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Lexus CT


BMW 2 Series

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

BMW 2 Series

There’s occasional wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth over the question of whether a four-door car can be called a coupe.

Rover set tongues wagging close to 60 years ago with its P5 Coupe; to all intents and purposes a sedan with a lower, slightly swoopier roofline.

But in the 21st century, BMW has wiped the conversation aside and gone four-door coupe mad, even applying the tag to a couple of its X Series SUVs as well as a series of more conventional models.

So, rather than call in the coupe police, after they’ve visited Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, we’ll go with the flow and introduce you to the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe, launching in two variants - the 218i (front-wheel drive, 1.5-litre, three-cylinder turbo), and M235i xDrive (all-wheel drive, 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo).

Safety rating
Engine Type1.5L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency5.9L/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.


BMW 2 Series7.8/10

Small four-door cars aren’t exactly flavour-of-the-month in the current Australian new car market, but this newcomer offers solid value, and good dynamic balance in a premium compact package. It’s aimed at a niche within a niche, but for seekers of sleek, inner-city-sized four-door luxury, the 2 Series Gran Coupe has a lot to offer. 

Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.

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.


BMW 2 Series8/10

The whole BMW Gran Coupe ‘thing’ kicked off in 2012 with a lower, longer, extra-doored version of the 6 Series coupe.

Following in its fashionable wheel tracks were the 4 Series Gran Coupe in 2014, an 8 Series model in 2019, and now this diminutive 2 Series.

The formula is broadly similar in each case. Take the two-door coupe, stretch it length-wise, add a couple of doors and remove the frames from all of them, then let the wind tunnel smooth out the overall form.

In line with that design approach, at just over 4.5m long the Gran Coupe is 94mm longer than the 2 Series two-door, as well as fractionally wider (+26mm), and a little taller (+7.0mm).

But the surprise is a shorter wheelbase (2670mm) for this front-wheel drive model (based on the 1 Series platform), compared to the rear-wheel drive two-door (2690mm).

A big grille is a key part of BMW’s current design language, and the 2 Series Gran Coupe obliges with a suitably large version of the brand’s signature ‘kidney’ grille with a single surround unifying it graphically. 

Angry, angular LED headlights combine with large air vents either side of the front clip to conjure up a confident, assertive face.

The car’s profile conforms to the BMW Gran Coupe template with the roofline tapering markedly towards the rear and strategically placed character lines along the car’s flanks adding visual interest and enhancing the its lengthy look.

BMW devotees will recognise the term ‘Hofmeister Kink’, a characteristic up-turn of the trailing edge of a BMW’s side window glass, This time around BMW refers to the element as an ‘upright’ Hofmeister Kink, which is a misnomer, because it’s so upright it no longer conforms to the vision of Wilhelm Hofmeister (the Bavarian maker’s head of design in the early 1960s).

Slim, long, distinctly horizontal LED tail-lights define the rear view, with other lateral lines and trim elements enhancing the car’s wide, planted stance.

The interior will be instantly familiar to any current model BMW owner with the neatly arranged dash featuring the ‘Cockpit Professional’ set-up including a 10.25-inch configurable instrument display, and another same-size multimedia screen annexed to the main binnacle.

All instrumentation and key controls are angled towards the driver and attention to detail in terms of quality is high.

It’s now an accepted truth that lights and screens are the new chrome in terms of automotive design, and the 2 Series Gran Coupe compliments its sleek screens with an interior ambient lighting package, as well as brushed metal elements and BMW’s usual array of logically arranged, legible and user-friendly switchgear.

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.


BMW 2 Series6/10

No matter how hard you shut your eyes and spit out a Harry Potter-style incantation, you can’t magic-up a big interior in a small car.

BMW’s packaging boffins will have sweated bullets to eke out every extra millimetre, but the hard fact is this 2 Series Gran Coupe is diminutive.

Cozy is the best way to describe the front section, and the front seats are snug, be they the cloth-trimmed sports seats in the 218i, or even racier leather-trimmed chairs in the 235i xDrive.

Access to the rear requires mild gymnastic prowess because the door aperture is modest, and once you’re in there it’s tight. Sitting behind the driver’s seat set for my 183cm position, my shiny pate made firm contact with the headliner, and my knees were striking up a close relationship with the front seatback.

Forget three grown-ups abreast in there. I’d describe the 2 Series Gran Coupe’s seating arrangement as a ‘2+2+1’.

Storage is provided in all the right places, but scaled down to suit the available space. There’s a lidded storage box between the front seats, two cupholders and a wireless charging bay in the front centre console, decent door bins with room for bottles, and a glove box (able to accommodate several pairs of gloves).

Backseaters have access to small door bins and a fold-down centre armrest with two cupholders in it. The primo M235i xDrive features adjustable rear air vents, while the entry-level 218i misses out.

The boot chips in with 430 litres of load space, which is okay rather than cavernous, and it’s worth remembering the opening is narrow relative to a similarly-sized hatch. But a 40/20/40 split-folding rear seat increases flexibility, and liberates more space.

Don’t bother looking for a spare of any description as a repair/inflator kit is your only option.

Towing is possible in the 218i, but sadly the dual-axle caravan is off the agenda. Maximum capacity for a braked trailer is 1300kg (with a 75kg towball download), and 710kg unbraked. The M235i xDrive is a no-tow zone.

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.


BMW 2 Series8/10

The two-model 2 Series Gran Coupe line-up kicks off with the 218i at $47,490, before on-road costs, and BMW’s aiming up at Merc’s CLA 200 ($60,700) with this car, at a more than $13K differential.

Aside from the standard active and passive safety tech (covered in the Safety section) that cost-of-entry includes: 18-inch alloy rims, a leather-trimmed sports steering wheel, sports front seats, head-up display, the 'Live Cockpit Professional’ pack (10.25-inch instrument cluster, 10.25-inch operating system 7.0 media display and ‘Intelligent Personal Assistant’), Apple CarPlay (Android Auto is coming later in 2020), cruise control, keyless entry and start, ambient interior lighting, LED headlights, tail-lights, and fog lights, ‘Parking Assistant’ (front and rear sensors, reversing camera, ‘Auto Parking Assistant’ and ‘Reversing Assistant’) and a six-speaker (100-watt) audio system.

Yes, the Merc features an AMG bodykit and rims, as well as active cruise, and it has a bit more oomph, but that’s a pretty handy batch of standard features for a lot less money. 

In similar fashion, at $69,990, before on-road costs, the M235i xDrive lines up price-wise against Merc’s CLA 250 4Matic ($70,200), but knocks it for six in terms of performance. In fact, BMW wants a piece of the Merc-AMG CLA 35 ($85,500) with this mini-muscle coupe.

Over and above the 218i’s equipment list the top-spec car features: 19-inch alloys, M-Sport brakes (four-piston front calipers, up from single piston), M steering calibration, M rear spoiler, M Sport front seats, leather upholstery, electric front seat adjustment (including memory on the driver’s side), adaptive LED headlights (including ‘High-beam Assistant), and harman/kardon 16-speaker (464-watt) audio. Not bad at all.

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.


BMW 2 Series9/10

The 218i Gran Coupe is powered by a version of BMW’s B38 in-line three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine, used in various BMW and Mini models. The all-alloy unit features direct-injection, ‘Valvetronic’ variable valve timing and ‘Double-VANOS variable cam timing to produce 103kW from 4600-6500rpm, and 220Nm from 1480-4200rpm. It sends drive to the front wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

The M235i Gran Coupe is powered by a version of BMW’s B48 in-line four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine, also used in various BMW and Mini models, including the Mini John Cooper Works GP.

Another all-alloy design, it also uses a twin-scroll turbo set-up, direct-injection, ‘Valvetronic’ variable valve timing and ‘Double-VANOS variable cam timing to produce no less than 225kW from 5000-6250rpm, and a whopping 450Nm from 1750-4500rpm.

It sends power to all four wheels through an eight-speed (conventional torque-converter) automatic transmission and a dedicated transfer gearbox, guided by multiple sensors and processors, to send drive to the wheels that can make best use of it. 

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.


BMW 2 Series8/10

Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 5.9L/100km, the 218i, emitting 135g/km of CO2 in the process.

Not surprisingly, the high-performance M235i xDrive is thirstier, the combined cycle figure rising to 7.6L/100km, and emissions sitting at 173g/km of CO2.  During a post-launch week of city, suburban and freeway running in this version, we recorded a real-world number of 10.2L/100km.

Stop-start is standard, minimum fuel requirement is 95 RON premium unleaded in the 215i, and 98 RON premium in the M235i, and you’ll need 50 litres to brim the tank on both. 

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.


BMW 2 Series8/10

For most driving circumstances the 218i offers enough performance to get the job done, with 0-100km/h acceleration for the 1375kg four-door claimed at 8.7sec.

With more than twice the power and torque the M235i is able to blast it’s heavier (1570kg) frame to the same mark in just 4.9sec, and anything under five seconds is properly fast.

The three-cylinder car is smooth, surprisingly quiet, and responsive, the little turbo providing a satisfyingly linear response, with maximum torque available from just 1480rpm all the way to 4200rpm. The seven-speed auto is most un-dual-clutch like in that it’s unobtrusive, but very dual-clutch-like in that it shifts rapidly and precisely.

Step into the M235i and you’re entering an altogether more serious world of performance. The in-line four is crisp and lights up with only a modest flexing of the right ankle. The four-cylinder’s raspy engine induction noise is smile-inducing, and in Sport mode the exhaust adds furious blurts and bangs to full-throttle up-shifts, and entertaining crackles and pops on the way back down the ratios.

The eight-speed auto doesn’t give anything away to the 218i’s dual-clutch, especially in manual mode, where a flick of either wheel mounted paddle results in almost instant changes. And the xDrive system keeps the car planted, the transfer gearbox on the back of the main transmission seamlessly distributing torque to all four wheels on a needs basis.

Pushing along some B-road bends on the BMW launch drive program, the M235i remained planted and felt eager, picking up the throttle quickly out of tight corners, the bigger brakes keeping the car stable as load transfers to the front axle.

But no matter which version of the 2 Series Gran Coupe you’re in, the ride/handling balance is impressive. Suspension is strut front, multi-link rear in both, and the car’s ability to blend great cornering with a comfy ride is the mark of a company that knows its way around engineering dynamics. The 218i comes with an M Sport suspension tune, although the standard set-up is a no-cost option., 

Steering is accurate, feelsome, and nicely weighted in both models, the M235i upping the ante with meatier variable rate settings. And the sports seats in each car are grippy, although, despite adjustability of the side bolsters, the M235i runs the risk of sacrificing long-distance comfort for firm location. 

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.


BMW 2 Series8/10

All the expected active safety tech is on-board, including ABS, EBD, BA and stability and traction controls. Then the 218i adds ‘Driving Assistant’ (including lane departure warning, lane change warning, ‘Approach control Warning’ with city-braking intervention, ‘Rear Cross Traffic Warning’, ‘Rear Collision Prevention’ and ‘Speed Limit Information’. As well as, Parking Assistant’ (front and rear sensors, reversing camera, ‘Auto Parking Assistant’ and ‘Reversing Assistant’). As well as, a dry braking function, fading compensation, ‘Start-Off Assistant’, ‘Electronic Differential Lock Control’, and trailer stability control.

All that, but no AEB. At urban speeds, the 'City Brake' system will detect a potential forward collision and slow the car if necessary, but not bring it to a complete stop. For that you'll need to option in adaptive cruise control at $654 for the 218i and $850 for the M235i.

If an impact is unavoidable there are head and side airbags for the driver and front passenger, as well as curtain airbags covering both rows.

There are also three top tether points for baby capsules/child seats across the rear seat, which ISOFIX anchors on the two outer positions.

The BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe hadn’t been assessed by ANCAP or Euro NCAP at the time of writing.

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. 


BMW 2 Series7/10

BMW offers a three year/unlimited km warranty, which is off the pace with the majority of mainstream brands stepping up to five-year cover, with some at seven. And the pressure is on with Mercedes-Benz announcing its shift to five years/unlimited km.

That said, the BMW's body is warranted against rust (perforation) for 12 years/unlimited km, and roadside assistance is provided free-of-charge for three years/unlimited km.

Maintenance is 'condition based' with sensors and on-board algorithms (mileage, time since last service, fuel consumption, driving style) determining whether an annual vehicle inspection or oil service is required.

The 'BMW Service Inclusive' package, offering a single, one-off advance payment to cover selected service and maintenance costs, is available in two levels - 'Basic' or 'Plus.'