Full Review: 2011 Lexus CT 200h Published: July 6, 2011
We’ve talked a lot here at txGarage about hybrid cars and different fuel efficient technologies and what the best way to go is when living in a state like Texas. Most commuters are not city based, so we drive a lot of highway miles. Hybrid cars are more efficient in the city, stop and go traffic, than they are on the highways. So we’ve suggested that maybe a hybrid isn’t quite the way to go if you are faced with this type of commute.
With that being said, our car of the week is a hybrid based on the Toyota Prius, which we’ve reviewed a few times. If you have read those reviews, you’ll know that while we like the Prius for what it is, we think the new system in the Volt is more advanced, and our biggest complaint with the Prius is the awful interior. So our first thoughts when we knew we would get the CT were that at least it should have a better interior, right?
Yes. The interior isn’t just better than the Prius, it’s as good as or better than most of its competition. That’s saying something as the main competition the CT will be facing is the Audi A3, BMW 1, and Volvo C30; all great little cars. The leather seats are plush and comfortable. The long center console that stretches from the dash all the way back, much like in the Prius, is put together well. In the Prius everything flexes and twists and cracks, but not in this car. The gauge cluster is clean and high-tech looking. The entire cabin is filled with ambient lighting points; it really is a nice place to be.
You can select between different driving modes, we’ll get to those a little later, but one cool point is when you switch to “sport mode” the gauge cluster turns red and the tach that was a hybrid-power indicator transforms into a RPM tach. Buttons on the center-stack are easily read and easy to distinguish.
Lexus touts its interior as “racing-inspired” with its placement of components, angled cockpit-like dash, and low bolstered seats. It definitely has a sporty feel more than an overly luxurious one, that’s not common to see in Lexus.
The exterior looks of this car really shows who Lexus is targeting the CT towards. There is no doubt that Lexus is looking for a younger, more technology driven audience. There is also no doubt that they are targeting this car more toward the European market with its hatchback styling. Every sculpted surface on the CT is said to improve performance and fuel efficiency. The less resistance from air flowing over the car, the less fuel it takes to power it down the road.
Lexus says that the CT has up to 89 individual LED lights, including the standard daytime running lights. These are a nice premium feature and look good no matter how many people tell you Lexus is ripping off Audi. They have also thought a lot about weight distribution in this car and gave it a lower center of gravity than the Prius it’s based upon. To ensure the lowest center of gravity possible, all hybrid components are centrally mounted and high-strength lightweight materials are used extensively throughout the car.
Some complain that the car has an ugly face; some complain that the rear end is big and bulky, but we applaud Lexus for going out on a limb with a design that is a little out there and when you are behind the wheel, it all comes together.
Like we have mentioned a few times, the CT 200h is based on the Toyota Prius, and thus comes equipped with its 1.8 liter gas/electric engine. Combined output is 134 horsepower to the front wheels and via a specialized continuously variable transmission. The weight of the CT does let it down in acceleration as most 0-60 times run in the 10 second range. That isn’t great acceleration, but with the electric motor kicking in while in “sport mode” you can feel the torque.
So the engine isn’t that great and the acceleration is pretty pitiful, so how can Lexus call this a sporty-hybrid? That’s where the handling comes into play. When you switch into “sport mode”, the throttle response comes alive and the steering becomes heavier. It’s a confidence inspiring feeling that is helped by the special suspension found in the Lexus CT. The CT features a combination of independent MacPherson struts up front and a fully independent double-wishbone in the rear. This maximizes comfort and grip and is a great setup. The CT is also home to Yamaha designed lateral performance dampers found mostly in limited-edition performance vehicles. The system is designed to minimize vibrations while providing a more linear steering feel, and thus, improved overall handling. This system can also independently adapt to varying levels of vibration, reducing unnecessary noise and contributing to more comfort.
Basically, it all works together to give you the inputs you want and keep out the vibrations you don’t want. It also feels great going through the corners at a high-rate of speed. We took this car out to some twisty and tight roads around White Rock Lake and some other areas where we like to test handling, and it was fantastic.
Although the CT isn’t quite as fuel efficient as the Prius, its fuel economy is really it’s party piece. The Lexus is easily the most fuel efficient between its competitors. The only one who comes close is the diesel-powered Audi A3, but the combined 42 mpg of the CT 200h is unmatched. We did a lot of “sport mode” testing in the car with high revving and tight cornering, and still averaged 32 mpg.
Your other modes are Eco, Normal, and EV. I wouldn’t even bother much with those as it’s almost dangerous driving with no throttle response.
Overall, I think we were all impressed with the Lexus CT 200h. We were impressed with the interior, the performance, and the overall economy. Throw in that this is Lexus’ cheapest offering basing out just at $30k, and we are even more impressed. This car will not only be cross-shopped with the likes of the Audi A3, BMW 1, and Volvo C30, but at that price, it’s likely to be cross shopped with less expensive vehicles like the Golf or maybe even the Mazda 3. I think Lexus has done a great job showing America that premium and compact can go together. They have ambitious goals for this car stating they would like to be selling around 1000 units a month. That’s more than double what the A3, 1 Series, and C30 usually sell. But it’s first month on the market has rendered 2,199 units sold, and still going strong. Lexus just might have got this one right, we think they did.
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