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Full details: Lexus CT200h hybrid laid bare

Non-sexist Lexus: All-new CT200h aims at a younger, less male-centric audience than larger existing Lexus models.

No power boost for Lexus CT over Prius hybrid, but loads of prestige and panache

16 Sep 2010

LEXUS claims its upcoming CT200h hybrid will be the greenest compact luxury car in Australia when it is released here early next year, offering best-in-class CO2 emissions of 96 grams per kilometre from its 1.8-litre petrol-electric powertrain.

Contrary to expectations, however, the all-new Lexus hatchback's hybrid drive system will offer no more performance than the Toyota Prius upon which it is based, with official pre-launch figures showing the 1.8 VVT-i Atkinson Cycle petrol engine produces the same 73kW, while the electric motor musters 60kW for an identical total system output of 100kW.

While a Prius-equalling 89g/km CO2 version of the CT200h will be available in European markets with stringent CO2 tax regimes, Lexus Australia has confirmed it will follow the UK in offering one that has a higher level of specification – such as top-shelf features, more dynamically oriented wheels and tyres, etc – that befits its premium and sporting positioning, at the expense of a sub-90g/km figure.

The environmental performance of the smallest-ever Lexus - including combined-cycle fuel economy of just 4.1 litres per 100km - is based on a pre-production model and European standards, although these should hold firm for Australian versions. The Prius returns 3.9L/100km, making it one of the most fuel-efficient vehciles available.

Full details of the front-drive, CVT-equipped hybrid hatchback – which is expected to be priced here from around $50,000 – have emerged two weeks ahead of the production version’s international debut at the Paris motor show and a month ahead of its likely southern hemisphere debut at the Australian International Motor Show in Sydney.

It is a key model for Toyota Motor Corporation, which this week also reaffirmed plans to launch six new hybrid vehicles by the end of 2012, as part of its promise to offer a hybrid version of every model by 2020.

More significantly, TMC executive vice-president Takeshi Uchiyamada said in Detroit on Monday that Toyota would also build and launch its first full-electric vehicle in the North American market in the same year.

Since then Toyota has announced via its Twitter web page that will use November's Los Angeles motor show to debut the RAV4-EV, an all-electric compact SUV it has co-developed with Tesla for US release by 2012.

With the CT200h, which will also be shown in LA, Lexus said that “due to the efficiency of its full hybrid powertrain, the all-new hatchback environmentally outperforms all its similarly powered small luxury car rivals, only one of which comes close to achieving a sub-100g/km figure”.

This is a veiled reference to Volvo’s C30 DRIVe three-door four-seat hatch, which is priced from $34,950 in Australia and emits 99g/km while returning CT (and Prius) beating fuel economy of 3.8L/100km.

Like Ford's even more frugal (3.7L/100km) but higher-emissions Fiesta Econetic, the fuel-sipping Volvo employs diesel power - in this case an 80kW/240Nm 1.6-litre turbo-diesel with idle-stop technology and a five-speed manual gearbox.

However, Lexus is quick to point out that, unlike conventional diesel engines, the petrol-electric CT200h “produces near-zero levels of NOx and particulates”.

In terms of straight-line performance, the US press kit shows that the CT200h has the same acceleration as the Prius, reaching 60mph (96.56km/h) from standstill in 9.8 seconds, on its way to a top speed of 112mph (180km/h).

This suggests the Australian and European-spec version will accelerate from 0-100km/h in a Prius-equalling 10.4 seconds, although this is still to be confirmed.

31 center imageOf course, Lexus has gone to enormous lengths to avoid direct comparisons with the Prius with this all-new vehicle, which is based on a heavily reworked version of the Toyota small-car platform that underpins the Prius, Corolla and RAV4.

As GoAuto has reported, the CT200h comprises numerous exclusive chassis components, which it claims will offer class-leading handling characteristics.

The CT also has unique styling, which has enabled Lexus to claim further that this will be the most aerodynamically efficient car in its class with a drag coefficient of 0.28Cd.

By comparison, the Prius is slipperier at 0.25Cd and at its launch last year was described as the most aerodynamically efficient production car in the world.

The CT200h is said to embody Lexus’ L-finesse design ethos and has sweeping lines that mimic airflow over and around the bodywork, creating a “dynamic yet elegant design that combines beauty with aerodynamic efficiency”.

The headlights use either single halogen or (optional in the US) twin-LED low-beam lamps, while LEDs are also used for the newly developed arrowhead-shaped daytime running lamps, plus the rear light clusters and door-mounted turn indicators.

The total number of external LEDs is 89 – the largest number ever fitted to a Lexus model.

This sort fine detailing is evident inside the vehicle, which Lexus says combines elegance and a handcrafted quality feel with efficiency and spaciousness.

The dashboard is divided into two ‘zones’ – an upper ‘display’ zone, with an eight-inch LCD multi-function display and an ‘operation’ zone, which allows access to the unique shift lever and system controls, such as ‘Remote Touch’.

Driver convenience and pleasure is clearly paramount here, with Lexus describing the low-set driving position as the “sportiest set-up of any regular Lexus production model” – the “regular” disclaimer enabling it to overlook the IS F – and which in turn has created an ultra-low bonnet profile (and for a new air intake system designed as a result).

The seats are heavily bolstered and offer eight-way power adjustment (including memory and power lumbar support adjustment), a driver-focused instrument panel houses three large high-visibility dials, and the steering wheel has a thick rim and a lowered 21-degree steering angle, with accelerator and brake pedal angles optimised to suit the low hip point.

Metallic finishes combine with dark, premium soft-touch materials to reinforce the sporting and quality feel to the cabin, while Lexus claims all occupants are provided with a feeling of spaciousness and excellent visibility.

Standard safety features run to eight airbags (including driver and front passenger knee airbags), anti-whiplash front seats, an upgraded regenerative braking system, electronic traction and stability control, and ABS brakes with brake assist.

A pre-emptive Pre-Collision Safety system incorporating adaptive cruise control will be available as an option in the US.

A variety of measures were employed to minimise wind and road noise, which Lexus says results in an “outstandingly quiet” cabin environment.

As we have reported, chief among the mechanical changes on the CT200 compared to its Toyota cousins is a new double-wishbone independent rear suspension to replace the torsion bar set-up fitted to the Prius (and the related Corolla), while a “bespoke” version of the Corolla’s MacPherson strut front suspension is also applied.

The CT is equipped with an electric power steering system which has a quick ratio of 14.6:1 and 2.7 turns lock to lock, making it the most direct steering in the Lexus model range, according to the company.

With the steering powered by the hybrid system’s 202-volt nickel-metal hydride battery, Lexus says fuel economy is optimised with power only consumed when steering force assistance is needed.

The degree of steering directness is also increased when the selectable ‘Sport’ drive mode is chosen, adding to other sporting characteristics such as less intrusive operation of the stability and traction control systems and, in visual terms, switching the hybrid power indicator function to a tachometer and changing the lighting of the instrument panel, certain switchgear and centre cluster spotlight from blue to red.

The Sport mode is unique to the CT200, while EV, ECO and Normal drive modes from the Prius also feature on the Lexus.

Standard wheels are 17-inch alloys, while a palette of 10 colours will be available for the car, including two newly developed colours: Day Break Yellow Mica and Brown Spice Mica.

Interior options include a choice of black or grey leather trim and upholstery and three ‘NuLuxe’ finishes (Black, Ecru or Caramel), complemented by a choice of dealer-fit Matte Wood, Silver Metallic or Bamboo dash inserts.

A combination of bamboo charcoal, bamboo fibre and resin are also used to create ultra-lightweight diaphragm speakers used in both the CT’s standard and optional audio systems, serving to further underscore the vehicle’s eco orientation.

An advanced digital signal processing, eight-channel, full-range, class-D amplifier is also said to make a world-first appearance on the CT200h – a unit which is claimed to consume 50 per cent less power than a conventional analogue-powered amp and which is 26 per cent lighter.

“The Lexus CT200h marks the introduction of the first, and only, full hybrid vehicle to the core of the premium compact segment,” said the company this week.

“The CT200h is the new gateway into Lexus. It introduces the company’s unique synthesis of quality, sophistication and high technology to the premium compact segment for the first time, and will bring a younger group of customers to the brand.”

Although Lexus has designs on stealing market share from the likes of BMW (with its 1 Series) and Audi (with the A3), the Japanese marque is keeping tight-lipped on extending the CT beyond this first eco variant.

GoAuto will drive the CT200h after its world debut at the Paris motor show on September 30.

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