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Lexus CT 200h: Paris Motor Show 2010

Fri, 01 Oct 2010 00:00:00 -0700

The Lexus CT 200h at the Paris Motor Show

We’re trying really hard to like the Lexus CT 200h. It could be very good. A compact executive car to take on the likes of Audi and BMW, but with a bit of Japanese comfort and build quality built in. A perfect aspirational car for those for whom the ‘Drive’ is less important.

And the CT 200h ticks lots of boxes. You couldn’t call it pretty, but it has a ‘Now’ look about it. It doesn’t look fuddy-duddy, it looks contemporary. And it will be well-equipped and doubtless well-built. Still…

It’s the Prius drivetrain we struggle with. It’s just pointless. Yes, I know we bang on about NOx and PM being the important emissions to cut and that CO2 is irrelevant ( except for working out your tax bill). And we applaud that the petrol side of the Prius lump emits almost no NOx and no PM at all. Bravo.

But surely Lexus could have done something more interesting than a Hobson’s choice 1.8 litre hybrid powertrain? Do they really only want to attract people who want to polish their green halo but who can afford something a bit better than a Prius?

Are they really looking at their headline market being cynical ‘Celebs’ who drive a hybrid to public events and go everywhere else in the Bentley GT Speed? Why, oh why couldn’t they have offered options? Sure, we understand the impetus behind the decision to be a hybrid company (they’re wrong, but we understand), but does that have to mean no choice for buyers?

It’s a bit like Gordon Ramsey going vegetarian (I know) and deciding everyone else must do the same. And stopping serving anything but variations on nut roast and tofu in his restaurants. We’d all applaud his conviction and commitment to his beliefs, but we’d consider him barking and go and eat somewhere else.

And sadly, that’s what we see happening with the CT200. And it’s been brought in to focus further this week because we have in for review an eco BMW. It’s a 3 Series – the BMW 320d EfficientDynamics – and it has lots of eco stuff on it like low rolling resistance tyres and stop/start and lower suspension and a longer final drive…

Yet despite all that eco stuff it drives like a 3 Series. Which means very well. Its smaller wheels and old-fashioned looking tyres still grip enormously well, and you can feel what’s happening through the seat of your pants. Yes, the 3 Series is getting old and is starting to feel a bit cramped, but it’s beautifully built and even this eco jobbie is well equipped with leather and climate and SatNav and…

So its equipment level is up there and it sits a sector above the CT 200h, which is more akin to the 1 Series. But it drives and performs in a way the Prius drivetrain – even with the CT 200′s multiple settings – will never do. It does 0-60mph in a very commendable sub 8 seconds. At least a couple of seconds quicker than the CT200.

But it’s not just the performance, it’s the economy too. The official figure for the 320d ED is 68.9mpg. It’s not as good in the real world – we’re averaging mid 50s – but then nor will the CT200 be. It emits 109g/km, which is more than the CT200 but not so much more that Jonathan Porrit will implode or you’ll have to sell your children to pay your VED or BIK.

But we’re on the side of the CT200 with NOx and PM. The Lexus wins that hands down. But do buyers care? Much more importantly, do buyers care enough to spend the same sort of money on the CT 200 as they would have to spend to buy the 3 Series ED?

We don’t think so. And that’s a shame.

By Cars UK