This is the car that Lexus has been crying out for to ramp up business in its UK network.
The CT200h is the first compact five-door car from the Japanese prestige brand.
This is also the lowest priced Lexus, costing from £23,485 to £30,635 and is charged with bringing in vital new business. In 2010 Lexus achieved 6,202 new car registrations in the UK.
The carmaker wants to ramp this up to 10,600 by 2012, and CT200h will account for 6,000 units of that total.
Customers are expected to come from other premium brands as well as mainstream ones, including Lexus’s parent Toyota.
Toyota GB’s research shows that 10% of Toyota owners leave the brand each year to upgrade to premium models, but only 10% of these have bought a Lexus until now because there was no compact, lower priced cars in its range.
CT200h fills that gap, and not at the expense of qualities expected of the brand. It is a premium vehicle with a high-grade cabin ambience, good levels of standard equipment and it promises a rewarding ownership experience.
Fleets and company car user-choosers are prime prospects, due to the tax benefits they can achieve from its low emissions. It qualifies for no-cost VED and London congestion charge exemption, and businesses buying CT200h for their fleet get a 100% first year write-down allowance against corporation tax. Company car drivers will be in the lowest 10% band for benefit-in-kind tax.
On the road, the drive is rewarding for efficency if not for ultimately rapid progress.
A clever electronic instrumentation cluster means drivers can see easily whether they’re favouring efficiency or performance. In electric-only (EV), eco and normal driving modes the upper part of the binnacle is gently backlit blue and includes an eco meter with charge, eco or power zones.
Stick the car in sport mode and the backlighting turns to a warm red while the eco meter instantly converts itself to a conventional rev counter.
It’s a nice little touch and definitely adds to the CT’s feel-good quotient.
The trip computer can be set to show when the car is charging its battery or is using electricity to provide drive.
The car can cover around a mile in full electric, zero-emission mode – an eerily peaceful experience which actually becomes quite compelling.
Buyers are more likely to enjoy a wry smile at their steadily increasing fuel efficiency than seek an adrenaline rush of acceleration.
On our 90 minute test drive the CT200h closed to within 3mpg of our long-term Mazda3 diesel’s average.
When buyers decide to put it in sport mode they’ll be rewarded with more responsive steering and throttle settings, but still not particularly inspiring performance. Normal mode strikes the best balance.
In any mode it’s a hatchback that has been set up to offer good stability and control over twisty, bumpy roads, although the ride is rather firm.
With the rising fuel costs, CT200h will do well on the back of its environmental and tax credentials.