As expected, Lexus is odds-on to scrap the CT small hatchback and replace it with a small crossover SUV sharing some bits with the Toyota C-HR, to better capitalise on demand at the lower end of the luxury market.
The CT200h is Lexus' smallest car, and also its only vehicle sold exclusively with a petrol-electric hybrid drivetrain. Yet its global sales haven't been spectacular, with the key US market even dropping the model for 2018.
Australia persists with an updated version. Yet the CT is now about seven years into its life-cycle, meaning a replacement is getting overdue.
You can well expect this crossover rival for the Mercedes GLA and Audi Q2 to sport a relatively bold, ambitious design language that takes much from the 2016 UX crossover concept – a badge it has patented – plus this week’s bold LF-1 Limitless crossover concept.
While a conventional hybrid drivetrain option is a given, there’s also a shot at it being offered as a PHEV or EV as well, either from launch or mid life-cycle.
Lexus announced just this week that it intends to offer electrified versions of all its models by 2025. By this it means either hybrid, PHEV, EV or fuel cell, or combinations thereof. Its global architectures (GA) shared with Toyota were built from scratch to allow just this.
One might easily imagine the Lexus CT successor, maybe to carry the UX name, to use the GA-C (TNGA) platform that underpins the Toyota Prius, C-HR and the next-generation Corolla, which we’ve noted greatly improves the ride and handling compared to predecessors.
We had a good chat with Yoshihiro Sawa, the president of Lexus International, in Detroit this week, and while he naturally played his cards close to his chest, didn’t exactly douse our line of enquiry.
"We already introduced a show car called UX, and we are studying that concept, because just the 'two box’ [industry parlance for hatch] is kind of facing very hard competition," he said.
"No luxury hatchback becomes luxury now… so we have to be different again, from others. So that’s why we introduced the UX concept… if it’s a one-of-a-kind small vehicle probably some people will really like it."
In other words, vehicles such as the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz A-Class, while popular, have such tough competition from 'mainstream’ brands that they lose the lustre of 'luxury’, and that Lexus believes an edgy crossover is a better way to make itself both exclusive and attainable.
The UX measured 4400mm long and rode on 2640mm wheelbase, compared to the NX SUV’s 4630mm length and 2660mm wheelbase. That’s a good indicator.
When might we see a Lexus UX production car, to sit below the top-selling NX? Tough to say, though the average seven-year life cycle of cars suggests it might be soon. Lexus does tend to play its cards close to its chest, so anything is possible.
We won’t pretend to know for sure, since anything short of breaking into Lexus HQ won’t give us a concrete answer. Yet.