By on September 13, 2010

I can’t speak for the US market, but in the UK car market there is one segment which I can never see dying. The small, luxury car segment (A.K.A The luxury entry level). This is the area reserved for your Audi A3’s, BMW 1 series’ and, to lesser extents, Volvo S40’s and Mercedes-Benz A-Classes. The reason I believe this segment is more robust than other is because it revolves around one factor which has been around for a very long time. Vanity. In the UK, you have many (and I mean “many”) mid-20’s to early 30 men, who’ve got a half-decent paying job and want to lash out on a car with a luxury make. Very few will go with cars like the Audi A4, BMW 3 series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, because they either scream “rep-mobile” or “old man”. They won’t go any higher up the ladder because that’ll be too costly. So the small, luxury car segment is perfect for them. The least amount of money for the most amount of badge-snobbery. This is why the BMW 1-series is so successful in the UK, despite being quite a poor car. “I can get a BMW for the price of a Golf? Sign me up!” Well, it seems a new boy is coming to the market. Only this one has a trick up his sleeve…

AutoCar reports that the Lexus CT200h hybrid hatchback will emit only 96g/km of CO2. The “96” part is very important because this means the CT200h will be below the 100g/km car tax bracket, which means that the CT200h will be exempt from car tax. It has also been rated as having a combined fuel economy of 68.9mpUKg. Now some base (and I DO mean “base”) 3 door Audi A3 can match or beat these figures, but the base 5 door Audi A3’s (the comparable model to the CT200h) can’t. Neither can the BMW 1-series. And naturally, those Germans run on diesel, which means that you’ll still be pumping out NOx fumes and other nasties. Because of these low emissions, company fleets will look on this favorably.

But you probably think that people will still stay with the Germans because of the better driving dynamics? Well, Lexus have seen to that, too. The hybrid will have 4 modes, Normal, Eco, Electric only and Sport. If you switch to “sport” it’ll firm up the suspension, tighten the steering and sharpen the throttle response. If you want your normal, wallowing luxo-barge, switch back into “Normal” mode.

From what I’ve seen, this car should (theoretically) do well in Europe. A small, well built, reliable sporty luxury car with no road tax and very good fuel economy. Sounds good to me. But, as we all know, theory and reality are two different things. Toyota and Honda make reliable, well equipped cars. But they haven’t broken the UK market at all. And they’ve been around for a very long time…

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29 Comments on “Lexus CT To Cover All Bases?...”

  • avatar

    Few journalists have already driven the CT and say that handling is very nice, quite sharp and with good feedback. Seats are also quite sporty – with generous amount of side support. And seating position can be adjusted uncoventionally low for a Lexus :) Sounds good to me too!

  • avatar

    “Toyota and Honda make reliable, well equipped cars. But they haven’t broken the UK market at all.”

    Do you have any insight into why that might be?

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      Probably because compared to the Europeans, most Toyotas and Hondas are incredibly boring to drive.

    • 0 avatar

      outside of a small number (relative to the total market) of Civic and Integra Type-R owners, Honda has never really been seen as a sporty/exciting option in the UK AFAIK.  and they’re not really stylish to look at, so when faced with more known quantities which offer fun to drive and/or stylish choices, Honda ends up sort of being a big “meh” in the mind of many buyers.
      Toyota is even deeper into this as they’ve never produced anything even remotely interesting to drive for sale in europe beyond the IS250 (original).  sure, there have been Celicas and MR2s but those don’t get people to buy dirty-dishwater level of excitement dripping Corollas or Avensis or Camrys or yada^3.
      I don’t see any number of “sport” buttons and modes on a Lexus hybrid as offering anything approaching the driving involvement that you get from a VW/Ford – the acknowledged leaders in such things in B/C/CD cars in general.
      they may get some sales due to being non-diesel with tax-beating CO2 figures, but the real-world economy of HEVs often fails to impress, so one might trade higher taxes for improved running costs, tho I’m not fully versed in the degree to which the lack of road tax would need to be offset by improved economy.

  • avatar

    It’s too bad it looks so much like a Jeep Compass. Other than that this would probably be the only Japanese car i’d consider buying… if they had the balls to bring them over to the U.S., which I’m sure they won’t.

  • avatar

    It’s coming to the US. And it looks nothing like the Compass. Here are some nice pictures:

    • 0 avatar

      Sweet. the Compass-like c-pillar doesn’t look so bad in those pics. It will be interesting to see if Lexus can sell many of them here. Small luxury hatches/wagons don’t exactly fly off the lots in this country.

  • avatar

    Sounds like a good car, but it’s still got a few stumbling blocks in it’s way. 1. Toyota hybrid = no manual transmission option = no youth aspiration. 2. In the states at least, that will look like a Matrix with chrome window trim, much like the HS looks exactly like a Corolla. Aside from the ES, the rest of the Lexus lineup does look like it’s own thing, these two cars fail on that front.
    On the other hand this thing is another hatchback/wagon design out of the Toyota guys, which I love. Also, it seems as if they are dead serious about improving their handling dynamics, something which Chevy (my other least respected car maker) isn’t making as much noise about right now. The interior looks very cool (and more tasteful than the also cool HS’s interior), thank you Brock_Landers for the pics.

  • avatar

    Ugly. C/D pillar treatment is too thick.

  • avatar

    Any word on how much this weighs?  I am curious of how well it will handle with extra weight from batteries.

  • avatar

    “This is why the BMW 1-series is so successful in the UK, despite being quite a poor car.”

    That is, of course, completely untrue.

  • avatar

    Since when is an A4 considered an old man’s car?
    I would think A6 and up, perhaps.
    But A4?
    Does the 3 series scream old as well?????

  • avatar
    Tricky Dicky

    This is the Prius in Lexus guise. More luxury, more peformance, much better handling, less of the pious overtones.
    As for the UK wannabee-premium buyers, I wonder whether Lexus has the testosterone appeal to reach the flashy boys you described Cammy.

  • avatar

    While the interior design of this car is very classy the exterior looks too much like a tarted up Toyota Matrix (particularly in the overall stance and shape of the C pillar).  If Toyota wishes to offer design continuity between its premium and main line brands it should sequence this properly: Lexus should speak the new dialect before Toyota – not the other way around.
    It will be interesting to watch how this sells in the United States.  Were it not for the Toyota Prius I’d be throwing a white sheet over this Lexus and calling the coroner.  However, the Prius demonstrates that Americans are capable of consuming costly techno-efficiency in volume.  Perhaps this little, luxury hybrid hatchback can replicate some fraction of this success.

  • avatar

    Is it wrong that I somewhat want one of these? Yes, I know its FWD. And in a way, it’s based on the Prius (but isn’t the HS250 somewhat the Lexus version of the Prius instead of this?) so power may not be it’s strongpoint… but for an everyday around town car?

  • avatar

    With the exaxt same powertrain that is in the Prius, the CT200’s looks are not going to be backed up by its performance.

    Really, Lexus has their hybrid powertrains mixed up.  This car should get the larger Camry Hybrid powertrain that the HS250 got, which in this car would be good for an 8-second 0-60 scoot.  The HS250, which gets dinged for its poor-for-a-hybrid fuel economy, should have gotten the Prius powertrain.

  • avatar

    Cammy – I’m going to have to disagree with the premise of this article. Not only are you are comparing a yet to be released vehicle to the current A3 and 1 series but the blanket statement that the 1 series is “a poor car” is also somewhat debatable. I have driven a 123d and it doubt that Lexus has what it takes to match it in driving fun and dynamics.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    “In the UK, you have many (and I mean “many”) mid-20′s to early 30 men, who’ve got a half-decent paying job and want to lash out on a car with a luxury make.”

    IIRC, the vast majority of these sales are company cars.

  • avatar

    Looks like luxury Prius meets Mazdaspeed 3.

  • avatar

    I’m actively mulling this one over.  I have the Fit which meets my needs, but has the feel of an econocar.  I would like something more plush in the same form factor.   They just need to price it appropriately since I won’t pay a premium for hybrid.

  • avatar

    This would be much more interesting if it wasn’t a hybrid.  Even the 2.5 v6 from the IS250 would work in this car.  But then all those tax/company car advantages in the UK would be lost.  I can’t imagine choosing this over an A3 TDI.

  • avatar

    I like this. Take the efficiency of a Prius, keep the practical hatchback shape, but make it a little nicer with more features. Mix in some Lexus resale value and you have a interesting little car. It may even compete with non hybrid premium compacts like the Mini Clubman.

  • avatar

    At first glance, I thought that Lexus wised up and finally decided to give us an IS wagon, but it was too good to be true.

  • avatar

    Driving a 3 series means you’re old or a sales rep???  Must be a British thing – I’ve seen one grey hair – ever – driving a 3er, and sales reps getting a 3er to drive in the US is unheard of.

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