Lexus has thrust its new CT 200h hybrid hatchback straight into competition with the BMW 1-series and Audi A3 with the bold claim that it will be the dynamic benchmark for the sector.
Can a brand better known for producing immaculately built luxury barges really build a sporting hatch? We're about to find out...
Lexus CT 200h: a sporty hybrid?
It only takes a cursory glance at the latest press material from Lexus to discover how it's pitching the CT, containing as it does more references to the word 'sporty' than you can shake a gearstick at.
Honda has recently shown with the CR-Z that hybrid power doesn't have to mean a snooze-fest on the twisties, and it would seem that Lexus wants a slice of the cake.
The Japanese manufacturer appears to be taking on something of a Jekyll-and-Hyde personality of late, with the mental LF-A and slightly less mental IS F offering a marked contrast to the softly-softly approach taken by other cars in the range. A sharp-handling hatch would take this to a new level.
How does Lexus plan to make the CT 200h dynamically competitive?
The handling characteristics of the CT have apparently been designed with European customers in mind, with Lexus claiming to have given special attention to structural rigidity and damping. The driving position has also been looked at in detail, with engineers looking to get the drivers' hips as close as possible to the centre of gravity.
As is the fashion these days, the CT will also be offered with a range of selectable driving modes labelled 'Sport', 'Normal' and 'Eco'. However, this doesn't appear to provide much interactivity as it only controls throttle response and, somewhat bizzarely, the air-conditioning.
But a sporty Lexus? Really?
Take the LF-A and IS F out of the equation for a minute, and you're left with a mainstream range not exactly awash with B-road talent. Nor does Lexus have a history in such cars, so it would appear to have set itself a considerable task in taking on BMW. As such, we'll reserve judgement on the CT 200h until we've actually driven it.
Meanwhile, you can read about CAR's first ride in the CT 200h in the new September issue, out on 18 August.