1 Mar 2011
It would be safe to say that the CT200h did not begin its life in the most auspicious of circumstances.
Lexus allowed several rough-hewn CT200h prototypes to be driven by the motoring media in a test drive in France in 2010, many months before the car’s global launch. In return, they received many harsh rebukes on the coarseness of the prototype car’s ride quality.
The premium Japanese brand subsequently set its engineers the task of refining the ride, and pronto, resulting in a production car that exhibited a tolerable – if slightly rigid – ride.
There was also a suitable amount of surprise when it was revealed that the CT would begin at under $40,000. Other specifications at launch were the $48,990 Luxury, $49,900 F-Sport and the flagship $55,900 Sport Luxury.
On paper then, Toyota subsidiary Lexus had a hole-in-one with the CT200h. It was a refined and well-built premium small car with the efficiency and cache that came with a hybrid and a price tag in the same ballpark as its donor car - Toyota’s entry-level Prius.
All CT200h buyers got the 100kW petrol-electric hybrid powertrain with four driving modes: EV, ECO, Normal and Sport.
Up to 45km/h, the CT200h operated exclusively on electric motivation from the 60kW electric motor, for up to 2km if the nickel-metal hydride battery was fully charged.
Once petrol power was required from the 73kW/142Nm 1.8-litre Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine, the system defaulted to Normal mode, which used a mix of petrol and electric power to deliver drive to the front wheels through a complex set of electronically-controlled planetary gears that acted as a form of continuously variable transmission.
As we said on our first local drive: “Lexus has turned a Corolla-sized hatchback with a just-adequate 100kW of Prius power into an entertaining drive.”Inside, the base model got cloth seats, while leather was standard on Luxury and above. A $3000 leather option pack on the base models also delivered 17-inch wheels, front seats heaters, reversing camera (screened in the rear-view mirror).
Eight airbags were standard, including front knee-protecting airbags, while 16-inch alloy wheels were standard on the base Prestige variant. Luxury, F-Sport and Sports Luxury versions got larger diameter 17-inch alloys shod with Yokahama 215/45 tyres.
A space-saver spare tyre was standard.
The three upper-spec models got sat-nav on the large LCD screen that rose from the dash on start up. That screen also displays the reversing camera image on these models. As well as the pre-safe crash preparation system, the Luxury Sport got active cruise control