When I got the call to see if I would be interested in testing the Lexus CT 200H F-Sport, I must admit I was quite excited. And to be quite honest it was mainly because they said F-Sport and after testing the IS350 F-Sport I was under the impression that the CT would be the latest hot hatch to hit the market. Upon first glance it has quite a sporty stance, and subtle aggressive looks to it. This image was upheld until the very moment that I switched it on. I was unsure if I had over-hyped the car for myself, but whatever it was, that single dash mounted power button, labeled like the power button on your TV remote, began a very disappointing road test.
Before I go into any more details about the road test I need to first explain my mindset. This is an F-Sport model and the Lexus F marque represents the high-performance division of cars produced by Lexus. This division developed one of my favourite supercars, the ear splitting V10 Lexus LFA. A car that put Lexus back on the map, and right back into the thoughts of customers who were not just after super quiet and comfy cars. The LFA was Lexus telling the world and other manufactures, “Anything you can do we can do better”. For all intents and purposes the everyday man now saw the F marque as the Lexus version of BMW’s M, Audi’s RS or Mercedes-Benz AMG marques. Any car that was bestowed with such a badge would be seen as the highest-performance model produced by that manufacturer. I think the tone has been set, I am road testing an F-Sport model car and it had better be worthy of the badge they have slapped on the side of it.
The Test Drive
As I said I was looking forward to this review, so I decided not read a single thing or look at any adverts about the CT, so that when I got in and kicked off the road test, I would see and feel it fresh for the first time. But once I got into the CT, things started to go downhill real fast. The first thing I noticed was the “Power” button, which didn’t say Start / Stop Engine and was blue. Right below the word power it had the same symbol for turning off your TV. Granted this is a small thing, however for performance hot hatches, small details mean everything. I pressed the power button and as expected there was no sound because this was also a hybrid. The very next thing that crushed my expectations was the gear stick, and to be fair gear stick was too nice a word for the direction toggle switch lay in front of me. It was a CVT gearbox, also expected, but I was somewhat deflated to see it there. As the CT had a hybrid powertrain, and ran both the petrol engine and the electric motors through this Electronic Continuously Variable Transmission it was able to run both or switch between alternate power sources seamlessly. What struck me as very odd were the selections. There were the usual positions, R, N and D. But there was also a B, and I stared at this for a little while thinking that I should really know what B was for. My first thoughts said this was Brake instead of P for Parking Brake, as there was no P in the selection. But there was a button for P directly below the shifter, which my first thoughts also said electronic hand brake. Until I saw there was a foot operated hand brake too. So the manual had to come out, as this was quite a weird setup. Didn’t take long to clear things up, I use the word clear in the loosest possible sense of the word. The B stood for brake, but not for the parking brake, it was for engine braking, which will we come back to later. The P below the shifter was for selecting the Parking gear selection not the electronic handbrake and the foot brake to the left of the brake was the hand brake. So now that this perfectly non-conformist setup was all cleared up, I set off.
I didnt go anywhere fast mind you. The lack of power had me wondering if I had even taken the right car off the lot. What I later found out was that there was no difference in engine spec between the CT 220H and the CT 200H F-Sport. They both had the same 60kw Alternating Current Motor and both had the same 1.8L inline 4 engine that squeezed out 100kW. These power sources on their own were nothing to write home about. Neither was the so-called sport mode which gave you both power sources at the same time. There is one figure that I can give you that will allow you to visualise the expression on my face while I drove this car. The CT 200H F-Sport has a 0-100 kph of 10.3 seconds. And no that was not a typo, it is 10.3 seconds. I know what you are thinking: “Surely not?”. Even the base model non-performance hatchbacks available on the market can do 0-100 faster than that. The performance versions can do it a lot faster than that. Most of them do it 4 seconds faster and some even do it close to 6 seconds faster. As I am sure you can guess, things weren’t going well for the plucky CT, and even worse for the F-Sport marque which had unfortunately ended up on a car that’s not been worthy of it.
The B for engine braking was a very odd selection to have available. Now that I knew what it was for I tried it out, and it worked very well. As there was a bit of extra weight in this car the CVT would coast and increase speed down hill in Drive. Flicking it into B gives the ability to downshift the transmission into a low range. On several long downhill routes I selected B, not because I felt it needed it, more because I was trying to test all the features. It was able to smoothly give me a lower gear and maintain the current speed down the hill. This, sadly, was about the only feature of the gearbox that worked well for this car. I had hoped for some paddles or at least some way to pop through the gears manually, as after all its meant to be a hot hatch. Due to this CVT setup there was only the drive gear selection and the 3 standard lexus hybrid dynamic drive modes. ECO, Normal and Sport. Normal meant you got the power of the electric motors when moving off and it would switch over to the petrol engine when you required more power. Eco mode was a similar setup, with slower and more efficiently-even power delivery. The sports mode gave you both power sources right from the get-go. This mode made the car feel like it should have in normal mode in my own opinion. It had more available torque, however it was only enough to make it feel like the base mode of other standard hatchbacks. Over the week I had the CT I managed to average 5.8L / 100km, which gave me a range of around 700km, which is not bad considering it has a 45 L tank.
The interior was very similar to the other F-Sport and performance models lexus offers. The seats were comfy and very supporting and the entire cabin had a nice, quality feel to it. The dash was very similar to the other Lexus models, with one glaring omission. Where was the LFA inspired digital dash that came with the IS 350 F-Sport? I think Lexus underestimate the selling power of that one piece of tech, as I am sure it can be traced back to the single reason some people bought the car. Simply because it’s cool. When I tested the IS and showed people the dash, there immediate answer was “I would buy that”. The Mark Levinson audio system was as impressive as it has been on any of the other Lexus models we have road tested. Due to my height (6’6”) I found I had to put the seat back a fair way, which put the B pillar directly in the drivers side view and reduced the space in the back quite a bit. I was still able to get in the back, but it would not have been comfy for an extended drive. The boot was quite an unexpected surprise. It was quite small. It made perfect sense that it had to be, as behind the spare tyre there was a bay of batteries for the hybrid system. The resulting space left you with only 375 litres. This is still very useable, but quite a lot less than other manufactures. My camera gear just about fit in the back, which would equate to about two short weekend luggage bags. The door of the boot also sloped in quite aggressively, so much so that you didn’t not have a standard folding tray over the boot like most hatchbacks. Lexus offered a sliding cover as seen in most wagons.
Lexus offer the CT 200H F-Sport for $59.995, which is $10,000 more than the base model. As there is no engine or hybrid motor upgrade what is it you get over the base model? Visually you get a couple of F-Sport badges, a different front bumper, a slightly different rear spoiler, slightly different leather seats with more controls, and aluminium foot pedals. What you can’t see that’s different is the Lexus Dynamic Handling System. This translates into sport tuned suspension with higher damping force to enhance handling ability and steering response. The CT did feel very firm-footed, some of which was thanks to its weight. Hybrid systems are not light. The CT weighs in at 1845 kg, which is heavy for a hatchback. Combining this with the sport suspension culminated in a very bumpy and stiff ride. This harder ride also increased the road noise, which was quite noticeable. Both of these traits were not very Lexus like at all.
What’s it up against.
The CT 200H F-Sport is wading into a league that it quite obviously can’t swim in. Its looks make it a sheep in wolf’s clothing. With less than half the torque of its competitors, the other manufacturers’ performance focused hot hatches very easily run circles around the Lexus.
|Brand / Model||Engine||Power||Fuel L/100km||Luggage Capacity||Price Highest to Lowest|
|Audi S3||2.0L 4 Cylinder TFSi (Turbo)||195 kW / 350 Nm||6.9 L / 100km||365 Litres||$79,900|
|BMW 125i M Sport||2.0L 4 Cylinder Twin Turbo||160 kW / 310 Nm||6.6 L / 100km||360 Litres||$65,700|
|Mercedes A250 Sport||2.0L 4 Cylinder, Turbo||155 kW / 350 Nm||6.6 L / 100km||341 Litres||$64,900|
|Lexus CT 200H F Sport||1.8 L Inline 4 Hybrid||100kW / 142 Nm||4.1L / 100km||375 Litres||$59.995|
|VW Golf GTi||2.0L 4 Cylinder, FSI Turbo||162 kW / 350 Nm||6.4 L / 100km||380 Litres||$59,750|
|Ford Focus ST||2.0L 4 Cylinder, Turbo||184 kW / 360 Nm||7.2 L / 100km||373 Litres||$52,840|
|Mazda 3||2.2L 4 Cylinder Turbo||190 kW / 380 Nm||6.1 L / 100km||160 Litres||$49,195|
|Mini Cooper S||1.4L 4 Cylinder||135 kW / 184 Nm||5.9 L / 100km||160 Litres||$44,200|
What do we think ?
The CT 200H is a good car, however this F-Sport variant simply does not warrant the F-Sport badge. All this has done is to hike up the price and all you’re getting in return is some upgraded looks. The down side to this is that we have lost some faith in the F-Sport marque, and only hope they do not continue to water down the prestige of this badge. It’s very similar to a fake Louis Vuitton bag, the people that know their stuff can tell the difference straight away. The people who can’t or don’t care are either happy to have it just for looks or are also happy that they didn’t have to pay full price for it. A fake bag shouldn’t cost as much as the real thing. And with all the other performance breed hot hatch options out there it’s very hard to see why you would choose the Lexus CT 200H F-Sport over any of them.
Rating – Chevron rating 1.5 out of 5
Lexus CT 200H F-Sport
|Vehicle Type||Front Engine, FWD, Hybrid, 4 Door Performance Hatchback|
|Starting Price||$ 59.995 NZD|
|Tested Price||$ 59.995 NZD|
|Engine||1.8 L Inline 4, 100kW, 142 Nm|
|Hybrid System||Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor 60kw|
|Transmission||Electronic Continuously Variable Transmission|
|0 – 100 kph||10.3 seconds|
|Kerb Weight||1845 kg|
|Length x Width x Height||4320 x 1765 x 1455 mm|
|Cargo Capacity||375 Litres|
|Fuel Tank||45 litres|
|Fuel||Urban – 4.5 L/100km|
Motorway – 4.8 L/100km
Combined – 4.1 L/100km, 130 g/km CO2
|ANCAP Safety Ratings||5 Stars (Overall Score 36.13 out of 37)|