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Future models - Lexus - CT - 200h

First small Lexus promises best-in-class dynamics

Euro vision: Lexus claims the CT200h’s handling was honed in Europe to exceed the formidable standards expected in the 1 Series/A3-dominated compact luxury car class.

Sydney show debut for CT200h on the cards as Lexus promises sporty handling

12 Aug 2010

LEXUS has issued photographs, fresh details and even video of its forthcoming CT200h small-car in its final phase of development, spruiking the front-drive hybrid hatchback’s sporty handling ahead of its launch in Europe and Australia in early 2011.

A possible star attraction at the Sydney motor show in October as Lexus Australia this week advised it was hopeful of securing an example for the event, the CT200h is the Toyota luxury division’s smallest-ever model and will compete with the likes of the BMW 1 Series and Audi A3.

At this stage, the CT is restricted to a single, high-economy drivetrain based on the Prius – that is, a 1.8-litre petrol engine (73kW/142Nm in Prius) combined with an electric motor which will be more powerful than the 60kW/207Nm ‘3JM’ unit offered in the Toyota, but is still to be specified.

The CT200h is based on a heavily reworked version of the Toyota small-car platform that underpins the Prius, Corolla and RAV4, but comprises numerous exclusive chassis components.

As per the Prius, but unlike all other Lexus models on sale in Australia, the CT hybrid drives only its front wheels through a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

However, it remains to be seen how much additional power has helped prompt the significant chassis and bodyshell reinforcement measures wrought on the compact Lexus, further details of which have now been released.

Lexus says the extensive changes aim to give the CT200h class-leading handling, and “to ensure that it will put a smile on the face of the driver”.

“From the outset, Lexus has aimed to make the CT200h a true driver’s car,” the company said this week.

“Delivering on this promise was not a matter of finding some clever add-on parts, but required fundamental reappraisal of the chassis and bodyshell design.”

31 center imageLeft: Lexus C-Premium sketch. Below: Lexus LF-Ch Concept.

As we reported in February, chief among the changes is a new double-wishbone independent rear suspension to replace the torsion bar set-up fitted to the Prius (and the related Corolla), while a “bespoke” version of the Corolla’s MacPherson strut front suspension is also applied.

Lexus has now also confirmed its first hatchback will be the first volume production models to employ lateral “performance” dampers, in the form of horizontal monotube shock absorbers mounted between both the front suspension towers and across the lower rear panel, in order to increase torsional rigidity, reduce vibration and improve ride comfort.

Lexus claims the effect is to absorb and minimise unwanted vibrations, in particular through the floor, as well as to improve steering feel. It also says body deformation is significantly reduced – to the tune of 15 per cent – as a result.

There is currently no indication of whether these engineering improvements will also be applied to the Prius, but a Lexus spokesperson told GoAuto they should remain exclusive to the premium brand.

Combined with a host of other “strategic strengthening” measures and optimised weld points, Lexus describes the result as “a car that lets the driver enjoy an added performance dimension, supported by a choice of Dynamic and Relaxing driver ‘moods’ and selectable Sport, Normal and Eco drive modes”.

These modes are also available on the Prius, but have been retuned to better suit the Lexus marque.

As we have reported, the CT200h is 140mm shorter overall than the Prius at 4320mm, as well as 20mm narrower at 1765mm and 50mm lower at 1430mm high. It rides on the same 2600mm wheelbase as the Corolla – 100mm shorter than that of the closely related MkIII Prius.

Like the Prius and British-built Auris HSD, which is now on sale in Europe and the UK, the CT200h comes with a zero-emissions electric drive mode for up to 2km at speeds of under about 45km/h, while switching to Sport mode turns the instrument panel and centre console spotlight to red.

Lexus says the vehicle’s handling was developed specifically to appeal to European customers, and that final dynamic testing was carried out on European roads to ensure the all aspects of the car’s suspension, steering, regenerative braking system and full hybrid powertrain “meet the standards expected in the highly competitive market for compact luxury cars”.

The CT200h will be positioned below the IS sedan at around $50,000, although this is still to be confirmed pending negotiations with head office.

Final specifications will be revealed at the Paris motor show on September 30, the day before the CT200h’s European launch.

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