Lexus launches new hybrid
Move over Audi A3 and Volvo C30 – there’s a new luxury hatchback in town. It’s called the CT200h and Lexus claims that it will be the only dedicated hybrid in its class when it comes to market in early 2011.
If you’re wondering why Lexus is choosing to cram yet another vehicle into the affordable end of its lineup, you’re not alone. After all, Lexus already offers the IS250 / IS350 performance sedans, the ES350 luxury sedan, and the HS250h hybrid sedan. So why add another player?
For the answer, look to Europe where Lexus has been eager to expand its market share. The CT200h, with its spacious hatchback bodystyle and high fuel economy, is the company’s first major attempt to court buyers across the pond.
Here in the States, the CT200h makes far less sense. It has to slot into an already-crowded hybrid lineup with only a few thousand dollars to separate it from the larger HS250h sedan above and the Toyota Prius below.
In fact, the CT200h appears to share much of its equipment with its little brother. Details are still coming in, but the 1.8-liter Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain and advanced Dynamic Radar Cruise Control system appear to have been lifted straight from the Prius.
What you do get with the CT200h, however, is a unique body and some nifty techno-tricks, like four adjustable driving modes and a new soft-touch synthetic upholstery called NuLuxe™ (traditional leather will be an option). Lexus claims that the new model will, “excite eco-conscious, young consumers and symbolize urban luxury living.”
With so little difference in price, performance, and MPG between the company’s dedicated hybrid models, the CT200h will have a difficult role to play. Will the fresh sheetmetal and eco-friendly upholstery be enough to impress American customers without cannibalizing sales from the Prius or HS250h?