Lexus CT VS Ford Mondeo
- Well equipped
- Practical and refined
- EcoBoost engine hammers
- Hit and miss styling
- Inconsistent ride
- SUV-like seating position
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.
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Premium Unleaded|
Yes, this is a Ford Mondeo review in Anno Domini 2018.
Why? Perhaps Ford doesn't want anybody to get overly attached to a sedan-y hatch that has a cloudy future in an ever-shrinking mid-size market. After all, there's still a rather vocal sect of the population feeling burned by the end of the Falcon dynasty.
You'd also be right to assume those numbers are padded out a fair bit by corporate leases. Salesmen in England were long referred to as Mondoe Men for a reason. I'll tell you this much, though, I'd be pretty stoked if I got one of these Mondeos as a lease.
As an FG Falcon owner, for most intents and purposes it would even be a half-way decent replacement for my large sedan. Stick with me as I explain why.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
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.
The Mondeo creeps to the forefront as one of the best Fords with the smallest marketing budget.
Well equipped, reasonably fun to drive and semi-luxurious to be in for long periods, it's hard to remember why it's so forgettable.
Its certainly worth your consideration over its rivals, but then perhaps you don't want to fall in love with another Ford potentially headed for the chopping block in the near future.
Did you know Ford still sells the Mondeo, and would you ever consider it? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
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.
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.
There's no doubt that the Mondeo is a chunky monkey. Just get a look at those proportions, it looks like a dense rectangle's worth of car, and that's before you line it up next to something else for perspective.
In this case I sat it next to my Falcon. Once the largest sedan on offer by Ford in Australia, in some ways it looks dwarfed. The Mondeo is taller and just as wide, but not quite as long. A quick comparison of spec sheets proves it's not much lighter either, despite the Falcon sporting a cast-iron engine that's literally twice the size.
The front three-quarter especially makes the Mondeo look tough. The big catfish-esque grille combined with the slimline headlight clusters and bonnet ripples make it look aggressive - like a rolling advertisement for the Mustang.
Head round to the rear three-quarter, however and things get a little… off. The raised dimensions and high rear light features make it look too tall. The 'liftback' roofline does no wonders for the car's proportions either.
It's a shame that after so many decades of Mondeo there is still apparently no way to make that rear-end appealing.
Inside there are also plenty of quirks. While there are some parts that really work, there are also some that don't.
The plush leather seats unique to the Titanium grade are lovely, but they're positioned so high up you'd be forgiven for thinking you were at the helm of an SUV. The sunroof is also so far back it's basically useless for front passengers, yet it eats their headroom (also, it's just a glass roof that doesn't open).
Then there's the switchgear, of which there is an overwhelming amount. You're presented with a sensory assault of buttons and displays, half of which could seemingly be easily offloaded onto the multimedia system. It's an approach that dates an otherwise modern-looking cabin.
Eerily similar to the Falcon, the fan speed and temperature controls aren't dials (a user experience nightmare) but the volume control is… go figure.
Those gripes aside there's plenty to like about the Mondoe cabin. There are soft-touch surfaces everywhere, helping the car live up to its luxury spec and price point, while all the switchgear and interactive parts are solid and tough, just like the Mondeo's big brother, the Ranger.
While the digital dash is way too busy, it presents the relevant information well, and is a good interactive design once you get used to it.
The back seat is a very nice place to be, making full use of that big glass roof, and the rear seats are just as plush as the front ones. If you spend lots of time ferrying friends or family around, it's a strong point for the Mondeo.
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.
Do you like stowage spaces? Good, because the Mondeo has heaps of 'em. No longer content with just making one huge plastic fascia across the dash, there's a surprisingly large extra stowage space sitting below the air-conditioning controls. That joins a massive centre console box, with two USB ports and an extra tray layer for tidbits, as well as one of my favourite features, two truly massive cupholders. These show Ford's American influence as much as the aforementioned chunky switchgear.
The cupholders spent our weekend easily swallowing two phones, two wallets and two sets of keys with no problem at all. They'll fit your XL Coke no problems.
As I mentioned before, front passenger headroom is impacted by the glass roof, and there's a slightly claustrophobic feeling brought about by the huge swooping A-pillars, which also create a bit of a vision impairment for the driver. The SUV-like seating position can potentially be awkward, room-wise, for people with chunkier knees, or those that prefer sitting in a low, sporty position.
Up the back there's plenty of legroom and space for heads and arms and legs. I fit easily behind my own driving position, and there's the luxury of a fully leather-bound fold-down armrest with two big cupholders for rear passengers.
The keyless entry is also truly keyless, in that all four doors can lock or unlock the whole car at a touch. Another nice feature for when you're ferrying people around.
Boot space is also colossal, thanks to the liftback design. Ford states the size as 557 litres but as this seems to be a non-VDA-standard measurement it's hard to compare to competitors with numbers. Rest assured it will swallow a set of suitcases with ease, and the space is a practical rectangle with little intrusion from wheel arches.
Price and features
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.
Today's Mondeo has evolved to adapt to modern expectations for a mid-size sedan. It's a far cry from the budget Mondeo of the ‘90s and even approaches territory that once would have been restricted to cars like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. No, really.
Our top-spec Titanium, for example, is packed with heated and leather seats front and rear, a power tailgate, auto-leveling ‘dynamic' LED headlights (the ones that move where you're pointing the steering wheel.), a fixed panoramic sunroof, power tailgate (handy) and even an auto-dimming wing mirror on the passenger side. The Titanium also gets a different digital instrument cluster and a heated windscreen.
These join the regular suite of Mondeo features such as Ford's Sync3 multimedia system on the 8.0-inch screen (thankfully, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto), rain-sensing wipers, Digital radio (DAB+) and adaptive cruise control (part of a rather excellent safety package).
It's an impressive features list, which means nothing if the price isn't right. Our Titanium EcoBoost comes in at $44,790 before on-roads, pitting it against the Holden Commodore RS-V sedan ($46,990), Mazda6 GT sedan ($43,990) and Toyota Camry ($43,990).
None of those rivals have the heated windscreen or fully digital dashboard, though, and only the Mazda6 GT has heated seats front & rear. The Commodore RS-V is the only car here than can match the 8.0-inch screen size, but it does come with the addition of wireless phone charging and a colour head-up display. Food for (value) thought.
Engine & trans
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.
Ford offers two 2.0-litre turbocharged engines with the Mondeo, either a petrol EcoBoost engine or its diesel Duratorq equivalent.
The EcoBoost in our car is a bit of a gem. It produces an average sounding 177kW/345Nm when compared to the 220-plus-kW V6 engines in the equivalent Camry SL and Commodore RS-V, and it's even somehow out-played in the torque division by the Mazda6 GT, with its 170kW/420Nm.
As I'll explain in the driving section, however, it doesn't make the Mondeo feel any less powerful.
EcoBoost Mondeos can only be had with a six-speed traditional torque-converter automatic. Thankfully it doesn't carry 'PowerShift' branding either…
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.
Due to the entertainment factor given by the EcoBoost engine I wasn't particularly light on the throttle.
Ford claims you'll use 8.5L/100km on the combined cycle, which is 1.9L/100km more than the Mazda6 but on par with the V6 Camry and Commodore. In reality I experienced about 12L/100km, which is a fair bit more than the claimed figure, but not unusual for a keen-to-go engine. More on that in the driving segment.
For a bit of perspective, I can extract similar, if not better, fuel figures from my 4.0-litre FG Falcon.
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.
The Mondeo is thankfully quite a bit more fun than it looks. As I've been leading up to, the EcoBoost engine absolutely hammers with little encouragement. It's a hoot. The downside to this is that the fuel figure suffers.
Channelling 345Nm from as little as 2300rpm through just the front wheels also has the side-effect of tearing the steering wheel out of your hands under heavier bouts of acceleration. It does wonders to suspend the initial impression from the SUV-like seating position that this Mondoe must be a heavy car.
It definitely isn't a sports car, though, more of a semi-luxe sedan, which is a good thing, because when you're not driving as hard it's a pleasure to be at the helm of.
The steering is direct and light, making it easy to point at any speed, and in terms of noise the Mondeo is impressively quiet. There's barely a peep out of the engine. Road noise is great around town but increases a lot at freeway speeds and on rough surfaces, likely due to the larger alloys and lower-profile rubber.
The suspension makes for a mostly luxurious ride as well, but frequent undulations cause it to become unsettled side-to-side. Heavier bumps and potholes also resonate through the cabin.
It's almost annoying how close to excellent the refinement is.
The six-speed auto transmission is fantastic for a daily driver because you'll never know its there. I failed to catch it off guard once during my week with it.
There's a Sport mode and paddle-shifters you can use to make it stay in gear a little longer, but with the amount of power seemingly available at a moment's notice I never felt like I needed it.
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.
Once you get to Titanium level, the Mondeo's safety offering is truly expansive.
On the list is Auto Emergency Braking (AEB) with pre-collision warning, Lane Keep Assist (LKAS) with Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM), Driver Impairment monitoring and trailer-sway control.
There are also a standard set of airbags with a few sneaky extras like inflatable rear seat belts on the outer two rear seats,which join ISOFIX points in the same position. Since April 2016, every Mondeo has a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
These join the very welcome surround parking sensors, rear-view camera and auto-park, which make not nudging things in the Titanium a cinch.
And a boon for long-distance drivers is the fact that all Mondeo hatchbacks have a full-size steel spare.
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.
Ford has recently updated its warranty to five years/unlimited kilometres, which is a nice standard, although it is now matched by Holden and Mazda. Toyota lags behind with a three-year offering. The Kia Stinger starts to look very impressive here with its seven-year warranty.
At the time of writing, Ford's own service calculator tells us the Mondeo will cost a minimum of $370 per year or 15,000km (whichever comes first) service interval. Every fourth year that jumps to $615.