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Lexus CT200h: Test Drive Review

Date: 13 October 2010   |   Author: Guy Bird

Category: Lower medium
P11D price: £23,430
Key rival: BMW 1-series

You can't accuse the Lexus CT200h of being a me-too product. As genuinely the world's first premium petrol/electric hybrid five-seater it aims to shake up a slew of top-end diesels models for economy, emissions and aspiration.

On the first two criteria it does a great job. Figures of 68.9mpg and 96g/km CO2 comfortably trump the merely sub-120g/km BMW 118d and Audi A3 2.0 TDi, and mean zero road tax, congestion charge exemption and 10% rather than 13% BIK tax.

Lexus is also promising a 25% cut in running costs compared with equivalent petrols and diesel rivals due to a lower maintenance powertrain, less wear on brake pads (due to regenerative braking) and longer-lasting tyres courtesy of a better-balanced car with less weight over the front tyres. So far, so shiny.

But beyond these plusses the CT200h's lustre fades. As a piece of design it's lost too much of the muscular and sporty hot-hatch styling of its LF-Ch concept forebear and now simply looks bland, particularly in dark colours. The inside is better with a Smart and largely high-quality cabin only let down by cheap door-panel sections.

The driver display is clear and usefully changes function and colour according to the four different driving modes available, including a digital rev counter that only appears in Sport mode and a green light to indicate full-electric EV mode - possible when driving slowly in cities or coasting at higher speeds. The other two 'greener' modes are Normal and Eco, but what's more likely to make you drive economically is the sheer unpleasantness of trying to drive fast in the CT200h. The 99hp 1.8 petrol engine assisted by the 82hp electric motor gives a notional combined 136hp (you can't simply add them together apparently) but either way, it's not enough for its size, weight and sporty aspirations.

It's the same unit as in the Prius with only a different control system and it shows. Even under medium acceleration the engine makes a terrible racket and takes an age to get going. The CVT auto doesn't help, lacking steering wheel paddles to self-determine, and although the steering gets stiffer in Sport mode, the noise isn't worth it. Beware, too, the brakes, which probably due to their regenerative set-up, need to be depressed firmly. Gentle dabbing is out.

The CT200h is a breakthrough luxury car in many eco ways, but don't expect anything as sporty to drive or as visually bold as the (admittedly smaller and less efficient) 2+2 Honda CR-Z hybrid or a BMW 1-series diesel. Better to stick it in Eco and enjoy the smooth progress and bigger tax breaks.

Lexus CT200h SE-I
P11D price£23,430
Model price range£23,485-£30,635
Fuel consumption68.9mpg
CO2 (tax) 96g/km (10%)
BIK 20/40% per month£39/£78
Service interval1yr/10,000mls
InsuranceGroup 21 (est.)
Boot space (min/max)375/985 litres
Engine size/power1798cc/136hp
Top speed/0-62mph119 mph/10.3secs
On sale March 2011
VerdictExcellent premium eco car
credentials but not sporty
and visually dull


Excellent premium eco car credentials but not sporty and visually dull