2011 Lexus CT200h | road test
In an age of iPhones, Intelligent buildings and Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, the hybrid car is no stranger to us, even for those in the GCC where fuel is near abundant and the price equals that of bottled water. However, debating environmental issues is one thing and the ownership of a hybrid car is another.
So does the spanking new 2011 Lexus CT200h hybrid car can qualify as a good buy for you and me and people alike? Read on and have yourself the answer…
Beyond syllables, what’s in the name? CT denotes Compact Touring, 200 is the equivalent for the engine displacement similar to how the 300 in the IS 300 meant 3-litre engine and h being the most-obvious, hybrid.
Lexus have rendered the CT 200h a unique persona that is unmistakeably Japanese. The L-finesse design have inspired lines and curves of a soft desert rock that has been weathered and sculpted by the wind over time. The car does share its side profile with the Mazda 3 hatchback and the frontal guise has been borrowed from a page in the IS 300’s design sketch book. Not a bad thing though.
The test car we drove came in an electric blue – a colour that is extremely impressionable. A few from the 8 colour range seem equally potent. The LED Daytime Running Lights illuminate the “arrowhead motif “, it catches the eye at any hour of the day. There are excessive chrome accents all over the body, some encircling the fog lamps and rear side reflectors, a strip on the door bottoms etc. Any more of it would have drawn dinky car comparisons. Perhaps this may not appeal as something beautiful, but Lexus have given it evident fluidity that makes it imposing in a way that you want to associate yourself to it.
The interiors are a fresh take on dashboard and console interfaces, cabin space and is a very desirable place to be in. The steering wheel is Lotus inspired, garnished with soft leather, a satin finish aluminium centre and some matt finish wood atop. It has a meaty feel that resonates a sporty theme. The centre console is a double deck. The upper deck houses the Nav screen and the A/C controls while the lower deck has the audio controls. The gear select lever seemed like a charming little walking stick in a shade of chrome. At the centre sits an interesting little rotary button that allows you to switch between various drive modes and beside it, a mouse-like contraption that allows you to navigate the cursor on the screen. In short, the interior has sufficient detailing and gadgets to keep you entertained for as long as you drive it.
ENGINE AND PERFORMANCE
The Lexus CT200h is powered by the Lexus Hybrid Drive. Essentially it is a 1.8-litre 4 cylinder Atkinson cycle petrol engine that cranks out a modest 98bhp at 5200 rpm. It is augmented by a 36bhp electric motor that works on the principle of regenerative braking.
Climb on board, press the start button and you don’t get the usual burble, nor a rumble, not even a sci-fi movie car sound. It is impeccably silent. Give it a little “throttle” and the car moves silently. It’s like a magic trick that you would want to show family and friends. In the city, the battery powers the vehicle for short distances but nothing beyond snail pace. By braking or taking off your foot off the accelerator, the regenerative braking system harnesses the kinetic energy, converts it to electrical energy and stores it in a battery, recharging it in the process. On the highway, the petrol engine powers the car. In either scenario, both motors work simultaneously only when throttle inputs are medium to high and their synchronization is such, you tend to forget you are driving a hybrid. The EV mode is bit of a gimmick; even a hint of throttle input would engage the petrol engine. Plus a range of a few kilometres on battery power alone is wishful thinking.
In the all-important 0 to 100 kmph test the Lexus registered a sub-10 second run. The claimed 180 kmph top speed is easily achievable considering a max power out put of 134 bhp from the hybrid motor and an aerodynamic hatch body. We managed a speedo read 175 kmph on a short stretch with ease (ssshhhh – we didn’t say that).
In terms of power delivery, there are no abrupt power surges even on full throttle, but a relaxed but seamless thrust that keeps pace even as the speedo reading climbs. The initial brake feel is poor, but a couple of hours of driving will fix that – you get used to it. As for braking effect, this Lexus really does stop on a dime, or fil in this case.
Engaging Sport mode adjusts Electric Power Steering (EPS), Vehicle stability Control (VSC) and Traction Control system (TRC). In addition, the display colour turns an amber red and the economy meter transforms into a tachometer. Another brilliant gimmick that would need more than just urban commute to prove itself, Yas Marina maybe?!
RIDE & HANDLING
Care less that the CT 200h shares its underpinnings with the Toyota Corolla, this hybrid handles like it’s on rails. The chassis is well sorted. Even on squishy 16” wheels the car displayed good road holding abilities with no apparent body roll even in spirited driving sessions.
The steering is well weighted but the slight disconnected steering feel, was a let down. There is less dialogue between car and driver, but this is the sort of drive a typical urban dweller seeks and not an all-out sports car experience.
A big plus is the short turning radius, which will aid parking in tight spots.
CREATURE COMFORTS & PRACTICALITY
The cabin environment is bespoke Lexus. The standard NuLuxe faux-leather upholstery is soft and does a good job of imitating cowhide. The front seats accommodate passengers well with good thigh support. The rear seats are good for 6 footers, but over short trips. The Dual zone climate control works purposefully. The vents are well placed and evenly circulate the not so large cabin. Even on sun-blazing afternoons, we were seated in comfort. As for cabin noise, even up to speeds of 140kmph the Lexus is a quite little cradle, keeping wind noise and tyre noise minimal.
The base model comes standard with a 6 speaker audio system that supports mp3 format with an in dash CD stack and the range topper gets the 10 speaker system. The very useful USB port and aux in are conveniently placed. The over all audio quality was good, nothing to write home about.
The graphics that animate the navigation system seem outdated, but the system works plenty well and the 8” rear camera display is more vivid than the one found on the Infinitis. Bluetooth phone connectivity is available and its synchronization is a simple enough task.
The boot is sufficiently large, enough for you to see off a light-luggage friend to the airport and dropping down the 60:40 split seats will give you a generous cargo space. Stowed away in the trunk is a space-saver spare wheel should get you to the nearest aid without trouble.
An almost useless feature on most cars in all premium segments these days are heated seats. In the GCC where especially the summer months unbearable, cooled seats would be the most obvious choice. What were Lexus boffins thinking?
Any modern day car costing north of Dhs. 100,000 is packed with safety features list and the CT 200h is no black sheep. Here are some of them right off the manual, Parking Assist Monitor, Lexus parking assist sensor, TRC (Traction Control System), VSC (Vehicle Stability Control), ABS (Anti-lock Brake System) with EBD (Electronic Brake force Distribution), Brake Assist system, Dual-stage airbags for the driver and passenger, front seat knee airbags and curtain shield airbags (Front and rear door windows). It also comes with a security and immobiliser system.
Lexus claims 42 mpg or 5.6 l/100km and our 3000km run test car was delivering 6.0 l/100km on a mixed cycle, which is rather frugal. With a well run-in engine, we will definitely see this figure improve.
The CT 200h is one of the most fuel economical cars money can buy in the GCC and in places facing fuel shortage problems this spells as good news.
The fully loaded test car came with a price tag of Dhs. 160,000. Take away few of the toys and you can avail yourself a Lexus badged car for as little as Dhs. 132,000. In either trim, this is perceived as good value.
Q & A
Does owning a luxury hybrid make for a coffee shop conversation? Yes.
Does fact figure fuel economy really translate to real world cash saving? Yes. You could pocket roughly Dhs. 200+ a month, which means, a bigger better birthday present for yourself.
Does a hybrid mean a sporty drive is a non-option? No. This has been amongst the sportiest of drives that Lexus have offered yet.
Is the CT 200H worthy of the Lexus badge? Yes, the CT 200h embodies the usual suspects, a handsome interpretation of the Lexus’ L-finesse design, superior craftsmanship and materials and you can enjoy the reputable dealership experience.
Besides the fact that a hybrid in your garage gives you the perception of saving the world…this is a fine car, it is exclusive within reason, it has good road manners, a settled ride, exceptional fuel economy and a premium feel, all for a price that won’t cost you the earth. We say yes to the CT 200h.
Engines: 1.8-litre four cylinder Atkinson cycle + 36bhp (27kW) Electric motor
Max power (bhp @ rpm): 98 @ 5,200 + 36 = 134bhp
Max torque (Nm @ rpm): 143 @ 2800 – 4400
Driven wheels: Front wheel drive
Kerb weight: 1420 kg
0 to 100 kmph: 10 seconds
Top Speed: 180kmph (claimed)
Premier – Base model: Dhs. 132,000
Prestige – Top spec model: Dhs. 160,000