Hybrid and mighty
The first sub-$40K Lexus is so much more than a Prius
THE first four-cylinder model from Lexus piggybacks the Toyota Prius to drive silently into new territory.
The hybrid CT200h— not only the first with four cylinders from the Toyota premium division but its first hatchback and first to slide in under $40,000— is termed a
gateway model’’ and is hoped to win big sales for Lexus.
Already its first shipment is sold out, even before it arrives in showrooms this week. Lexus Australia chief executive Tony Cramb said the CT200h
challenges the established market norms by delivering eco-friendly technology wrapped in a luxury package’’.
The entry-level price of the four-model hybrid Lexus range starts at $39,990.
That figure is staring at eyelevel with the $39,900 Toyota Prius, which has become the darling of the tree-hugging set. It should also come as no surprise to anyone that they share more than just parents.
At $39,990 it’s not exactly cheap but neither are its primarily Euro competitors. The trick is that the starter model is modestly equipped. You have to throw in another $9000 to get what the luxury market expects, such as satnav, leather, heated seats, 10-speaker sound and a reverse camera, which are all in the Luxury edition. The sportsoriented F-Sport model gets blackened alloys, body kit, sports suspension and sports seats for $49,990.
Ring your banker and get $55,990 for the Sports Luxury which offers extra safety features like Lexus’ new precollision system and active cruise control.
Same as Prius. The 1.8-litre engine is mated to an electric motor that also acts as a generator and starter motor. The gearbox is a continuously variable unit operated by a slick electronic, Playstation-style
lever. An electric motor helps reduce steering effort and another electric motor runs the water pump. The battery at the back is nickel-metal hydride as Lexus says lithium-ion wasn’t
‘‘ available because of demand’’. Rubbish— we’ve got Ni-MH because it’s cheaper than Liion even though the latter is decades ahead in both performance and lightness.
But while this is all Prius gear, there are some interesting new bits. There are four adjustable driving modes— EV (electric-only drive), Eco (petrol and electric but reduced power and airconditioning), Normal (petrol and electric but designed for smooth driving) and Sport (more responsive steering, more volts for the motor, less intrusive stability control and higher revs). The other goodies on offer include suspension strut bars that improve body rigidity and also have an inbuilt absorber to reduce vibrations.
DESIGN The CT200h is the same size as the 1999 Lexus IS200 but is lighter, has a bigger cabin and is a second quicker to 100km/h. It doesn’t break any new styling ground, but it works well, with seating for four adults, a split-fold rear seat to boost already accommodating boot space and reasonable visibility. The cabin is better, with a dashboard that is elegant, functional and more youthful than Audi and BMW. The electronics and displays are excellent— though you’ll need the Luxury model to get the sat-nav on the big 200mm screen. However, the footoperated park brake is a jarring reminder of an archaic era.
SAFETY There’s a five-star crash rating, eight airbags (the extra two are the knee airbags for the driver and front passenger) plus stability control, ABS brakes with EBD and brake assist, a hill holder for uphill or downhill, and traction control.
DRIVING The weeny drive program included some city driving, in which the first hint of change was the firm-ish ride. But suspension noise was virtually inaudible— as was the engine given it was mostly turned off and could travel for up to 2km on the battery. Pick a tight, winding road and the CT200h (with the Power mode
Confident and comfy drive: The CT200h gets the nod as a driver’s car