Lexus CT200h - We drive this latest hybrid

Lexus launch the CT200h as a hybrid only model

You are surfing the net for your next car: you need something small and efficient, environmentally proficient, yet sporty and luxurious to boot. Lexus claim to have filled this spot with their CT200h. Launched as a hybrid only, this mid-sized 5 door hatch wants to be a sports car too. Warm-hatch would be a more accurate description, but with many positive qualities. Our top tester Timtim left the virtual world to taste the little Lexus for us.

I’m in Chantilly, near Paris; capital of the horse according to the local tourist flyer I’ve stumbled on in my hotel room. Outside the Mont Royal Hotel a cluster of new Lexus’s await testers from around the globe. Without a moment’s hesitation I pick a golden yellow sample. Hey, don’t want to disappoint the YW office, although to be honest it looks most exciting in white! All the engine options are identical so there’s no squabble with my scribbling brethren for the horniest lump in the beast. In fact by the sound of it none of them come with engines at all! As journo’s hit the engine start button and saunter off on an exploratory loop there’s a barrage of, err nothing, discreetly interrupted by tyre on tarmac and a few tweeting birds (the real kind). Rather than contemplating the deafening silence (what a stupid, though familiar expression) I’m watching the instruments. I’ve hit the start button and am only convinced that I’m up and running by the “Lexus Hybrid Drive” welcome screen as the instruments light up. I grab the chrome faced, switch sized gear lever. There’s only R, N, D and the more mysterious B to choose from. D will do, B is for user selected regenerative braking, and release the anachronistic foot brake. Shouldn’t the “P” switch below gear lever just double up as an electric foot/handbrake?

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Lexus CT200h - Satnav free interior

Lexus CT200h instrument display modes

I glide off silently down the drive, but it’s only seconds before the petrol engine cuts in to supplement drive. This is drive to the wheels via a CVT gearbox and is not a “range-extender” engine, unlike the many new hybrid models previewed at the Paris Motor Show I’ve just been to. I turn out of the hotel drive onto a local B-road. The child in me floors the throttle, with mild acceleration ensuing. Turn the big ally knob on the dash to the right though, and “Sport” mode engages, the dash turns from tasteful mellow blue to fiery red ( a watered down version of the LFA’s amazing instrument swop routine). No, I don’t grow devil’s red horns, nor am I pummelled into the seat by g-force, but the Lexus’s eco display gets replaced by a revcounter, and the engine note rises in a crescendo. Secretly I want that knob to turn the 134 brake horse power 4 cylinder into a thumping V8, but at least sport mode combines the electric motor’s torque with the 142 Nm available from the 16 valver. I’m flying along now, the energy display arrows showing power from both battery and engine flowing to the wheels. Lift off and brake for the approaching village and the arrow reverses showing regenerative braking recharging the pack. I could force that regenerative braking early, if coasting, by pulling back on the gear lever towards B.

Lexus CT200h - wide centre console scattered with switches

I’m waiting forever at traffic lights now, but silence has returned, with it what little vibration from the engine gone. A few calm moments before exploring some more exciting roads. My route takes me past Chantilly Chateau, a moat encircled gargantuan folly from an era where horses passed for personal transport. The road is equally old, and the lumpy cobbles are making me go all wobbly (as Mrs Goggins in TV series “Postman Pat” would have said). Lexus have fitted unique torsional dampers to soak up noise and vibration. One between engine and bulkhead, and the other buried behind the rear seats. No amount of dampening is going to soften these pavés, so it’s with relief that the road returns to normal. My colleagues found the ride quite hard, but I have to say i’ve found it no worse than many other cars. The cabin is comfortable and crammed with gizmos, their switches scattered around the wide central dash: did you know the clever car heats your seats automatically so the blower heater doesn’t have to work so hard? Everything about this car has been delved into with microscopic detail, as is Lexus’s way. I spotted quality and attention to detail everywhere: aerodynamic sealing of the bonnet and seams as well as underbody air trays and management contributing to it’s 0.28Cd figure.

Lexus CT200h drivers view

I’ve reached a huge roundabout now and not having found many tight corners to throw the machine at, compensate by doing three laps. It’s drizzling so the road is damp. The tarmac has some form of anti-skid surface making grip strong. There’s mild roll as well as understeer. I turn up the wick and wind on some lock to see where the traction breaks. the nose slides away from the intended trajectory, but backing off the throttle or steering, brings my steed back under control without bucking or baulking. Nothing unusual or alarming, but then most modern cars are tamed beasts. Later I stumble on a string of seriously sinuous curves with armco lining the corners and overhanging trees. I feel like I’m on a mini Nürburgring and have fun flowing through the bends. The landscape turns to flatish farmland, I’ve forgotten about all the car’s technology, and am enjoying the drive; occasional villages of outstanding beauty peppering my route back to the hotel.

Lexus CT200h nose showing US spec headlights

I conclude that it’s a brisk car, but not a sports car. Acceleration is good, but not breathtaking, handling is much what you’d expect from a mid-sized car with a safe setup. CVT’s (belt drive, constantly variable transmissions) though, give you an unpleasant engine note experience. A bit like a slipping clutch or an old torque converter. The revs rise quickly and then fall away as you accelerate, but your brain is expecting the opposite. EV mode is fairly brief before the engine cuts in (after a couple of miles or above 30mph). I’m puzzled by the use of Ni-mh rather than the newer Li-ion batteries, but then the Toyota Prius has proven them to be reliable. It’s luxurious but so are some other small cars in this segment now, it’s just that this is the first hybrid car to slot in this premium sector. Its success will come from being a competitively priced hybrid where others make do with efficiency gains. But it’s best quality is the one that doesn’t appear in the spec sheet: the luxury of driving off silently, without waking the neighbours while exuding a class leading 89 g/km with class. Oh, and did I mention a claimed 74 mpg?

Technical Specifications

Total max. output (DIN hp (kW)) 136 (100)
Total system output is calculated as the
sum of the peak internal combustion engine and battery powers
Engine Type 2ZR-FXE (Atkinson cycle)
Number of cylinders and arrangement 4 cylinders, in-line
Valve mechanism 16-valve double overhead cam (DOHC) with VVT-i
Bore x stroke (mm) 80.5 x 88.3
Displacement (cm³) 1,798
Compression ratio (:1) 13.0
Fuel system EFI
Research octane number 95 or more
Max. output (DIN hp (kW)/rpm) 99 (73) / 5,200
Max. torque (Nm/rpm) 142 / 4,000
Emission level Euro 5
Motor type Permanent magnet synchronous motor
Max. voltage (DC V) 650
Max. output (DIN hp (kW)) 82 (60)
Max. torque (Nm) 207
Battery type Nickel-Metal hydride
Nominal voltage (DC V) 201.6 (168 x 1.2 V cells)
Number of battery modules 28
Battery capacity (Ah) 6.5
System voltage (V) 650
Max. output (DIN hp (kW)) 37 (27)
Transmission type Electrically Controlled Continuously
Differential gear ratio 3,267
Max. speed (km/h) 180
0 to 100 km / h (s) 10.3
Front Macpherson strut
Rear Double wishbone
Brake type Front Ventilated front disc (hydraulic with power assist)
with standard ABS system and
integrated regenerative brake system
Rear Solid disc (hydraulic with power assist) with
Disc size (mm) Front 255
Rear 279
Parking Brake Pedal
Type Electric power-assisted rack & pinion
Steering ratio (:1) 14.6
Turns (lock to lock) 2.7
Min. turning radius (m) Tyre 5.2
Body 5.5
Power steering type EPS
Overall length (mm) 4,320
Overall width (mm) 1,765
Overall height (mm) 1,430
Wheel base (mm) 2,600
Tread (mm) Front 1,535
Rear 1,530
Overhang (mm) Front 920
Rear 800
Ground clearance (mm) 130
Drag coefficient (Cd) 0.28
Length (mm) 1,735
Width (mm) 1,470
Height (mm) 1,135
Couple distance (mm) 835
Head room Front (mm) 960
Rear (mm) 940
Leg room Front (mm) 1,055
Rear (mm) 835
Shoulder room Front (mm) 1,370
Rear (mm) 1,335
Fuel tank capacity (l) 45
VDA luggage capacity, rear seat up (l) 375
VDA luggage capacity, rear seat down (l) 985
Luggage floor to ground (mm) 695
Height (mm) 665
Length (mm) 840
Width (mm) 1,475
Kerb weight (kg) 1,370
Gross vehicle weight (kg) 1,790
Combined 3.8
Extra Urban 3.7
Urban 3.9
Combined 89
Extra Urban 85
Urban 90

Lexus CT200h - rear view, notice aerodynamic side plates

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