Toyota is spreading its hybrid technology throughout the range, and is now putting the engine that started life in the Prius into its first premium car – the Lexus CT200h.
The engine that sits underneath the Lexus is identical to that which currently belongs to the Prius, and the Auris hybrid that also made its debut at Geneva.
The big selling point for this particular model is the premium status that comes with the Lexus brand. Lexus says it will enjoy a hefty dose of the high levels of equipment that the brand's customers expect.
"The CT200h will look to offer specification that you can't typically get in this segment," said a spokesman for the company. This should result in toy levels equivalent to the RX450h SUV for the sector.
This is also the smallest car that Lexus will have made, with the company never having made anything smaller than the BMW 3 series rivalling IS before. As a result of this, and the advancement of the hybrid technology across its range, the company expects the CT200h to be a very important car for it. It predicts that it will sell between 3,000 and 3,500 a year in the UK. As Lexus sold around 7,500 cars in 2009 in the UK, the CT200h will have a lot to answer for in the company's future.
Under the skin, the CT200h promises to be good, with the 1.8-litre hybrid engine from the Prius promising decent economy and emissions without completely compromising performance.
As the development is not quite yet done, we don't know exactly what to expect in terms of emissions and economy, but Lexus anticipates it will emit around or just above 95g/km CO2, and offer fuel consumption of about 60mpg or more.
This is not as impressive as the Prius, but a changed suspension setup that looks to offer a more involved drive is the basis behind that. It will also offer a choice of three different driving modes, as the Prius does. However, the modes will be Eco, Normal and Sport, while the Prius has power as the top level. It will not change the suspension settings, as some cars do, but it will alter elements such as throttle response to provide a more involved drive. Performance figures should therefore be acceptable, without providing too much of a thrill – 0-62 should come in about 10.2 seconds.
The looks may end up splitting opinion. We like the hatchback rear end, but feel it may not appeal to all. It has a feel of the latest generation of the Subaru Impreza to it – a car that has courted as much controversy as it has attracted praise. It is bold in its design though, something that couldn't be said of the latest offerings from Volkswagen and Audi in the sector.
The front is less exciting, and could almost be described as bland. It has a very Lexus-like feel to it though, and the familial resemblance to its IS and RX relations is noticeable. The lack of radicalism is probably something to do with the fact that this is not a concept - it will definitely go on sale, and not soon enough according to Lexus. Expect to see it in dealerships from January 2011.