Road Test: Lexus CT 200h Advance
But Lexus made the shrewd move of not joining the crowd. Now adopted across the range, the CT took on what has traditionally been a diesel-heavy sector with a single drivetrain option – a petrol-electric hybrid, similar to the one found in Toyota Prius and Auris.
It paid off. The brand is headed for a five-figure sales volume this year and hybrids account for three quarters of that volume, the bulk of which are the CT 200h. But with its rivals refreshed or replaced in the meantime, plus the subsequent progression of Lexus’s family design and a few launch criticisms to rectify, the CT 200h has been renewed for 2014.
For the most part, it’s business as usual. There’s still a single drivetrain choice, a combination of 1.8-litre Atkinson cycle petrol engine and electric motor which can drive the car short distances under light loads. CO2 emissions are now less than 100g/km across the range, spearheaded by the 82g/km S grade with its disproportionately small wheels and large rear spoiler. Prices for all except this Advance version have come down between £1,000 and £1,500.
It still adds up for businesses, with a 100% write-down allowance and low maintenance costs, plus achieving this without resorting to a diesel engine means a low 11% BiK rating and no complicated exhaust after-treatment systems to meet Euro 6 emission requirements. The engine switches off regularly at low speeds, great for reducing inner city smog and making this a particularly relaxed car in town.
It’s still a divisive point though. The CVT gearbox has been reprogrammed to make the power delivery more progressive, but there’s an unnatural springiness to the way the engine responds to heavy acceleration which seems incongruous compared to its silent electric operation. While its 134bhp is close to 2.0-litre diesels, power is delivered progressively rather than with any great eagerness and the revs relate more to load than actual vehicle speed.
Despite a focus on ride quality, the CT still has a tendency to thump over rough surfaces even on small wheels, and doesn’t offer light-footed agility as a reward. However, it comes into its own on motorways where the drivetrain is very quiet, fuel economy settles at just over 50mpg without much effort and the surface is smoother.
Mechanical upgrades are paired with a subtle facelift, including the new Lexus spindle grille and reshaped front and rear bumpers featuring fins similar to the latest IS, GS and RX. It’s a bulky-looking car with a high shoulderline and a solid road presence.
Changes inside are less polished, though. Lexus has abandoned its haptic touch infotainment controller for a rotary commander similar to BMW’s iDrive, and updated the display to match the IS, but hasn’t altered the dashboard to match. The round control knob looks out of place in a stripped down version of its predecessor’s square trackpad, and the slim new display is an odd fit in the gap left by the old car’s motorised screen. Both are frustrating in a premium car where quality is otherwise impeccable.
But the CT 200h makes good sense for fleets and a little of its siblings’ aggressive new styling has made it a better looking car. Despite small niggles, this remains a strong proposition for the premium-brand customer wanting something different.
Solidly built, relaxed to drive and efficient too, the CT 200h makes a fine fleet car for drivers voting with head or heart. Those who don’t mind the drone of its CVT gearbox will find the 2014 model is a worthy upgrade over its predecessor.
Segment: Lower medium
Type: Petrol-electric hybrid
Electric range: 1.5 miles
CO2 emissions (tailpipe): 88g/km
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