Lexus has tailored its new CT200h hybrid hatchback specifically for European customers and has promised it will be a “sporty” car to drive.
Lexus, which has released these development photos of the car that will form the centrepiece of its Paris motor show stand next month, is currently carrying final dynamic testing of the CT200h on European roads to ensure “it will put a smile on the face of the driver”.
Lateral performance dampers have been fitted to the CT200h as part of a fundamental reappraisal of its chassis and bodyshell design. These dampers, a first for a high-volume production car according to Lexus, increase torsional rigidity, suppress vibrations and boost ride comfort and steering feel without adding extra weight.
Lexus has set itself the target of making the CT200h “a benchmark for handling in this segment”. As well as the lateral performance dampers, it is aiming to achieve this by optimising aerodynamics, steering, suspension and the driver’s position at the wheel to help make the front-drive CT200h a credible dynamic rival for the best-selling Audi A3 and BMW 1-series models in the lucrative premium hatchback segment.
The Lexus CT200h, which is on track for a UK launch in early 2011 priced from around £21,000, uses a tuned version of the Toyota Prius’s 1.8-litre petrol-electric hybrid powertrain and CVT gearbox.
As in the Prius, three distinct driving modes are offered (Eco, Normal and Sport) although these have all been retuned in the CT200h to make it a bespoke Lexus car.
In Dynamic mode, the MacPherson strut front and double wishbone rear suspension firm up and steering and throttle responses are sharpened to boost the CT200h’s agility and road holding. The CT200h’s electric motor and nickel hydride battery pack help propel the car up to 1.24 miles on electric power alone, helping the CT200h reach its target of offering class-leading CO2 emissions of less than 99g/km.
The firm is expecting the car to shift around 30,000 units per year to double Lexus's business in Europe.