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Little Lexus facelift a smart move

PUBLISHED: 17:15 08 February 2018 | UPDATED: 14:24 16 February 2018

Front end of the Lexus CT200h has been tweaked for a more dramatic look. Picture: Lexus

Front end of the Lexus CT200h has been tweaked for a more dramatic look. Picture: Lexus

Lexus

The Lexus CT200h may still be the only premium, compact hybrid hatchback but a facelift may not be enough to freshen its appeal against some all-new,and cheaper, rivals, says motoring editor Andy Russell.

Lexus CT200h hybrid hatchback has been given a makeover to freshen its appeal in the growing green car market. Picture: LexusLexus CT200h hybrid hatchback has been given a makeover to freshen its appeal in the growing green car market. Picture: Lexus

One company that won’t lose sleep over the demise of diesel is Lexus which took the bold move of pledging its future to petrol hybrid many years ago.

I recall a senior executive from the Japanese car-maker, part of Toyota and a pioneer in driving the hybrid revolution, telling a group of motoring journalists that one day the world would wake up to nitrogen oxides (NOx) – something petrol hybrids produce very little of, unlike old, pre-Euro 6 diesels.

It leaves Lexus well placed to take advantage of the growing hybrid movement, especially as it has facelifted its entry model, the CT200h hatchback which we are looking at here, and NX300h SUV.

Cockpit-like driving position. Picture: LexusCockpit-like driving position. Picture: Lexus

What’s new?

It’s hard to believe the CT200h has been around seven years – selling more than 27,000 in the UK, a third of the European total – and the makeover aims to give the styling an added sense of drama.

At the front there’s a more prominent, 3D-effect trademark spindle grille along with new bumper, LED headlights and arrowhead daytime running lights.

The back end, dumpy by comparison, gets a new lower bumper design, Lexus L-shaped LED tail lights for a wider, sportier look and a new tailgate garnish.

Legroom in the back of the Lexus CT200h is adequate for average-sized adults. Picture: LexusLegroom in the back of the Lexus CT200h is adequate for average-sized adults. Picture: Lexus

Inside, the big change is a much larger 10.3in split screen for the premium navigation system.

All models, bar SE, get the advanced safety package of collision warning, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping, sway warning, auto high beam and road sign recognition.

New Luxury grade, above SE, adds 17in alloy wheels, keyless entry, heated front seats, rear privacy glass, front and rear parking sensors and satellite navigation.

With batteries under the floor, the 375-litre boot is shallow. Picture: LexusWith batteries under the floor, the 375-litre boot is shallow. Picture: Lexus

Under the bonnet

The 1.8-litre petrol engine and electric motor, also used in Toyota’s Prius and Auris, is carried over.

Best suited to urban driving, when you can maintain progress up to about 40mph on electric power alone for reasonable distances, with the battery charging when slowing and braking, it needs a heavy foot for brisk motoring hence around 50mpg overall.

Accelerate hard and there’s lots of engine noise as the revs soar with the CVT automatic gearbox, although it’s better in sport mode which replaces the charging/eco/power gauge with a rev counter and gives the instruments a red glow.

Lexus CT200h facelift sees a more prominent 'spindle' grille. Picture: LexusLexus CT200h facelift sees a more prominent 'spindle' grille. Picture: Lexus

How it drives

The CT200h is more about being green, than great, to drive,

Firm suspension means it corners flatly and confidently, so you can maintain a fair amount of momentum and avoid wasting fuel getting back up to speed.

The downside is ride quality is not what you would expect of a premium brand. You feel every little lump and bump in the road at low speed, not ideal if you spend a lot of time on roadwork-scarred urban routes. It feels more settled cruising but tyre noise will have you cranking up the audio system’s volume.

Space and comfort

No complaints if you’re up front but head and legroom in the back is just about fine for average adults but six-footers would feel the pinch without some give and take.

The batteries under the boot floor compromise luggage space, making it shallow, and 375 litres is not much more than spacious superminis. Rear seat backs split 60/40 and fold flat to create a long, if rather high, 985-litre load bay. The flimsy roller load cover also falls short of expectations in a car of this price.

Tiny front door bins, none in the back and a small glovebox and locker between the front seats means cabin storage is lacking.

At the wheel

The ‘cockpit’, with its high-level centre console and instruments dominated by a big speedo flanked by that eco gauge/rev counter and driver information display, is snug and comfortable with a good range of seat and wheel adjustment.

Many functions are controlled on the larger screen via a computer-style mouse but it takes some mastering and is difficult to use on the move.

Leather-effect and soft-touch trim materials give the cabin an upmarket, quality ambience but it feels a little dated.

Final say

The Lexus CT200h’s claim to fame is that it is still the only premium, compact, petrol/electric hatchback but it is now up against some all-new, and considerably cheaper, family hybrid hatches and the Lexus image may not be enough to outweigh price.

SPEC AND TECH

Price: Lexus CT200h Luxury £25,995 (range £23,495 to £30,495)

Powertrain: 1,798cc, 98bhp, four-cylinder petrol engine and 81bhp electric motor mated to CVT automatic gearbox

Performance: 0-62mph 10.3 seconds; top speed 112mph

MPG: Urban 68.9; extra urban 70.6; combined 68.9

CO2 emissions: 94g/km

Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 17pc

Insurance group: 21E (out of 50)

Warranty: Three years or 60,000 miles

Will it fit in the garage? L 4,350mm; W (excluding door mirrors) 1,765mm; H 1,455mm

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