Alan Candy’s road test: Lexus CT 200h

PEOPLE’S favourite Lexus has added a much-needed touch of glamour and conscience to one of the most highly contested sections of the market.

PEOPLE’S favourite Lexus has added a much-needed touch of glamour and conscience to one of the most highly contested sections of the market.

The CT 200h hatchback roars into contention with stunning looks, hybrid engineering to please the green brigade and a whole host of fascinating driving innovations to delight the driver.

Still basking in the triumph of yet another JD Power number one spot for customer satisfaction (the 11th year running), Lexus has produced a stunning car that is a delight to drive, looks the business and is most likely to give years of totally untroubled driving.

Lexus certainly hits the spot on design, as the CT200h is a head-turner.

Low slung and with evil frowning narrow headlamps, smoked rear windows and a narrow strip of back screen and subtle roof spoiler, it makes a definitive statement of intent.

And you won’t find many better built or better looking interiors in this class, either. My test car was kitted out in unusual soft beige leather sports seats with a strangely chintzy pattern, echoed in the door panelling, with a long, low and slender dashboard and small, leather-wrapped steering wheel.

Tactile surfaces and attention to detail make this an inviting domain to enter and Lexus’s insistence on being user-friendly ensures that there is very little head scratching to fathom out the controls – and if I can understand it, believe me, anyone can.

Chronometer-style main dials feature neon-bright needles which spring forward dramatically when the CT200h is powered up (more of that in a minute).

That long, low dash allows good forward vision so that the driver is always in touch with the car and what lies ahead.

All the main information is shown on a large, oblong and slightly clunky main display which folds neatly in and out of the dashboard, but it’s highly visible and functional.

The various modes are easily sieved through with a computer mouse that sits permanently on the centre console, operated by the driver’s left hand, complete with moving on-screen cursor. All very futuristic, but surprisingly easy, despite its daunting appearance.

Size-wise, the Lexus hatch feels low to the road – which results in an excellent centre of gravity and great balance – and headroom is low, with a grab handle above the front door slightly uncomfortably close to the driver’s head.

Although rear legroom is only average, there is plenty of good width and comfort levels are very high, with superb support from those plush seats.

Firing her up is viaa stop-start button and for the uninitiated, I’ll spare you the embarrassment of what I experienced. The catch is that the Lexus starts up silently on the electric motor, the petrol engine bursting to life about a minute later. If you don’t know the secret, you may, like me, just sit there wondering why it won’t start when it fact you’re all ready to move silently away.

It’s also worth remembering at this stage that the CT200h features a space-saving kick-on and off American-style parking brake next to the clutch, just to save you hunting about.

The test car featured a tiny auto gearlever sited high up on the console next to the steering wheel, with gentle nudged movements on the gate.

But my favourite innovation, which delivers genuine choice to the driver, is the circular dial which can be twisted left for eco mode, right for sport or pushed gently inwards for normal.

This arrangement virtually makes the CT2000h three cars in one – and the sports function is a very tempting option when the Lexus hatch responds with such spirit and dynamism. Most of the time the engine is incredibly quiet, but there is some drone under load.

From a driving point of view, the CT200h is always a joy, with tremendous involvement, liquid movement through the bends and graceful progress at all times – the mark of a great car.

With 0 to 62mph acceleration and combined fuel consumption approaching 70mpg, this hybrid is one vehicle that really does let you have your cake and eat it.

No wonder Lexus is everyone’s perennial favourite.

Fast facts

> Lexus CT200h SE-i Hybrid, £23,485.

> World’s first full hybrid in premium compact segment.

> Class-leading CO2 emissions of 94 g/km.

> Zero annual road tax.

> Full hybrid, capable of being driven in EV mode only.

> EV, Eco and Sport on demand driving modes.

> Combined 68.9mpg.