We couldn’t recommend the CT200h as even a pale substitute for its rivals

What is it?

The world’s first compact premium hybrid if that’s not too much of a mouthful. Lexus is convinced that marrying the powertrain from the Prius to a new platform will give it a key advantage in the battle for the hearts and minds of those traditionally drawn to the likes of the BMW 1-series and Audi A3.

And it has loads of numbers to back up this contention: class leading economy and emissions and, of course, Nox and particulate emissions no diesel car could look at.

See first drive pics of Lexus CT200h SE-I

Like a Prius it will run on electricity alone but, as yet at least, there remains no sign of the plug-in version with its lithium ion batteries which all the smart money now says forms the bulk of the short to medium term future of hybrids.

What’s it like?

It depends. If you want a small executive car that’s as cheap or cheaper to run than any other – regardless of whether you measure it by fuel consumption, company car tax, vehicle excise duty or congestion charges – there’s none better.

The CT200h may not be quite as outstandingly frugal as its figures suggest but these days very few cars are. But when you drive it the sense that it’s watching your pennies even more closely than you are in inescapable.

Of course this is both good and bad. The problem with the CT200h is that it’s never better than dull to drive.

The Prius powertrain has been tweaked ever so slightly to promote smoothness and provide a bit more electrical shove in sport mode

But this is still a startlingly slow car: where it needs more than 10sec to hit 62mph, a BMW 118d needs less than 9sec while it’s 112mph top speed means acceleration at the top end is desperate. The BM will hit 130mph.

Nor does it handle that well, despite bespoke double wishbone rear suspension and clever lateral shock absorbers that damp out body vibration.

It goes where you point it but there’s no feel through the wheel, no direct response to the accelerator and, resultingly, not much fun to be had.

But at least the interior lives up to Lexus aspirations. The quality of the materials used is impressive and the list of standard goodies suggesting a level of generosity not implied by the rather high list price.

Nor can you quibble with the cramped rear cabin or small boot, not if you’re coming out of a BMW 1-series at least.

Should I buy one?

If trading environmental statistics adds up to good banter down your way, you’ll be the toast of the town. More seriously if you want a well built, cheap to run premium small executive car whose dealers complete with the legendary Lexus aftersales service, there is much to commend it.

But if the requirement that your car be quick or even reasonably brisk sits anywhere on your priority list, avoid. Likewise it will leave your thirst to enjoy yourself behind its wheel entirely unquenched.

From where we sit a BMW 118d is hardly an environmental criminal and so much better is all the areas most important to readers of a title like this, we couldn’t recommend the CT200h as even a pale substitute.

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But in the admittedly unlikely event you’re reading this but dreaming of driving a posh Prius, we could not recommend it too highly.

Lexus CT200h SE-I

Price: £26,996; Top speed: 112mph; 0-62mph: 10.3sec; Economy: 68.9mpg (combined); CO2: 96g/km; Kerb weight: 1370kg; Engine: 4cyl, petrol-electric hybrid; Power: 134bhp; Torque: 281lb ft (electric motor), 193lb ft (petrol motor); Gearbox: CVT auto

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Add a comment…
noelle 6 October 2010

Re: Lexus CT200h SE-I

Same here. Andrew Frankel...

Will86 wrote:
catnip wrote:

Is it just me, or are there some rather oddly constructed sentences in this article?

I've found it really hard to read.

It's not just you, I re-read a few sentences too.

Steak Bake 1 October 2010

Re: Lexus CT200h SE-I

slightky confused my friend? OK for Infiniti to have Renault stamped on their diesels or is it MB? bUT FOR lEXUS TO HAVE TOYOTA?!!! i HAVE NO BIAS TOWARDS ANY BRAND BUT FEEL THAT lEXUS DO GET UNFAIR CRITICISIM FROM PEOPLE WHO ARE UNLIKELY TO HAVE DRIVEN THESE CARS! Go and test drive a GS450h - ignore the boot - the car is superbi

coolboy 1 October 2010

Re: Lexus CT200h SE-I

you`re right about my english.

FYI I highly prise Infiniti, same cannot say about Lexus.

the day Nissan will come up with the Infiniti Leaf, I will complain.

and Infiniti is trying hard to bring over here some nice diesels too, don`t care if they bring Renault stamps over it.

I just don`t apreciate hoovercleaners with CVTs and derivative designs.