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Lexus CT 200h Advance

Click to view picture galleryMore for less thats what the new
  Lexus CT 200h petrol-electric hybrid
  will be offering customers when it
  joins the expected 400,000 new cars
  that will hit UK roads during the new
14’ registration plate month of March.
  Should you be in the queue?

WHILST LEXUS DESCRIBE IT AS 'NEW', it's actually a mid-life refresh with a specification upgrade and some downgraded prices and is available from 20,995.

Other CT 200h models showing marked reductions include the 29,495 Premier version now 1,500 lower than previously. More good news: using the Lexus Finance contract hire and personal contract purchase plans you can put a CT 200h on your drive for as little as 219 a month.

The good news continues with lower emissions starting from 82g/km, meaning company car drivers will only pay 11% Benefit-in-Kind tax under the new tax level which comes into force in April. Insurance is not going to be a budget-buster either thanks to groups ranging from 18E to 20E very competitive in the premium brand segment where the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series are the main competitors.

“The 29,495 now asked
for the Premier version
is 1,500 lower than
before. Helpfully,
customers can now put
a CT 200h on their drive
from as little as 219
a month using the Lexus
Finance contract hire
and personal contract
purchase plans.
At the recent European media launch in Rome, Julian Lea, product planning manager for Lexus UK said: "The CT 200h was first introduced in January 2011 and has become the entry point to our brand for new customers. The majority of CT 200h sales go to conquest customers, 70% of whom have never previously owned a Lexus.

It is a vital car for us in the UK and it has been the most reliable car we have ever built in our 25-year history."

Lexus UK expects to sell around 4,200 of the CT 200h five-door hatch in a full year of sales; and advance orders are 30% ahead of plan. Of the six levels of specification (S, SE, Advance, Luxury, F Sport and Premium), the 23,995 Advance variant will be by far the most popular as it has 1,000 more specification than the old model and with no price increase. Lexus claim this version has a 4,500 spec advantage over the competition.

Much of the improvements in technical and specification changes have come from customer feedback 94 measures have been implemented to improve noise intrusion, vibrations and ride harshness by the Lexus engineering team.

There have also been aerodynamic tweaks including laser welding to provide a stiffer and strengthened bodyshell. Other changes include the use of underbody covers to improve the airflow under and around the body. The electronic mapping of the CVT automatic transmission has also been changed to provide a more linear response and to reduce noise and vibrations.

Inside there has been increased attention to detail to improve the visual appearance with higher specification including a seven-inch, slim-line monitor on the centre console, new style steering wheel, and upgraded multimedia system. Two navigation systems are now offered with the premium version including such features as Google Street View.

Externally, the styling changes all round have improved road presence with the most noticeable being a much stronger appearance grille with a wider and lower 'spindle' design (the F Sport variant has a mesh grille and a new rear spoiler). New wheel designs and a shark's fin antenna are now standard across the range.

The best-selling Advance version additions include parking sensors, heated front seats, fully integrated navigation system and 17-inch alloy wheels. Items such as power windows, electrically-operated and heated door mirrors, AirCon, push button start, DAB radio, Bluetooth, and (following customer requests) a space-saver spare wheel replacing the inflation kit.

“Driving around the
traffic congested streets
of Rome and in the
rural Italian countryside,
the CT 200h’s real-life
fuel economy was
All models use the Toyota-Lexus petrol-hybrid system with a 98bhp petrol engine coupled to an 81bhp electric motor with drive through a CVT automatic transmission. In addition to the hybrid's Normal drive mode there are three other on-demand modes: EV (electric power only), Eco, and Sport all selected by using a rotary control or the EV switch on the centre console.

The CT 200h has a top speed of 112mph and accelerates from standstill to 62mph in 10.3 seconds. Meeting Euro 6 standards, the CO2 emissions start as low as 82g/km for the base S grade model with 15-inch wheels. This increases to 88g/km for versions rolling on 16-inch wheels, and 94g/km for 17-inch wheels. However, all are road tax exempt and all allow company car drivers to pay a low 11% Benefit-in-Kind tax.

Lexus also quite rightly point out that this hybrid system does not need costly particulate filters or fuel additives to meet the Euro 6 emission requirements, and the system generates less NOx and particulate emissions than equivalent diesel engines. In fact, when running in EV mode there are no CO2 or NOx emissions at all.

On our test route around the traffic congested streets of Rome and in the rural Italian countryside, the CT 200h's real-life fuel economy was 50mpg. This was short of the official 68.9mpg quoted for the Combined Cycle for models with 17-inch wheels, but given the amount of traffic and the road conditions I wouldn't expect a modern 1.6 or 2.0-litre turbodiesel unit to fare any better.

Overall, the latest edition of the CT 200h is now somewhere near where it should have been in the first place. Most noticeable is the improvement in ride quality; while still on the firm side, it's much improved and it coped pretty well with the appalling road surfaces (at least, what's left of them) in financially bankrupt Italy.

The cobbled streets of Rome are as well known as the manic driving behaviour of its car users and scooter riders. Outside the busy city streets the rural road surfaces are much worse than in the UK, with huge potholes and with massive sections of road surface which have subsided.

Just as bad were the weather conditions with flooded road surfaces which I doubt offer much grip or predictability even in the dry. Suffice to say, this CT 200h coped well but it still falls short of the sharp handling and compliant ride offered by a BMW 3 Series.

“While this ‘new’
CT 200h coped well with
Rome’s terrible road
surfaces, it still falls
short of the sharp
handling and compliant
ride offered, for instance,
by a BMW 3 Series.
The re-mapping of the electronic CVT transmission has improved driveability although it's still noisier and less responsive than the latest twin-clutch fast response automatic gearboxes.

The steering feels numb although it is light and easy on the arms and wasn't unduly bothered by the appalling road conditions. The brakes retain their oversensitive response and can be head-snapping if a little too much pressure is applied to the pedal.

Against: Still a firm ride, sedated steering response, a more progressive braking pressure reaction is needed, foot-operated parking brake.

For: Lower prices for most models, new higher spec for all models, low emissions for low taxes and running costs, smart looks, classy revised cabin, better ride comfort.

Where the CT 200h scores praise from me is for the low CO2 figures, which means lower taxes for company car drivers and no road tax for business or retail buyers. Those, together with the price reductions, are sound reasons to consider the latest generation of the CT 200h. That and the fact that it looks good as well, with more exclusivity of ownership value than the other volume-selling premium brand compact executive models. — David Miles

Lexus CT 200h Advance | 23,995
Maximum speed: 112mph | 0-62mph: 10.3 seconds | Average Test MPG: 50mpg
Power: 98+81bhp | Torque: 105+153lb ft | CO2 94g/km