Our cars: Lexus CT200h - February 2012
Week ending February 24
Driven this week 283 miles
Lexus CT200h review
It’s taken a while, but I got my first taste of the CT200h this week. After doing a few hundred miles in it, I think it’s a pretty bitter taste, unfortunately.
Perhaps it isn’t designed for someone who does hundreds of miles on the motorway each day, but nonetheless I expected it to be better than it is. It felt slow to get up to speed, and while it was quiet enough on a straight and level surface, any uphill climb or attempt to increase speed caused the engine to blare into your consciousness. It wasn’t what I expected in a supposedly luxury hatch. The ride was also firm at such speeds.
I then got on to urban routes, which at least gave the hybrid drivetrain the chance to work in its comfort zone. Great, but the unrelentingly hard ride meant the word ‘comfort’ was a long way from the forefront of my mind.
The front seats were good though, helping to mitigate some of the ride issues, and the interior looks stylish and pretty well made. There was decent space up front too, although the rear seats are only just big enough and the boot is much too small. The stereo is clear and subtly powerful, though. It’s just a shame that it’s all controlled through the Remote Touch system, which is overly complex, and requires you to take your eyes off the road far too often and for far too long.
The economy on my (admittedly rapid) 91-mile commute home was reasonable, at 41.3mpg, but the tank holds only 10 gallons of fuel, and the car had got through a quarter of that just getting me home. I suspect the range of the car would irk me after a while.
As would the rearward visibility; the roads are grimy and slimy at the moment, and the tiny rear wiper covers only a small proportion of an already small rear window.
It’s also expensive. Our car has a basic list price of £30,950, added to which it has £3660 of options, making a total of £34,610. My own long-term test car is a Jaguar XF, which has a list price of £33,950, to which I’ve added £3680 of options, so the two cars are well matched on spec. I’d argue that anyone would be far, far better off spending the extra £3020 on the Jag, which is roomier, more comfortable, quieter, more economical, better to drive and much prettier.
I was hoping for better from the Lexus hatch. It looks such an enticing proposition on paper, but the reality falls somewhat short for me. If you want a hybrid car, buy a Prius and keep the change for your fuel costs.
Week ending February 17
Miles this week 542
I covered a lot of miles in the Lexus this week, with lengthy stints on the M25, M40 and M1 as I drove to Derbyshire and back. On the whole, I think it's a pretty good motorway cruiser.
The driver's seat has plenty of cushioning, and even though the base is rather small, I find it comfortable, at least for the first two hours of a journey.
Our SE-L Premier model's cabin is impressively plush too, and its 'Remote Touch' control system - complete with computer-style mouse - works well enough once you get used to it.
There is a caveat, however - the CT200h's hybrid powertrain really doesn't like to be rushed, because the CVT gearbox sends the petrol engine's revs soaring when you put your foot down, without an equivalent increase in pace. Take a more relaxed approach and things are much quieter.
Getting the CT200h up to typical cruising speeds isn't too hard, and once you're settled on the motorway the cabin is, for the most part, pretty quiet.
Week ending February 10
Miles this week: 240
I took my first trip in our hybrid Lexus hatchback this week. I can see why I am starting to see so many on the road. It's a smart thing – especially from the driver's seat.
Emissions mean that it's extremely favourable on the company car tax front too. While my 100-mile round trip netted 45mpg, which is equally impressive.
Some colleagues have an issue with the ride quality, but I don't have so many concerns, especially when you're up to cruising speeds.
What I am struggling with is the 'slippy' CVT gearbox which means that engine speed rises out of sync with road speed when you're accelerating. The answer is to drive it more and learn to get around it, I feel.
Week ending February 3
Miles this week 466
A group of us were in Brighton this week, and I got the CT200h for the return journey home.
Brighton is at least 100 miles and two hours away from my house, and hitting the M25 during rush hour was going to do nothing for a tired, grumpy me. The hard ride made me even grumpier over the poorer surfaces on the motorway, and I don’t think the winter tyres helped matters, either.
What I didn’t appreciate until the following morning, though, were the heated seats. Some manufacturers give you the option of luke-warm, hot and very hot for seat heating, but the Lexus has more options to suit your mood.