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The Top Gear car review: Lexus CT 200h
For:Decent spec and quality, along with impressive economy
Against:Poorly judged ride/handling combination, only one engine option
200h 1.8 SE-L 5dr CVT Auto
Better than before and therefore deserves a bit more of your attention. But it’s still a bit of an oddity in a talented class.
Can this Lexus hybrid hatchback take on the BMW 118d and Audi A3 diesel?
What we say:
Lexus apes Audi's cabin quality and, more regrettably, Audi's ride quality
What is it?
The smallest, cheapest Lexus you can buy. Ostensibly, it’s a rival for the Audi A3 and BMW 1-Series, though, unlike the dizzying array of engine and trim options available from the Germans, Lexus offers the CT in just three specifications. And there’s only one engine. That happens to be a 1.8-litre petrol- electric hybrid system – pretty much the same as in Toyota’s Prius. The Lexus looks more conventional than the Prius, but it’s still a bit of a left-field choice.
As with other Toyota/Lexus hybrids, the CT starts up in electric-only mode, so it’s serenely silent around town. This makes for a relaxing driving experience. However, Lexus has misjudged the chassis. Instead of focusing on comfort, it appears to be squaring up to its sportier German adversaries with a firm ride and taut body control. We’re all in favour of decent control, but the CT does not cope with broken surfaces half as well as we’d like. Sure, it corners keenly and competently, but as there’s precious little feedback, it’s not what you’d call engaging to drive. The hybrid power delivery doesn’t help. If you want to go fast, you really have to switch the car into Sport mode, and then the engine sounds a little uncouth as it’s held at high revs. Yet even so, the CT takes a lifelong 10.3 seconds to hit 62mph from a standstill. All this we could accept if Lexus had made the car exceedingly comfortable. Needs a rethink in the chassis department.
On the inside
If you care little for how a car drives and you’re more interested in the quality of the cabin, then the Lexus CT 200h may be for you. The interior is exceptionally well finished and is attractively styled with loads of interesting features and top-notch material finishes – though we’re not fans of the satnav interface, or the gearlever. It’s worth paying a premium to upgrade from the basic model to the middle one, though, as it has much more equipment as standard, including leather and cruise control. Bootspace is good for the class, and passengers are well catered for.
Low running costs seem to be at odds with the luxury brand image of Lexus, but the CT 200h boasts an impressive set of numbers. All versions manage an astounding 68.9mpg on the combined cycle, while CO2 emissions are just 94g/ km. So that means you’ll not have a chance to get to know anyone working at your local petrol station, while you avoid any annual road tax – or London Congestion Charge, for that matter. Insurance is reasonable, and experts predict that the CT will hold onto its value well, so you shouldn’t lose out too much in depreciation.