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Sophisticated hybrid welcome up north; full chat.

Byline: STEVE ORME

SYMPATHY abounds for beleaguered BBC staff facing the prospect of moving the Volvo to the north of England. This is probably akin to being told your new office is a tent in Kandahar and key tasks will include mine clearing with a coal shovel. Firstly there is the education of your children. Often many northern schools are closed due to outbreaks of rickets.

And every street is made up of back to backs with hot and cold running sores.

As for culture, well entertainment centres abound making animal shape shadows on the wall by candlelight and eating potatoes impaled on sticks cooked in the embers of a book burning. Then there are the cars. Research has determined there were it not for the drivers of Camden, Westminster and Islington the world would actually have already ended and Bruce Forsyth would not have his knighthood.

The low carbon motor festival, EcoVelocity, has identified London as the capital of green cars with more hybrids registered there and 93 charging points for EVs.

Not surprisingly the north comes somewhat further behind, what with cars being powered by coal and electricity yet to be invented. Let's look at one of these fashionable cross breeds, although obviously those on a lamplighter's wage won't be able to afford the pounds 25,800 demanded for a Lexus CT 200h, new gateway to the luxury range.

Think of the 200h as an upmarket Toyota Prius on an independently sprung chassis harbouring an attempt to turn the powertrain into something sporty. Hybrid drive is where you would expect to find slightly more Victorian attitude to the motor car so it is not clear why the soldering iron has been out to programme power delivery. The result is 62mph in 10 seconds, about what the Honda CR-Z hybrid manages. Not that it is compulsory to bare the table legs. The level of planet abuse can be selected via knob on the centre console, eco, normal or sport.

Eco diverts energy from functions like air conditioning, normal is, well, normal and sport certainly beings a busy tone to the 1.8 four-cylinder engine.

And to the relief of all in W3 the familiar energy flow graphics and blue goodie meter to guide you to consumption which can top off at 70mpg with 94g/km.

It's a classy dash and when sport is engaged the battery charge monitor become a rev counter. Neat trick. Work on the underpinnings brings a fair bit of grip but remember, winding lanes can be full of people who have never heard of Heston's snail porridge. For best results the 200h is at home on motorways and in suburbia where the 81bhp electric motor has a chance to boost consumption.

And so to the creature comforts. The SE-I does not have leather seats but aside from that trim is up to standard and equipment what you would expect. No big surprises but a canal barge of braking and traction technology and warning kit.

Any suggestion that a car is 'sporty' normally means it isn't. I've never seen the point. If it's fast it's fast and comfortable is comfortable. And that's the style we expect from Lexus.

Even up north.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Aug 12, 2011
Words:535
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