Kez Casey | Oct 4, 2011 | 1 Comment

LEXUS CT 200H REVIEW

TMR’s long-term Lexus CT 200h F Sport arrived at just the right time: right on the nose for a holiday break. So, what better to do than mount up for the quintessential Aussie road trip?

What we wanted to find out was how the little Lexus hybrid would cope as a highway tourer, and how we’d cope at the wheel. It’s just a city car isn’t it? We’d reckon that’s what most would be thinking.

Our planned trip saw us running west from Melbourne to Lismore in rural Victoria, on route to Mount Gambier in South Australia.

The return trip had us looping back along the Great Ocean Road from Warrnambool to Port Campbell, skirting spectacular Cape Otway, and then on to Torquay before slotting back home via Geelong.

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The route had us on everything from freeways to back-roads.

While most of the trip was on bitumen, there was the odd foray onto gravel and even some scrub tracks - it’s a fact of life in getting places in Australia.

We also saw plenty of winding roads and tight curves allowing us to test the CT 200h’s chops in Sports mode.

The vast majority of the trip was serene and quiet, with the drivetrain providing little more than a murmur for highway travel. When given its head on a back road however, we found the F-Sport quite willing to boogie; there’s enough underfoot for some entertaining driving.

The numb steering however does little to excite, and it’s too heavy. The CT 200h can also be a little noisy down below on gravel and corrugations (perhaps betraying its ‘city-car’ intent).

The CVT (continuously variable automatic transmission) works well and is quick to pick a lower ratio when put under load through the hills or into a corner.

With Eco mode selected, things are pretty relaxed, but, on steeper hills, speed can fall away quickly. In Eco, only a stubborn throttle prod will remind the hybrid drivetrain of what it should be doing.

There are no such issues In Normal or Sport mode - just the slipping drone of the engine held at a point in revs while the CVT juggles the ratios to get the job done.

But, acceleration, even with higher revs on board (and some echoes of Corolla-style thrash), is not exactly sprightly - the CT 200h’s weight dulls things a little. We also had a bit of holiday weight on board though.

Accommodation is ok, but tall passengers will find headroom lacking due to the sunroof’s intrusion into cabin space. Lumbar support was also sorely missed by our long-legged passenger on the longer driving legs.

No such problem with the electrically-adjusting driver’s seat which is easy to tailor for long-range comfort.

While one of us packed heavily and the other a little more reasonably, there was enough space for a week’s worth of luggage to be contained solely in the boot (but it’s a surprisingly shallow load area).

So, all up, despite a few debits, not a bad report-card for the compact Lexus hybrid on the ‘holiday haul’. Its abilities as a generally relaxed highway tourer quite surprised us. And it happily and imperiously sailed past petrol stations.

The most alarming moment came with the appearance of the low-fuel light 33 kilometres out of Hamilton; a quick flick through the trip computer showed a cruising range of 36 kilometres left in the tank - a dangerously short warning for rural travelling.

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With just one kilometre to empty showing on-screen and running in Electric-only mode we coasted into Hamilton only to find the first service station closed.

The second was boarded up, and finally we rolled silently into the third, which happily supplied us with the required premium juice.

Keeping a more watchful eye on the tank, we continued on with little further issue. For the long miles on the road, the punchy stereo with iPod connectivity was a godsend - so too the sat-nav system.

The best trick the Lexus offers though is the ability to pull out of hotel car parks silently in EV mode, much to the bemusement of locals along the way.

By the end of the journey we had covered 1620 kilometres and, despite some hilly terrain and enthusiastic driving in places, we recorded 4.9 l/100 km for the trip.

Our overall economy for the week settled on 5.2 l/100 km. Very pleasing on the wallet.

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