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First Drive: Lexus CT 200h

A major refresh when a new model is perhaps what’s really needed, suggests Craig Thomas.

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SECTOR Lower Medium   PRICE £23,495-£30,495   FUEL 68.9-74.3mpg   CO2 88-94g/km

The CT was a genuine ground-breaker when it launched in 2011. A premium hatchback with a hybrid powertrain, it not only stood out against the competition (Audi A3, BMW 1 Series, etc) but the resulting economy and emissions figures made it a serious proposition for fleets – part of the reason why it instantly became the Japanese brand’s best-seller.

Six years on, and, considering the life cycles of most car models, it would be reasonable to assume that a new generation was due, but instead we’re getting an update, with the emphasis on making the CT stylistically more of a modern Lexus.

Taking cues from the recent LC and upcoming LS, the CT adopts the now-familiar spindle grille (a matter of taste, one strongly suspects), LED headlights and L-shaped daytime running lights. It’s a similar story at the rear, with new lights and bumper, while there are also new alloy wheel designs. Interior changes include a larger 10.3-inch display for the navigation and media features, and updates to the upholstery and trim.

F Sport models also receive sportier design elements (mesh grille, metallic black elements, bolder new paint colours – including two-tone options – and some interior trim seat upholsteries).

All of these cosmetic changes certainly go some way to updating the CT – as does the addition of the Lexus Safety System +, which brings the car’s safety tech up to date.

It’s under the skin where the CT really needed some updates: the car’s weak spots lie in the departments of ride quality and handling (the former is too firm, the latter has grip issues), but both will have to wait for an all new car. If Lexus wants to maintain the CT’s appeal, it needs more fundamental changes. A new generation should emerge sooner rather than later.

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Craig Thomas

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