Lexus CT 200h F-Sport Review New Zealand
I’d like to think that I am pretty open-minded, that I embrace change, or accept that time doesn’t stand still, I’d like to think that. However, in reality, I have a tendency to have a more conservative approach to things. I don’t enjoy change for change sake and there really must be a logical and well-orchestrated reason for me to adopt a new course of action or direction.
Having a cracking, or record-breaking summer like we have just had, is all well and good, but watching on TV as the rest of the world succumbs to floods, quakes, storms, and fires is something different altogether. Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a debate on climate change, however, a multitude of cleverer people than me, believe that vehicle emissions are a bad thing, so who am I to disagree?
With all the above in mind, I have to say that I found myself in a bit of a dilemma when I received the offer of a hybrid car to test drive. You see, on the one hand, I’ve grown up with the internal combustion engine and yet on the other, boffins are telling me they’re hurting the planet my son will grow up in – hmm what to do?
As luck would have it, the hybrid I had been offered was a Lexus CT 200h F-Sport and as we all know, Lexus do hybrids well, very well in fact. The ‘facelift’ hatchback I had been given came with an onyx roof with Caliente red body paint, and (just like climate change) it looked hot.
The 2018 model has been given a thorough seeing to. The Lexus signature spindle grille has been modernised and updated with a new ‘mesh’ pattern for increased savoir-faire. This F-Sport version even gets a jet black grille surround. The LED headlights are bi-beam with automatic leveling and it has LED front fog lights. The silhouette is more dramatic with deeper lines for improved aerodynamics (a drag coefficient of 0.29) and plenty of curb appeal with its eye-catching 17” alloys. The rear features a large rooftop spoiler, new L-shaped LED tail-lights, and deep black trim.
The refinements continue on the inside. The F-Sport exclusive leather accented furniture greets you upon arrival, as does the sports wheel and chrome scuff plates, but as is normally the case, the devil (or to be more specific, the craftsmanship) is in the details and as such, the F Sport is further enhanced by its centuries in the making, wood carving inspired, Naguri-style trim on the dashboard.
Set slightly back and midway along the dashboard horizon is a full-colour display screen that has been increased in size to a rather substantial 10.3 inches. It will happily control your audio, communication, navigation and parking requirements, while the rest of the surrounding technology embraces the Lexus Optitron improvements.
Having familiarised myself with what the luxurious hatchback had on offer, (which took a while as I have barely scratched the surface of the raft of safety and driver’s aids this car possesses), I pushed the start-stop button and got on my way.
I know I’ve said it before, but on the whole, starting up an electric vehicle is an unfulfilling event. No hiss or roar, no drama or real acknowledgment that it is alive. Anyway, time to unleash the horses (well sort of).
Under the CT 200h’s nose is a 1.8-litre petrol engine combined with two electric motors attached to an electronically-controlled continuously variable transmission CVT. According to the literature, it has a combined usage of 4.1 litres/100 km, while emitting only 94 g/km of CO₂, I decided to begin my test drive in Eco. Eco is great for loooong straight uninhibited runs, like crossing from one side of Australia to the other. Engage adaptive cruise control, find your favorite setting on the eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat and relax as the CT 200h conquers the k’s. However, using eco on a daily drive is like wearing mittens and a balaclava. Yes it goes and stops and yes it keeps a big eye on fuel economy but everything feels muffled and stifled. Norm is a better option, you get a sense of being a driver rather than a passenger but if I’m honest, Sport is where you’ll prefer to be.
Sport is a more involved ‘gloves off’ type of drive. You are more engaged with the throttle and steering response, the batteries produce an extra 150-volts to play with and you feel compelled to test out the car’s Sport tuned suspension. The low centre of gravity helps you carry more speed around the corners and the experience is quite the thrill. I left the CT 200h in Sport for my daily commute and even in thick traffic the numbers boasted a very respectable 5.6L/100k – so it really is the best of both worlds.
The Lexus CT 200h is a sporty hatch that nods strongly towards the sustainable lifestyle that deep down, even I know we need to embrace. The Eco driving mode was possibly too big a jump for me at this stage but the Sport mode, with its extra 150 volts offers way more appeal. With its new range of hybrids, Lexus certainly are welcoming the modern EV movement with open arms and yet they continue to hold dear the centuries-old craftsmanship that they are so well known for. This may come as a bit of a shock, but after driving the CT 200h, I’m now actually looking forward to getting the keys to their LC 500 hybrid!
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