Lexus CT VS Hyundai Veloster
- Unique looks
- Grunty 1.6-turbo engine
- Great dynamics
- Small boot
- Only three doors
- 2.0-litre engine lacks grunt
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|
Promise me something. Don’t judge a Hyundai Veloster just by its looks, especially this new generation which has just arrived.
So, what is it, then? If anything it could be the perfect compromise car: a coupe with easier access to the back seats than a two-door, a choice of engines, an affordable entry-point, plus good dynamics and a comfortable ride.
I went to the Australian launch of the new Veloster and here’s what I found out about this much improved second-generation model.
|Engine Type||1.6L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
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 Veloster might not be the perfect family car with its small boot and three doors, but if you are looking for something different and sporty then the Veloster with its great driving dynamics could be the funnest reason not to buy an SUV like everybody else.
The Turbo is the sweet spot in the Veloster range for value - the most bang for you buck, plus plenty of great features.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
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.
Nobody had seen anything quite like the Veloster before the first one arrived in 2012. This ugly-pretty hatch with cranky frog looks made Australia rubber neck.
It arrived just after Hyundai had finished winning over Aussies with small affordable cars with outstanding five-star ANCAP safety scores and it was a case of 'now for something completely different.'
I’m going to put it out there and say the styling was about half-a-decade ahead of the trend because by the time 2017 rolled around brands like Toyota were coming up with pretty similar designs in the form of its C-HR and even more recently Lamborghini’s Urus bears more than a passing resemblance to the Hyundai. Where have you ever seen that written before?
This second-generation Veloster has arrived looking a bit more grown up and serious than the pioneering first-gen, with its longer nose and sleeker head and tail-lights, the latter of which now extend through into the tailgate.
And while it’s not quite as toy-like in its design as the original it’s still fun looking and different with the pumped up wheelarches, central exhaust, a roofline which slopes dramatically down to the oversized rear spoiler and the three-door design – one for the driver, the front passenger and a single entrance to the second row.
Yep, if you didn’t realise it then you should know that from the right-hand side the Veloster looks like a two-door coupe, but from the left it appears to be a four-door. Not even Hyundai can give me a reason why, other than it offers the practicality that a two-door coupe can’t.
All Velosters come with 18-inch alloy wheels but each grade’s rims come in a different design, while the Turbo and Turbo Premium have blacked-out side skirts and a sporty grille with a red-painted lower air-intake.
Each grade of Veloster comes with a different interior package with a black and blue colour scheme with cloth material in the entry-level car; while the Turbo’s cabin is black with red highlights using cloth and leather; and the Turbo premium is similar but with leather upholstery.
That said, there’s way too much hard plastic used on all grades, from the dash to the door sills and that brings the feeling of quality down even if the fit and finish of the cabin is excellent.
At 4240mm long, 1800mm across, and 1399mm tall the Veloster is about 100mm shorter in length than an i30, a little bit wider and not quite as tall, giving it a low and planted stance.
Colours include 'Red Ignite', 'Yellow Thunder Bolt', 'Chalk White', 'Dark Knight', 'Tangerine Comet', 'Phantom Black' and 'Lake Silver'. Frankly a frog-looking car should come in green, but that isn’t offered, neither is blue, grey or purple.
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.
It’s not. Well not very practical anyway, not in the same way a Hyundai i30 is or even a Kona SUV is.
Let’s go straight to the obvious one – the three doors. A door for the driver, one for the front passenger and another on the kerb-side of the car for entry into the two seats in the second row.
Yes, it’s quirky and different, but it’s frustrating for the those who need to climb in from the left-hand side and scoot across a hard plastic tray and cupholders in the centre to sit behind the driver.
To be fair, the aperture of the entry has been widened by 58mm, improving entry and egress and headroom in the second row has been increased, too.
At 191cm tall I can just sit behind my driving position while my hair is brushing the ceiling. Not a place I’d like to be a on a long trip, that’s for sure.
Hyundai argues that the third door provides practicality that a two door doesn’t have, which is true, but that’s like making a T-shirt with one long sleeve and a short one just in case it’s colder than you thought outside. No, it isn’t… but I can’t think of a better analogy right now.
Did you notice that the front doors are different lengths? The driver’s door is long because the B-Pillar on that side is positioned further rearwards than the other side while the passenger door is short. This causes a few issues – the driver’s door is heavy and if you park next to somebody you might have trouble opening it far enough for you to clamber out.
But if you don’t have kids and will only occasionally ferry people around in the back, then the Veloster is far more suitable.
Cabin storage is good with two cupholders in the back, and two up front, along with slim door pockets up front, a large centre console storage bin under the centre armrest and a big hidey hole in front of the shifter.
As for power outlets you’ll find a 12-volt along with two USB ports up front – a media connection and charging-only one.
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.
There are three grades in the Veloster range with the entry-point simply called Veloster, which lists for $29,490 with a manual gearbox and $31,790 for the automatic transmission.
Above this is the Turbo, which lists for $35,490 for the manual (add $3K for a dual-clutch auto) and at the top of the range is the Turbo Premium for $38,990 in manual guise and, that’s right, three grand extra for the dual-clutch.
The standard equipment list is impressive. Well, it is for the Turbo and Premium, but the entry-grade Veloster still comes with a good safety suite (read about that below) and features such as LED daytime running lights, a 7.0-inch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, single-zone climate control, sports front seats, leather-clad steering wheel, 18-inch alloy wheels with Michelin Pilot Sport 3 tyres and switchable drive modes if you go for the auto transmission.
The Turbo is the sweet spot in the Veloster range for value coming standard with an 8.0-inch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, eight-speaker Infinity sound system, proximity unlocking, LED headlights, sat nav, digital performance gauges, digital radio and Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres.
The Turbo Premium has all of the Turbo’s features but adds leather upholstery, heated and ventilated seats, power adjustable driver’s seat, head-up display, heated steering wheel, sunroof, and wireless charging for your smartphone. Plus, this grade gives you the option of the two-tone effect with the black roof for $1000. Premium paint on all grades costs $595.
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.
There are two engines in the Veloster range: a 110kW/180Nm 2.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol four cylinder in the entry-grade car; and the 150kW/265Nm 1.6-litre turbo-petrol four in the Turbo and Turbo Premium.
Both engines can be had with a six-speed manual, while the 2.0-litre is also available with a six-speed automatic and the 1.6-litre is offered with a seven-speed dual-clutch auto.
For me, the best combination is the turbo engine with the manual gearbox. For more on what the Veloster is like to drive, skip on down to that section below.
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.
Hyundai says that after a combination of open and urban road driving the 2.0-litre petrol engine with the six-speed manual will use 7.0L/100km, while the six-speed auto will need 7.1L/100km.
In my test drive of the automatic the trip computer was telling me it was using an average of 7.1L/100km but that was mainly country roads.
As for the turbo engine Hyundai says consumption will be 7.3L/100km with the manual gearbox and 6.9L/100km with the dual-clutch. My testing of the DCT car saw the trip computer report 6.8L/100km after motorways and then getting lost in Brisbane’s CBD during peak hour. Not bad at all.
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.
I kicked things off in the base grade Veloster with its 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic, then upgraded to the Turbo Premium with the 1.6-turbo and dual-clutch auto, before piloting the mid-range Turbo with the six-speed manual gearbox. It was enough for me to see straight away which I’d want in my driveway.
And ‘yeah-nah’, it wasn’t the base grade Veloster. Not for me, anyway. The frankly superb (for the money) suspension is let down by an engine which can’t offer the performance a car this well set-up deserves.
Still, you get the look, great handling, outstanding steering and a comfortable and composed ride for less money than the rest. So, if ‘extra sporty’ driving doesn’t matter to you, then you will still love the way the entry Veloster feels to pilot.
If you have a little more to spend my recommendation is the middle-of-the-range Turbo with the six-speed manual. This is the bang for your buck winner with that 1.6-litre turbo making 150kW/265Nm at a pretty darn good price.
You’ll find the same engine in the Hyundai i30 N-Line, but the Veloster Turbo with a manual gearbox is 1270kg - 45kg lighter than the i30, giving it a better power-to-weight ratio.
The lightness and all that torque rushing in from 1500rpm, combined with quick and natural steering makes the Veloster Turbo feel so pointable, changing direction almost as quickly as you can think it.
The manual gearbox just ups the engagement factor, with a light clutch pedal and easy ‘flick of the wrist’ shifts.
If you’re going to be commuting in traffic daily then you’d probably be happier with the dual-clutch auto, which reduces the driver-car connection but has its own benefits over the manual.
First, the DCT can shift faster than any human, and second when it moves to a higher gear the burbling exhaust note lets out satisfying deep burps.
The official 0-100km/h acceleration time for the Turbo cars is 7.1sec for the DCT auto, and 7.7sec for the manual.
All Velosters have the same suspension tune and it’s much improved over the previous model. MacPherson struts underpin the front while suspension in the back has been swapped from a torsion beam to multi-link set-up which has improved high-speed and cornering stability, while giving the Veloster a comfortable and composed ride.
Hyundai has done a top job in designing the driving position, too, with a low hip point, supportive seats and plenty of elbow room.
You might be wondering what visibility is like in a car with a mini-tank turret and it’s nowhere near as bad as you might think.
Hyundai has moved the A-pillars back to improve the view, but they are still a bit in the way while looking rearward, your sight obstructed by the chunky C-Pillar and small windows. But use your mirrors and the reversing camera when parking and you’ll be fine.
That brings us to looking at how practical something like the Veloster is…
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.
This new-gen Hyundai Veloster hasn’t been given an ANCAP assessment yet, but it’s likely the rating could be split between a four-star score for the entry grade and a five-star for the Turbo and Turbo premium.
This is because the entry car has AEB but it’s not the pedestrian detecting type which is found on the top two grades and is necessary for a five-star score.
All Velosters have rear parking sensors, but none have front ones.
The LED headlights on the Turbo and Turbo premium are excellent. Keep this in mind if you’re thinking of the base grade and you live in a country area – its full beam headlights are nowhere near as good.
For child seats you’ll find two ISOFIX mounts and two top tether anchor points in the second row.
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.
The new Veloster is covered by Hyundai’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended every 15,000km or 12 months for the base grade Veloster and costs $279 for the first two visits followed by $365 for the next then $459 and $279 for the fifth.
The Turbo and Turbo Premium need servicing every 10,000km or 12 months and you’ll pay $299 for the first three visits then $375 and then $299 for the fifth.