No eco car

  • Hybrid rival to A3
  • On sale early 2011
  • Estimated price 22,000
Words By What Car? Staff

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Lexus won't be marketing the CT as an eco car like the Prius, though, but as an efficient small premium hatch.

There will be four driving modes: EV, which lets you travel short distances at town speeds using only the power stored in the batteries; Eco, which reduces throttle response and the output of the air-conditioning unit; Normal; and Sport, where the car reacts more sharply and the traction and stability aids are toned down a bit. In Sport, the instrument backlighting switches from blue to red.

The powertrain consists of a 1.8-litre petrol engine and a nickel-metal-hydride battery pack that's expected to deliver a combined 134bhp, just like the Prius.

There's also a generator, a control unit and a power splitter that brings the two power sources into play separately or together as necessary.

The batteries are recharged when coasting or braking, and the petrol engine shuts down automatically when the car stops. An electronic continuously variable automatic gearbox channels drive to the front wheels.

Europe-friendly tuning
Lexus is making bold claims about how the CT drives. The car has been designed with the European driver in mind, even though it will be sold globally.

Lexus says it has a particularly low centre of gravity thanks to the under-seat and under-floor location of the batteries, and the sunken driving position.

The bonnet and tailgate are made of aluminium to help trim weight, although the hybrid powertrain will ensure the CT comes in heavier than its competitors.

There's a new all-independent suspension system with struts at the front and double wishbones at the back, and at both ends there are extra lateral shock absorbers designed to curb vibrations and make the car more refined and more precise to steer.

At just over 4.3 metres long, the CT is a little larger than the competition and will compare favourably for both passenger and luggage space.

The important thing for Lexus is that it brings the brand within reach of a greater number of buyers, many of them younger than today's predominantly older male owners. This is the new gateway to Lexus,' the company says.

There are likely to be two or three trim options, all with the kind of high specification that's usual with Lexus. It's too early yet to get an indication of what will and won't be fitted, but expect to be able to get most of the things offered in the company's larger saloons and SUVs people who are downsizing don't like to feel they are also downgrading.