Which car in recent history is green, delivers excellent mileage and is sporty? Can't think of one? That's probably because no one has stepped in to fill that void, at least until recently.
That's what Lexus has done - with the Lexus CT 200h premium hatchback. The 'h' in its name means, of course, that it's a hybrid. And this is where it gets interesting. The CT 200h is also meant to be sporty, despite having the engine and transmission from the Toyota Prius.
It uses the same 1.8-litre straight-four with a 60-kilowatt electric motor and continuously variable transmission. On paper, its combined fuel consumption figure is an impressive 24.4km/L (just a smidge behind what the Prius is capable of), and that's where we can clearly see the fuel-efficient part of it. But what about the sporty elements?
Since the CT 200h has its engine in the front and is front-wheel drive, you are probably wondering if this is simply a re-badged Prius. Thankfully, it isn't.
This car platform is based on the same one used in a Lexus HS (a saloon model that's available in the US), but has a 10-centimetre shorter. And while the CT 200h uses MacPherson struts suspension at the front (so does the Prius), the rear is supported by a set of double wishbones - an excellent basis for good handling.
And all of that presents two important questions - does it drive well and is it really fuel-efficient? With 134bhp in total (from its internal combustion engine and electric motor combined), the CT 200h has a not-so-electrifying 0-100km/h time of 10.3 seconds. Setting the car to 'Sport' mode could tickle your senses a little, with its switchable tachometer displaying engine revs instead of the normal power-eco-charge meter, and a change of instrument background lighting from blue to red.
Despite that though, the g force and sensation from your bum during acceleration don't lie - it's not remotely sporty. But all that changes once you hit a bend.
The steering lacks feedback but is nicely weighted, and the front end responds quickly to any little input from your hands. The suspension is also very well damped, although a little firm (and befittingly so). There is little bounce even on slightly bumpy surfaces and the chassis regains composure instantaneously.
What was surprising during out test though was how the rear end behaved. In most FF cars (even some that claim to be sporty), charging hard into a tight bend would mean stepping into Instant Understeer Hell, followed by a loud crashing noise if one is unlucky (or plain silly).
In this, however, you would need to be really silly to get the Lexus to behave like that. The rear end keeps up easily with wherever the front of the car is heading and it even feels like it could oversteer if you simply tried. Lexus' chief engineer for the CT 200h, Osamu Sadakata, told us that the car was set up to minimize understeer. He definitely wasn't bluffing.
On top of all that, the Lexus CT 200h comes with a long list of goodies like reverse camera and sensors, cruise control, automatic headlamps, satnav and so on. But for that, you will have to get the Premium variant. At the other end of the scale, the basic model is as lightly equipped as an Amazonian tribesman - you don't even get reverse sensors, or even leather seats. However, it comes with special, Lexus-developed fabric seats, which feel more like suede than traditional fabric. You can't have the fabric seats and the usual goodies, though.
It's no big loss, especially when the leader seats feel great anyway, just like the rest of the car does. The Lexus CT 200h is as impressive around bends as it is while you are simply commuting (and don't want to waste fuel), and because of that, you will probably be grinning to yourself all the time while driving it. For more info, visit: Lexus Malaysia.