The Lexus CT200h.
The Lexus CT200h.

2014 Lexus CT200h road test review | Green premium machine

TAXIS are not the most inspirational cars on our roads, but unravel the chariots and you'll find a gem within.

Around the nation the hybrid drivetrains developed by Toyota are dominating the ranks - primarily the Prius. There is good reason for the newfound fanaticism: reliability and cheap running costs.

But what if you throw some luxury into the mix? The Lexus CT200h runs a similar drivetrain to that found in the Prius, with hefty gains in ride quality and interior materials.

Throw a more modern skin over the architecture and it becomes a green premium machine.

For years the CT has been the brand's cradle snatcher - attracting the youngest customers in the range. But things are rapidly changing.

The NX SUV has arrived, alongside the sexy RC coupe, as Lexus aims to expand its audience.

Among the most attractive things for buyers of the CT200 is the price, and on the road this top-shelf Sports Luxury variant will set you back about $62,000.

Comfort

SUPPLE leather adorns the seats, and our tan seat colour scheme looked particularly good with the contrasting stitching on the black steering wheel.

Most of the dials and operations are straight forward, with the key difference being the small transmission shifter on the dash.

Getting your bearings takes little effort or analysis, but the digital display lacks some pizzazz, although the colour display that sits upright above the centre stack dominates attention.

The central system which accesses the radio, sat nav, phone and car information is controlled via a mouse-style button that just needs some commonsense to navigate though. Latest Lexus iterations have a unique pad controller, but we actually prefer this older system.

Just to make life a little easier, you also have access to Enform, which includes a range of apps which enables you to send destinations to the car's sat nav from the office or your smartphone, along with access to a 24-hour call centre (it does cost you about $3 after the first month) which can assist with everything from restaurants or locating a business.

Leg room in the back can be restricted with tall front passengers, but four adults have enough space with enough consideration.

On the road

FRUGAL commuter rather than a sports car, the CT200h can feel underpowered to keen drivers.

The hybrid drivetrain does a reasonable job as long as you don't have lofty expectations of tearing off at the lights or ripping up the bends.

Three drive modes are available: Eco, Normal and Sport.

The latter changes the instruments from a power input gauge to a tachometer and you get a more lively response from the automatic continuously variable transmission.

With responsive steering the hybrid hatch can rip into a bend with enthusiasm and hold its line nicely without excessive understeer.

Adept on the highway and around town, the CT200h is a solid all-rounder.

What do you get?

BEING the range-topper, this misses out on nothing. Lexus does an outstanding job with its features list, and there is no need to visit the options list with standard items like a 17.7cm colour screen with 13-speaker Mark Levinson CD stereo, sat nav, dual zone climate controlled air con, alloy wheels, Bluetooth phone connectivity, push button start, sunroof, leather trim, heated front seats, performance suspension and 10-way electric driver seat.

Safety is five star with the inclusion of radar cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, pre-collision safety system as well as eight airbags.

Other options

WHILE this is a standard hybrid, plug-in hybrids are becoming the new hot items. Audi will release its A3 e-tron for about

$60,000 in the coming months, while BMW has had early success with the December launched i3 RE ($69,900).

Running costs

THIS is among the cheapest transport you'll find. We achieved about six, but one owner we came across regularly achieves less than five litres/100km.

That's impressive stuff, even if it does need the more expensive premium unleaded.

When servicing rolls around, Lexus offers free loan cars and will often pick you up and drop you off to make the experience easier.

Practicality

WITH a high boot a family grocery shop could see bags spill into the back seat. You can drop the rear seats 60/40, while there is also some useful storage nooks below the floor. There are a pair of cup holders in the centre console able to cope with larger bottles, along with bottle cradles in each front door. Hidden away on the centre console is a 12-volt plug along with dual USB and auxiliary ports.

Funky factor

PERSPECTIVES vary widely of the CT200h's skin. While we like it, others find it gawky. It's certainly not as bad as the Prius.

The lowdown

SPEND some time in the CT200h and it becomes a lovable chariot. Luxurious with badge kudos and cheap to run, it's a car which suits varied ages and lifestyles. Yet most importantly, it won over my beloved bride - the harshest of critics.

Yep, managed to forgive its greatest flaw, slow acceleration, and found it refined and easy to drive.

What matters most

What we liked: Fuel economy, easy to drive, ivory leather interior, reliable drivetrain.

What we'd like to see: More punch under acceleration, one touch indicators.

Warranty and servicing: Four year/100,000km warranty, with eight years/160,000km coverage of the battery. Servicing intervals are annual or 15,000km.

Vital statistics

Model: Lexus CT200h Sports Luxury.

Details: Compact five-door front-wheel drive luxury hybrid hatch.

Engine: 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol-electric hybrid generating maximum power of 100kW (combined) and peak torque of 207Nm (combined) @ 4400rpm, 650V electric motor.

Transmission: Continuously variable automatic.

Consumption: 4.1L/100km (combined average, requires premium unleaded). CO2: 95g/km.

Bottom line: $56,990.

The 2014 Lexus CT 200h Sports Luxury.
The 2014 Lexus CT 200h Sports Luxury.

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