What is it?
The Lexus CT200h F-Sport, the friskiest version of the premium Prius. It gets a host of changes over the cooking CT, both cosmetic – dark-finish 17in alloys, mild body kit, less woody interior – and mechanical, with uprated shock absorbers. There’s no extra power, though. It costs from £27,886.
The hybrid drivetrain results in 68.9mpg and 94g/km, the latter yielding free road tax in the UK and congestion charge exemption in London.
The drivetrain itself powers the front wheels, and consists of a 98bhp 1.8-litre petrol engine and an 81bhp electric motor, though the maximum combined output is a less enticing 134bhp. It’s all mated to a CVT ‘single-speed’ automatic gearbox, with no manual intervention available.
There’s a drive select system, with a fuel-saving Eco mode and keener Sport mode, while at very low speeds the CT will run electric-only, but not for long.
What’s it like to drive?
The CT200h F-Sport – with its mild under-the-skin sharpening – grips gamely and has well weighted (if slightly uncommunicative) steering, meaning the front end can be adjusted with pleasing precision. In faster cornering it defaults to understeer, as you’d expect for something front-drive with considerable weight up front, but there’s not really enough power to make this a huge issue.
And that’s the CT’s main bugbear – it’s just not that exciting. A CVT gearbox is good at sucking the life out of most drivetrains, not least an eco-minded hybrid one, and with nearly a ton and half to shift around, performance is pretty lacklustre. Not a huge issue if you’re chasing mpgs, admittedly, but it’s a real drawback when you need to go for an overtake.
The ride is firm, which is a positive on twisting B-roads – the CT actually feels in its comfort zone – but less helpful on rutted town roads, where a fiddly nature jars with otherwise exemplary refinement. Kylie’s right, this really is a serenely quiet car to be in.
How does it compare?
At close to £28,000, this CT200h is proper money. BMW’s excellent 320d costs little more, is bigger and roomier, and its 161bhp/280lb ft diesel engine boasts considerably better performance while also claiming 68.9mpg. Its 109g/km of CO2 means it’s not C-charge exempt, but its annual road tax is a mere £20. And that’s all before we tell you how good it is to drive…
Anything else I need to know?
We couldn’t get the trip meter to read more than 48mpg, despite the CT spending a fair bit of time motorway cruising. It does garner a lot of admiring glances, though; F-Sport trim looks pretty sharp in the metal.