With the growing range of petrol/electric hybrids coming to the market, the latest from the Lexus stable, the CT 200h adds another addition to the use of developing ‘clean’ technology.
CT 200h uses a new platform equipped with double wishbone rear suspension, and a damping system side, unreported in the segment, to reduce vibration without sacrificing rigidity of the body.
The resulting ride comfort is high, provided to avoid 17-inch wheels. The good overall balance and centre of gravity to help ensure maximum road handling dynamics.
But the main value added of this CT 200h is located under the hood where you find all the mechanics that share the Toyota Prius and HSD Auris: block petrol 1.8 VVT-I associated with an electric motor and a box variable-speed CVT.
The system can still run 100% power for 2 km to 45 km / h, until the battery is charged. A “B” position shifter to fully recover a maximum of kinetic energy to recharge by increasing the engine braking.
Finally, three drive programs, Normal, Eco and Sport, avoid trade-offs between performance and fuel economy.
CT 200h adapts very well to the desires of its driver by playing on the consistency of management, escalation control, the intervention of electronic aids and feeding the electric motor, which varies from 150 to 650 V to optimize either the consumption or performance.
Being Green Doesn’t Have To Be Bland After All.
The CT 200h is its hatchback with sporty styling. Unlike a Prius or Insight, whose exteriors are not very stylish, the CT200h presents much bolder design cues, especially up front with its slanted headlights and recessed duct-like fog light provisions.
The lines carry well throughout the rest of the car and the bulging wheel arches and wide track make for a sharp, intimidating stance. I’m not much of a hatchback fan, but the CT 200h gets my nod as one of the best-looking on the market - from every aspect.
The inside doesn’t disappoint, either, the interior is top notch with leather-wrapped seats that offer a good driving position and an LFA-inspired steering wheel, which is as nice to hold as it looks.
The premium audio and navigation system also delivers great sound and easy-to-navigate menus through a mouse-like controller mounted on the centre console.
One small criticism - the inside is the oddly placed and sized gearshift lever that looks like it has been plucked from a Prius. I’d prefer a more traditional-style lever.
Fire up the CT 200h and you won’t hear much, nor will you see a tachometer on the gauge cluster - that is until you twist the console-mounted knob to Sport mode.
All of a sudden, the earthy blue clusters lighting changes to a fiery red hue and reveals a tachometer in place of the Eco gauge to the left of the speedometer.
The integration of these two gauges is surprisingly well done and provides the driver with a real sense of distinction between the modes.
We’ve all seen the Sport and Eco buttons before, but do they really provide enough differences to be considered worthwhile? In the CT 200h they do.
Engage Sport mode and the steering tightens, throttle response crispness and the electric motor assist gets a healthy 150-volt increase (from 500 to 650 volts) supplying an extra 36 hp to the 1.8-liter, 98hp Atkinson-cycle 4-cylinder engine.
The CT 200h is the first hybrid I have driven where I don’t feel like I have to flatten the pedal every time I want the car to accelerate, and thanks to Lexus’ Hybrid Drive, the experience between the electric assist and gas engine is seamless.
In stop-and-go traffic, the petrol engine turns off once the car comes to a stop and will fire back up at an instant when the vehicle begins to move, providing further fuel savings.
There’s also an EV mode that when activated utilizes only the electric motors to drive the vehicle.
Despite its very limited use and range, it came in handy during rush hour.
Outside the city, I was able to subject the CT 200h to some spirited driving.
Lexus has done a great job tuning the chassis to provide excellent stability and agility through under body braces and dampers.
The ride feels sporty, but not to the point where you would consider it uncomfortable. It’s right in the sweet spot between firm and plush, perfect for its demeanour.
Because of its low-mounted battery and subsequently low centre of gravity, it delivers good handling characteristics for a car of this nature.
I wouldn’t be pushing it to the limit of adhesion, but at a good pace it delivers a fun, driver-oriented experience.
Best of all, though, it does so while achieving great fuel economy.
Considering this is the first hybrid that I’ve been really impressed with and could actually see myself buying for commuter use, I have to give a nod to Lexus for designing a hybrid that’s fun to drive and still great for the environment.
Now it’s just a matter of getting some low-offset wheels and dropping the ride height to really set it off.
NUTS and BOLTS
Engine: 1.8 litre petrol/hybrid producing 73kW and 142Nm
Transmission: CVT auto
Safety: Five stars
Price: From $39,990
For further information, please see Recalls and faults: Lexus ZWA10 CT 200h.