The new Q30 takes on the more established CT200h in a bid to win over eco-conscious yuppies looking for a premium hatchback.
WHEN Lexus first launched the CT200h in Singapore in 2011, many wondered if the move was a mistake.
Back then, buyers still felt that hatchbacks offered less car for their money because they didn’t have proper boots. The hatchback body style also appealed more to younger buyers, instead of the brand’s typically more mature and well-heeled clientele.
But the CT200h was well-received, with the local agent receiving 70 pre-orders prior to its launch. Lexus even expected the CT200h to eventually account for a third of all its Singapore sales. Six years on, the CT200h’s success is evident in the fact that we still see them on our roads today.
Facing off against the CT200h in this story is its first Japanese rival, the Infiniti Q30, which is built on the same platform as the Mercedes-Benz A-Class.
Like the CT200h, the Q30 only comes in hatchback form. But unlike the Lexus, which is only available as a petrol-electric hybrid, the Infiniti offers two powertrain options – a turbocharged petrol 2-litre and a 1.5-litre turbo-diesel, which we tested here.
Walking up to both hatchbacks, it’s hard not to be drawn to the Q30, which has a mix of both taut and curvy lines. I also like the Infiniti’s slim headlamps and tail-lights, which add to the car’s allure.
The CT200h, on the other hand, looks more masculine with its straight lines and sharp angles. It also hides its age well. Thanks to a facelift three years ago, this Lexus still looks fresh. Check out that front “spindle” grille, which looks as aggressive as the ones on its siblings.
Strangely, the mid-life update left the cabin untouched. But that doesn’t mean the CT’s interior is poorly constructed. As you’d expect in any Lexus, the build quality is faultless.
But compared to the Q30, the CT’s unchanged cabin does look old. It didn’t help that the only test-car available was the entry-level Executive variant, which has a basic hi-fi unit instead of the more advanced Remote Touch Interface infotainment system.
LEXUS CT200h 1.8 EXECUTIVE (A)
ENGINE 1798cc, inline-4, 16-valves, hybrid
MAX POWER 134bhp at 5200rpm
MAX TORQUE 142Nm at 2800-4400rpm
POWER TO WEIGHT 95bhp per tonne
0-100KM/H 10.3 seconds
TOP SPEED 180km/h
CONSUMPTION 24.4km/L (combined)
CO2 EMISSION 95g/km
PRICE INCL. COE On application
INFINITI Q30 1.5 PREMIUM (A)
ENGINE 1461cc, inline-4, 16-valves, turbo-diesel
MAX POWER 108bhp at 4000rpm
MAX TORQUE 260Nm at 1750-2500rpm
POWER TO WEIGHT 72.7bhp per tonne
GEARBOX 7-speed dual-clutch with manual select
0-100KM/H 11.9 seconds
TOP SPEED 190km/h
CONSUMPTION 20km/L (combined)
CO2 EMISSION 113g/km
PRICE INCL. COE $151,800 (after $10k CEVS rebate)
The CT200h cockpit, however, is more intuitive than the Q30’s. And despite being the base variant, the Lexus still offers electrically adjustable seats with a three-position memory function, as opposed to the Infiniti’s manual controls.
Although the Q30’s manually adjusted seats seem pedestrian, the rest of its cabin is far from ordinary. Features such as the leather-trimmed dashboard and generous dashes of metal applique make the Q30’s cockpit feel classier than its rival’s.
The added functionality of the Q30’s infotainment system is also more useful, especially if you like having Bluetooth telephony and media streaming.
There’s even a handy pair of USB ports near the gearshift lever, which are handy for charging smartphones.
The only bugbears in the Q30’s cockpit are its pedals, which are placed too close to the driver, and the overall visibility, which is narrower than in the CT200h.
Both cars’ backseat accommodations are a mixed bag. The Q30 has rear air-con vents and its wheelbase is longer than the CT’s (2700mm versus 2600mm), but its legroom is only slightly better than the Lexus’.
Despite its narrower backseat, the CT’s almost-flat rear floor actually makes it easier to squeeze in a third passenger. Middle occupants in the Q30 have to sit with their legs akimbo.
Although the Q30 and CT200h offer eco-luxury motoring instead of warm-hatch performance, they are well-suited to city driving conditions.
With its petrol-electric drivetrain combining a 1.8-litre 4-cylinder and an electric motor, the CT200h is particularly suited to stop-and-go driving.
At low to moderate speeds, the car is powered solely by the electric motor, which draws energy from the nickel-metal hydride batteries.
At higher speeds, or when more power is needed, the combustion engine starts up and works in tandem with the electric motor. The switchover between petrol power and electric drive is seamless, and overall, the CT200h is more responsive than the Q30.
Based on paper figures, you might think that the Q30 is a lackadaisical drive, since it only has 108bhp versus 134bhp for the CT200h, and its century sprint time of 11.9 seconds is 1.6 seconds slower than the Lexus.
However, what the Q30’s 1.5-litre turbo-diesel 4-cylinder lacks in horsepower, it certainly makes up for in torque.
With 260Nm available from just 1250rpm, compared to 142Nm at 2800rpm in the CT200h, the Q30’s punchier low-end actually makes it the more delightful drive.
Just as delightful are the Q30’s more agile handling and more precise steering. The CT200h, on the other hand, compels with its quieter and more refined ride.
And when it comes to efficiency, it’s also the CT200h that takes the lead, with its hybrid drivetrain capable of delivering fuel economy of up to 24.4km per litre, versus the Q30’s 20km per litre.
Lexus has the edge in this eco-luxury encounter, as the CT200h is both efficient and refined. But the Q30 isn’t far behind.
In fact, I wouldn’t mind exchanging a bit of eco-friendliness for a more engaging drive.
PHOTOS VERNON WONG
ART DIRECTION MICHAEL CHIAN