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Lexus readies mini-SUV to rival Audi and BMW

By Damion Smy

Spy shots

15 May 2013 13:45

Lexus has confirmed it’s readying a new baby SUV to take on the Audi Q3 and BMW X1, as well as the forthcoming Mercedes GLA – and we’ve caught it testing ahead of its debut at the Tokyo motor show at the end of 2013. The new SUV will be the cheapest Lexus SUV on offer, sitting below the RX in the Japanese brand's range.

Why does this new Lexus SUV look like a CT200h?

That's just the bodyshell hiding the new SUV's running gear, but the Toyota Prius-based CT200h is the biggest-selling Lexus model, and the baby 4x4 will capitalise on its success and may even take over as the brand’s most popular model. The production SUV won’t look like the CT200h, but it will sport the Lexus ‘spindle grille’ design that was introduced on the CT200h in early 2011, and further developed on the revised LS, facelifted RX, and new IS and GS.

The mini-SUV segment is growing rapidly, and Lexus has admitted that it’s lagged behind its German rivals by not offering its own alternative to the Q3 and X1.

This new Lexus 4x4 will surely be a hybrid, then?

If anyone knows hybrids, it’s Toyota, which this year passed 5m total sales of its hybrid drivetrains (including Lexus models) since the first Prius went on sale in 1997. With hybrids prolific across the Lexus range – including the new IS – it’s a key selling point for CO2-conscious buyers. Lexus doesn't offer a single diesel model, so a hybrid version will be crucial to attract European customers.

Toyota’s RAV4 EV, sold in the USA, is built with technology from Tesla, so the new model could benefit from this partnership as well.

Will it offer four-wheel drive?

It’ll have to if it’s to stand a chance against its rivals, who offer entry-level cost-conscious front-wheel drive models with flag-waving mpg and CO2 figures, and premium and performance variants with all-wheel drive. The Lexus will be based on a modified version of the recently released RAV4’s platform, although it won’t be quite as large.

What else will it have?

Expect some of the tech from the new IS and GS to be offered in condensed form. That spells a smattering of leather, obligatory colour multimedia display with a mouse-like centre controller, and a host of electric safety and party goodies as well as Mark Levinson audio. Pricing should start at around £25,000 when the new Lexus SUV arrives in 2014.