Motoring Review - Lexus CT200h

Andrew Eyley test drives the latest petrol/electric Lexus CT200h

Fans of the popular 90s BBC sitcom Men Behaving Badly will love this car. You know, the one where London flatmates Martin Clunes and Neil Morrisey go all puppy-eyed at the mere mention of a certain young lady from Australia.

Fast-forward 20 years and the iconic pop princess, who refuses to hang up her silver hotpants, is now officially the face of Lexus. Look on youtube if you don’t believe me. She’s there, behind the wheel of the world’s first full hybrid luxury hatchback. Fronting a campaign named the ‘Quiet Revolution’, Kylie Minogue is in effect a Lexus brand ambassador who appears on a stylish TV commercial and claims: ‘The Lexus CT 200h is your own space for peace and quiet amongst the hustle and bustle of the world.’ The prestige brand is currently sponsoring her UK tour.

Behind the wheel, it’s certainly a relaxing experience bordering almost on the tranquil – especially below 30mph in full electric mode. The amount of driver information is amazing, with perfectly placed dials and buttons offering answers to every question. Some of the commands are even voice activated.

On the road, the 98bhp petrol engine with an 81bhp motor/generator and high-voltage nickel-plated battery provide more than adequate performance. Overall it’s an impressive package.

It’s hard not to compare the CT 200h with the Prius. They share the same petrol-electric powertrain and feature standard equipment such as climate control, Bluetooth, USB, front and rear parking sensors and CVT automatic transmission. From a quality point of view, however, the baby Lexus wins hands down. It wouldn’t be a difficult financial decision to find the extra cost of this prestige brand over its Toyota cousin. Solid Lexus residuals would also pay dividend come trade in time.

Lexus made its UK debut in 1990, with a single model named the LS400. Powered by a silky smooth 4.0 litre V8 engine, the whisper quiet luxury saloon sat resplendent under covers in the middle of Chatsworth’s Carriage House restaurant waiting patiently for a party in its honour. I remember, as I was the first journalist to photograph the new model; being granted permission before the official launch by the Lexus marketing team. They realised I needed to hit my deadline for them to get front page of the next motoring edition.

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Lexus’s new CT200h was first revealed to Britain by taking centre stage in the Christmas window display of iconic store, Harrods. Shoppers along London’s Brompton Road were apparently wowed by the latest offering from the leading Japanese luxury car brand manufacturer.

Today, the fashion is for smaller, more eco-friendly engines, and mpg and cheaper running costs are seen by many as more important than outright performance. With this latest Lexus, they have ticked all the boxes, achieving a maximum speed of 112mph, a 0-62mph of 10.3 secs, and a combined mpg of 68.9. Due to excellent emissions, road tax is free. Prices start at �23,485, rising to �30,635 for the CT 200h SE-L Premier model.

A recent Lexus Derby eco competition saw potential customers achieve as much as 90mpg. Delighted prize winners won tickets to see Ms Minogue in concert.

This latest Lexus faces tough competition from the likes of established compact executives such as Audi’s A3 and BMW’s popular 1-series. But I suspect that many who have never before considered the Lexus brand, either for financial reasons or through sheer size, will now take an interest. A test drive can’t fail to impress.

Having spent a frustrating half an hour or so on my roadside photo shoot near Donington, hoping for rays of spring sunshine to enhance the lush green countryside backdrop of my electric blue test car, I’m ready to get back behind the wheel and return to the luxurious leather interior of the mid range model. For me, some cars just get you from A to B, but baby Lexy is far more special.

Changing between eco, normal and sports modes – with the turn of an oversize button on the centre console, the power delivery and suspension characteristics instantly change to suit. This car is as smooth nipping in and out of the city traffic around the Westfield Centre as it is powering down to junction 28 of the M1 or flicking round back road bends near Donington.

After driving any new model, I always ask myself one question: ‘Would I spend my own money on one?’ The price tag sees it pitched against some really tough competition, but at the end of the day I’d made my decision.

If it’s good enough for Kylie…

To arrange a test drive contact: Lexus Derby 01332 267189 or 0845 1254893

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