The Lexus CT200h gets a makeover and sportier handling
A hotter hybrid RED HOT NUMBER: The CT Hybrid is available with a black roof to contrast with seven paintwork choices - and 10-spoke aluminium rims

THE Lexus brand's first sports hatchback has finally become that - sporty. The CT Hybrid was the Japanese luxury carmaker's first four-cylinder model with a full hybrid system when it debuted here about three years ago.

It has since been updated with the Lexus L-finesse design language so that its front end now wears the trademark spindle grille and arrowhead lamps. Also new is the two-tone exterior colour scheme - the CT Hybrid is available with a black roof to contrast with seven paintwork choices - and 10-spoke aluminium rims.

Inside, the CT Hybrid gets the same sporty three-spoke steering wheel first seen in the Lexus IS, as well as a thinner and sleeker seven-inch multimedia display screen. The entry-level grade also gets new eight-way electric front seats.

Driving the CT Hybrid's front wheels through a continuously variable transmission is the petrol-electric full hybrid system. The CT200h's 1.8-litre petrol engine works seamlessly with the powerful electric motor to muster up a total system maximum output of 136 hp.

Marketed as a premium compact hybrid, the CT200h actually has the same basic platform and hybrid powertrain as the Toyota Prius, but with extra power and more refinement. This makes it more of a performance hybrid than a mild hybrid.

To further improve driving dynamics, body rigidity was also increased. To match the stiffer car, the suspension was re-tuned and the dampers get a new valve to reduce high frequency vibrations.

The ride immediately feels firmer - even at slower speeds - and it is more planted at high speeds. The CT Hybrid is aimed at a younger buyer and its new and sportier character is in line with this target group.

At the same time, ride comfort does not appear to have been affected although certain road irregularities can cause a bit of bounciness. But otherwise, the refreshed CT200h's handling has improved significantly. Where once the ride was soft and slightly wallowy, it is now firmer and more confident.

Four driver settings are available through the drive mode selector - Normal, Sport, Eco and EV - with the last allowing the CT200h to run silently and sans emissions in full electric mode. In Sport, the drivetrain becomes more responsive and the steering wheel gets more heft. The good low-end torque gives it enthusiastic performance and its agility means it is rather fun for a Lexus.

The CT's aerodynamic performance was also tweaked for better grip and stability, while over 90 enhancements were made to reduce noise, vibration and harshness for a quieter cabin.

There are two versions of the CT200h - Executive and Luxury - with a S$20,000 a difference. For that amount, the CT200h Luxury comes with bigger 17-inch wheels (the Executive rides on 16-inch alloys). There is also a Mark Levinson DVD Audio System with 13 speakers, an integrated navigation system, a rear view camera and auto rain sensing wipers.

But whichever trim level chosen, Lexus says that the CT200h will cover an enviable 24.4 km per litre. So apart from being a fun to drive hybrid hatch, this baby Lexus also happens to be eco-friendly.

CAR INFORMATION

Lexus CT Hybrid CT200h 1.8 Executive (A)

Price

:POA

Engine Type

:

4-cylinder 16-valve DOHC VVT-i

Engine Cap

:

1,798 cc

Horsepower

:

134 bhp

Torque

:

142 Nm

Transmission

:

CVT (A)

Acceleration

:

10.3 sec (0-100 km/h)

Top Speed

:

180 km/h