebody with hands at the ready, ordering drive-thru is possibly out of the question.

Or if you have long arms and can reach the fold down armrest in the back there are two decent sized cup holders along with a small storage space. There are no bottle holders any of the doors, but there is fortunately room for a phone and wallet because there isn't space for them anywhere else.

But wait, the Giulietta is saved from a total storage fail by a large-for-the-class 350-litre boot. That's 70 litres bigger than a Toyota Corolla's and only 14 litres less than the Mazda3.  We could fit the pram, the shopping and the rest of the gear which goes with a military operation such as a trip to the park with a toddler in there.

Price and features

Lexus CT

The 1.8-litre petrol-electric CT200h comes in three different flavours – the Luxury, the F-Sport as tested here, and the Sport Luxury. The range now kicks off at $40,900 (up $2150) and peaks at $56,900 with the Sport Luxury (up $810).

The F-Sport may be a little lacking in the actual ‘sport’ department, but it’s is pretty flush with flash kit, including not one but three motors (one petrol and two electric), auto lights and wipers, a wide 10.3-inch multimedia system, leather seats, dual-zone climate control and new 17-inch alloys.

At $50,400 plus on-roads, the F-Sport has jumped in price by $1960, but it’s gained a host of new gear, including a new driver aid system that adds auto emergency braking (AEB), pedestrian-detecting pre-collision warning system, lane departure warning with steering assistance and adaptive cruise control.

There are also LED headlights and taillights, as well as revised styling for the front and rear bumpers.

The CT will be cross-shopped against other premium tiddlers like the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, Audi’s A3 and the BMW 1 series. Comparing it like-for-like in the hybrid category, there’s the top spec Toyota Prius i-Tech, while Nissan’s Leaf could theoretically be lumped in both on price and on environmental grounds.


Alfa Romeo Giulietta5/10

The 2016 update saw the Giulietta variants renamed. There's the entry grade $29,990 Super Manual which has a six-speed manual gearbox, then buyers can step up to the Super TCT with a six-speed dual clutch automatic transmission for $34,900 and then there's our test car – the Veloce for $41,990. There's 10 paint colours at your disposal from the colour of our car (Alfa Red) to Perla Moonlight. Only Alfa White comes at no extra cost, the rest are a $500 option.

The Veloce collects the same features as the Super TCT such as a 6.5-inch touch screen, with sat nav, front and rear parking sensors, three drive modes and then adds bi-xenon headlights, 18-inch alloys, leather and Alcantara seats, a flat-bottomed steering wheel, the big exhaust tips and the sports diffuser, tinted rear glass and then less cosmetic features such as sports suspension and launch control.

There's no reversing camera which is disappointing, considering they come standard on some cars half the price.

At this price you'd shop the Veloce against a BMW 120i hatch for $41,900, a Volkswagen Golf GTI for $43,490 or possibly a high-end Mazda3 SP 25 Astina for $37,040.

Engine & trans

Lexus CT

The 1.8-litre twin-cam petrol engine makes a relatively low 73kW and 142Nm, while a 60kW, 207Nm electric motor that’s also connected to the front wheels chips in its share.

Combined, the system produces 100kW, while the torque figure translates to around the 150Nm mark. That juicy 207Nm doesn’t come into play, sadly, given that the petrol engine – which is built to run cooler than a traditional Otto cycle engine, and therefore more efficiently – does most of the work.

Throw in a transaxle for the electric motor and a power inverter, and things are getting complex. However, if the Prius is any indication, the CT200h’s drivetrain is durable and relatively serviceable, with batteries estimated to last ten years or longer.


Alfa Romeo Giulietta7/10

The Giulietta Veloce has a 1.75-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine which produce 177kW of power and 340Nm of torque. It's a great engine that lets loose a wonderful scream when pushed hard and the little grunts it makes when it changes gear when driving around normally sound like a giant enjoying his food.

The transmission is a dual-clutch auto which Alfa calls a TCT or twin-clutch transmission. I'm not a fan of them regardless of the brand of car they're in but the Alfa version is better than most of the others in its smoothness at lower speeds and decisiveness.

What about the Giulietta's reliability over time? This version of the car is less than two months old so we can only comment on what it offers as a brand-new vehicle, but you'll find good context in our used review of the earlier 2011-2014 Giulietta.

Fuel consumption

Lexus CT

Here’s the odd thing – over 220km of largely highway driving, I couldn’t get the CT200h under a dash-indicated 10.4 litres/100km, against a claimed combined fuel economy figure of 4.4L/100km

I topped the tank off with 18 litres of fuel, which works out at a closer 8.8L/100km… but it still ain’t anything like 4.4. 

Another owner I spoke to, though, said he regularly records high fives with his CT200h in mixed conditions.

It runs a 45-litre tank that’ll happily take 95 RON fuel.


Alfa Romeo Giulietta7/10

Alfa Romeo says you should see your Veloce drink at a rate of 6.8L/100km during combined driving, but the dash showed more than double that during mainly urban driving while  channelling  Enzo Ferrari.

Driving

Lexus CT

If you've ever driven a Prius, then you'll be very familiar with the way that the CT drives. Based around a 73kW Atkinson cycle petrol engine which focuses on fuel efficiency rather than outright power, a 60kW electric motor (the pair combine to produce 100kW in total), a nickel-metal hydride battery array and a CVT gearbox, the CT200h – like the Prius – is a bit different to a regular hatch.

Under light throttle, the CT is quiet and moves along quite well, and you can even use full Electric Vehicle mode at speeds under 45km/h for a brief amount of time, (slightly less than two kilometres), and with a very gentle right foot.

The battery array is recharged via the petrol motor as well as regenerative braking (where heat energy is captured and directed back to the electric system) – but unlike a petrol-electric plug-in hybrid, there’s no way to stick a 240v cable into the CT to top up the battery. 

It has the unusual whines and odd noises that you would associate with a partly electric car, but the petrol motor sounds just like a regular old four-pot petrol unit, and it’s running most of the time.

One issue with the drive of a hybrid is its ability, or the lack thereof, to get off the line in any sort of hurry. You really have to mash the throttle to get going, which takes some getting used to. There’s also some hesitation and un-Lexus like thumps from the drivetrain if you confuse it by almost stopping then taking off again.

The CT200h’s biggest bugbear is that the fourth generation Prius exists. Built on a more sophisticated newer-generation platform and with a more refined drivetrain, the new Prius is a great insight into how good the next CT will be – and what the shortcomings of the current one currently are.  

The CT works well in high-traffic city environs, where a light throttle foot helps get the best out of the unusual drivetrain. Lots of lag from rest is an annoyance, as is an excess of CVT whine under hard efforts, but the CT200h pootles around town very well.  

Its small size does play against it when it comes to keeping out road noise at freeway speeds, though the CT is superior to most other similarly sized cars in this regard. As an aside, its build quality is nothing short of amazing, with minimalist panel gaps, a tight interior and lashings of paint on every surface.


Alfa Romeo Giulietta6/10

There's so much potential here for a great driving experience such as the accurate and direct steering and great suspension which provides a comfortable ride and great handling, only for all to be let down by turbo lag which kills the responsiveness in the car.

Of the three steering modes: Dynamic, Natural and All Weather, the Dynamic setting was kept on almost always with the other two just feeling too lethargic.

The Giulietta is front-wheel drive and there's a lot of torque being sent to those wheels, but unlike a stack of Alfas in the past there's next to no torque steer. That said, our hill start test on a wet night saw those front wheels scrambling for traction as it accelerated up the slope. Cornering grip from the tyres is excellent, however.

There's some Alfa Romeo ergonomic issues in the cabin we've gotten used to over the years, but just because you're accustomed to something doesn't mean it's okay. For example, the cramped driver's footwell with the brake and accelerator pedals so close that it's easy to hit both at the same time.

The indicator and wiper stalks are also so far from the steering wheel rim that they're almost out of reach – I don't think I have small hands, nobody's ever pointed them out or laughed at them.

And speaking of wipers, the Giulietta is obsessed with keeping itself clean. Pull the wiper stalk towards you to clean the windows and such is the intensity of the spray from both the window washer and the headlight washers it's like you're captaining a fishing trawler that's hit a massive wave at sea. Put the car into reverse and the rear wiper starts squirting and washing.

For Christmas I want Alfa to upgrade their media unit or bin it – the UConnect system disconnected my phone without prompting and isn't intuitive to use.

Safety

Lexus CT

Part of the update for 2018 is the addition of several driver aid systems, including AEB across the range, lane departure control with steering and adaptive cruise control. 

The F-Sport also has reversing camera and eight airbags as standard, ensuring the maximum five-star ANCAP safety score it managed in 2017.


Alfa Romeo Giulietta6/10

The Alfa Romeo Giulietta has been given the maximum five-star ANCAP rating. It doesn't have the advanced safety technology such as AEB and lane keeping assistance which is now standard on any small hatches for a lot less money.

For child and baby seats there's two top tether and two ISIOFIX points in the back seat.

Ownership

Lexus CT

Lexus sells the CT with an unusual four-year/100,000km warranty, which includes roadside service coverage. The battery pack has an eight-year/160,000km warranty, while Lexus would like to see you back for a service every 12,500km or 12 months.
 
It’s not just about a warranty or a service interval with Lexus, though. For decades now, its customer service record has topped all industry measures, and everyone we know who has bought a Lexus with their own money has raved about the quality of the service received. 

As well, it’s a level of service that’s provided across the range. It’s a tangible benefit of buying a CT200h. 


Alfa Romeo Giulietta6/10

The Giulietta is covered by Alfa Romeo's three year/150,000km warranty. Servicing is recommended at 12month/15,000km intervals with a major service every two years. Alfa Romeo doesn't have capped price servicing but there is Mopar Vehicle Protection which customers can purchase with the vehicle for $1995.