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Lexus is extending its range to include this compact model, the CT 200h, a rival for the Audi A3, BMW 1 Series and Mercedes CLC. The new car is fitted with a hybrid drive-train, a first in this segment of the market.

Lexus and other challengers haven't had much success in their efforts to loosen the grip of the leading German manufacturers on the premium sector in Europe - the position is rather different in North America, of course – but the timing of the CT 200h's arrival seems to be fairly auspicious. All of the German rivals are now getting a bit long in the tooth; the Audi A3 was introduced in 2003 and the BMW 1-Series followed in 2004. Mercedes' CLC was launched in 2008 but was really a heavy reworking of the 2002 C-Class Sport CoupĂ©, rather than an all-new model. All three are still fairly strong products, but the crisply styled CT 200h is bound to turn more than a few customers' heads, if only on the grounds of novelty.

The hybrid drive-train is another area of advantage for Lexus. Mercedes has hybrid technology on one or two of its bigger cars (although they aren't sold in the UK market) but none of the German manufacturers has anything to offer in this area of the market at the moment. And as Lexus reminds us, its hybrids are "full hybrids" capable of travelling in "electric-only" mode; that means near-silent, zero-emission running, if only for very short distances (1.2 miles in the case of the CT 200h).

source: independent

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