Lexus and its parent company Toyota have more experience in petrol-electric cars than any other maker. Lexus CT200h is the lowest cost model in the Lexus range by quite a margin, with new cars being sold from just $39,990 when launched in Australia in March 2011.
While far from being a hot hatch the CT200h has a touch of sporting flair thanks to the sharp throttle responses that we love in all electric, or part-electric vehicles. Would you believe the Lexus CT200h was used in a celebrity race that preceded the Australian Grand Prix in 2011? We were there, witnessed it and saw the celebrities with smiles on their faces after the event!
However, the CT200h didn’t catch as much attention as Lexus had hoped for, possibly because of its somewhat unusual five-door hatch styling. But sales have been steady and quite a few are on the used-car market. A facelift in April 2014 added the now traditional Lexus ‘spindle grille’.
The CT200h’s interior is finished to a high quality both in materials and fit and finish. Interior space is good in the front seat but the back is tight for legroom unless those in the front are willing to give up some space. The typical two-adult, two-child family load will find it fine. However the boot is relatively shallow as there’s a large battery under it. You can create acceptable extra space by folding the back seats down. With the seats in place we struggled to get two 62 cm suitcases stowed under the removable rear shelf during a holiday trip.
Smoothness and quietness have been major features of Lexus cars since day one in the late 1980s. Though the CT200h isn’t quite in the same class as its bigger brothers it is still very pleasant to travel in. Out of sight changes in the 2014 facelift further reduced noise levels.
There’s an interesting of active damping system in the F-Sport Sport and Sport Luxury CT200h models that lets you tailor it to your mood and / or road conditions.
Lexus CT200h has a 1.8-litre petrol engine assisted by an electric motor and drives the front wheels through a CVT automatic transmission. There are four, adjustable, driving modes. EV (electric-only drive); Eco (petrol + electric, but reduced power, and air conditioning); Normal (petrol and electric) and Sport (more responsive steering, more power for the electric motor, less interference from the stability control system and higher engine revs in the lower gears).
It can operate on electric power only at speeds up to 45 km/h, though only if you’re gentle with the ‘throttle’, and not for any real distance. Reversing is done driving on electric power only, leaving your garage free of fumes if you back into it.
Official fuel consumption numbers on hybrids are less realistic than in any other powertrain. Lexus can quote 4.1 L/100km, but in real life most use 25 to 50 per cent over that.
There is an ever increasing number of Lexus dealers in Australia. Though these are generally in the major metro areas quite a few large country cities now have them as well. Some topline Toyota technicians have been trained to work on Lexus models – a handy standby should you strike trouble in remote areas (an unlikely event).
This car should be serviced only by those who are trained in it. Amateurs should stick strictly to simple work on these cars.
Spare parts and servicing cost and availably are about average for a car in the upmarket class.
Insurance companies seem to charge pretty reasonable premiums, which isn’t surprising considering most owners lean in the conservative direction. Shop around, but be sure to compare apples with apples.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
We suggest you don’t even consider a car like this unless the service books are up to date.
The mechanical side of any hybrid is specialised so a used one should be checked by a Lexus technician, some Toyota people also have training on the Lexus marque.
Rough roads can knock the CT200h about as it’s really a city car. If one has been bashed over bad roads there may be squeaks from the body and perhaps the trim. Find some bumpy stuff during your test drive.
As the Lexus is relatively low slung for aerodynamic reasons it can suffer scrapes under the front bumper. If these are out of sight and only minor they can possibly be ignored. Your choice.
On the earliest models some build quality problems were reported on overseas cars, these appear to have been sorted by the time the cars were introduced to Australia.
Look over the trim as the CT200h is built down to a price compared with the topline Lexus models and hard use, or mistreatment by children may have caused excessive wear.
Other than that, make the usual walk around of the little Lexus for signs of crash repairs, uneven tyre wear and body scratches.
CAR BUYING TIP
Hybrid buyers often treat their cars very gently on the road to try and further reduce fuel use, meaning they can make excellent secondhand purchases. No promises, though…