As the first UK customers discover for themselves the improvements Lexus has made to the new CT 200h, the model’s chief engineer Chika Kako, has shared her insights into the development priorities for the luxury hybrid hatchback.
Kako is Lexus International’s first female chief engineer and took up responsibility for the CT 200h in June last year. She brings to the job extensive experience within Toyota and Lexus, including work on the RX and IS model ranges.
“When it came to the engineering priorities for the new CT 200h, we wanted to have the best balance between ride comfort and dynamic performance,” she said.
“It was also important – especially for the European market – to reduce CO2 emissions.”
These goals were realised by increasing body rigidity, notably by significantly increasing the number of weld points around the tailgate, adjusting the springs and dampers and retuning the steering for smoother feel and greater responsiveness. Adjustments to the aerodynamics have helped the full hybrid powertrain deliver even greater efficiency, with CO2 levels cut across the board, ranging from just 82 to 88g/km across the range.
“In all we made 94 separate changes to the car, which for a mid-life programme represents a huge effort,” said Kako.
She explained that Lexus listened to customer feedback when planning the new model programme, including concerns about the relationship between sound generated by the transmission and the engine speed.
“Some customers commented about the noise made by the CVT. To solve this we defined the best balance between powertrain noise and vehicle speed to create a more linear feel when moving through the rev range,” she said.
“Eliminating noise from the transmission and striking the right balance in making the car fun to drive and comfortable have delivered a better driving experience than before. I think we have succeeded in making the handling sportier, yet with a more comfortable ride.”
Kako also highlights measures that have raised quality in the cabin and introduced new on-board technology.
“We took steps to improve visual refinement, which you can see in details such as the way leather is used around the gearshift and new trim details. Making the cabin quieter adds to the perceived quality, along with a sportier exhaust note,” she said.
Kako picks out the new, sharper looks of the F Sport model, which give it greater differentiation from the rest of the range, and the improved handling as the changes she thinks are most successful. She also emphasises the importance of distinctive design.
“We have developed a very strong, iconic exterior design language for our cars, a process that began with the GS and continues with the new CT 200h,” she said. “Making our cars more stylish and more fun to drive is what we’re aiming to achieve, while for me my biggest passion is to create a cool interior with innovative solutions and a warm atmosphere.”
The new Lexus CT 200h is available now, priced from £20,995.