2011 Lexus CT200h

23 Dec 2010 | 2,025 views | No Comment
  By John Heilig Specifications    Model: Lexus Ct200h Engine: 1.8-liter I4 with 201.6-volt battery Horsepower/Torque: 134 hp (98@ 5,200 rpm + 32)/105 lb.-ft. @ 4,000 rpm Transmission: CVT Wheelbase: 102.4 in. Length/Width/Height: 170.1 x 64.5 x 56.7 in. Tires: P215/45R17 Cargo volume: 14.3 cu. ft. Fuel economy: 43 mpg city/40 mpg highway/42 mpg test Fuel capacity: 9.9 gal.  Curb weight: 3,130 lbs. Sticker: under $32,000 base   Five reasons to buy this car 1. Entry level Lexus 2. You want Prius cache with a Lexus badge 3. Be the first on your block 4. Practical besides hybrid economy 5. Very nice compact car package    The Bottom Line: Lexus is betting that the market will soon be strong for a compact hatchback Lexus hybrid that is essentially the same as a Prius, but with a Lexus badge. The CT200h has the possibility of being a big winner, or of being Lexus's Edsel if the market doesn't come to it.                       Lexus claims the compact entry level luxury hybrid market today amounts to about 500 cars per month. It expects that market to double with the introduction of the Lexus CT200h hybrid in early 2011. The challenge for Lexus is to: a) create the demand for that many vehicles, and 2)  convince people that a hatchback Lexus isn't an anachronism. It's a big challenge.   Despite the many advantages of the CT200h (it has essentially Prius underpinnings, so its heritage is good), the car is still saddled with unusual styling.  It's a hatchback Lexus, as we said, and that ain't all bad. But there's also an odd triangular-shaped window that appears to have no function other than provide a view into the cargo area. It doesn't help rear seat passengers see out, so one wonders why it's there.           Okay, enough carping. Behind the wheel the CT200h has a quiet ride, depending on road surfaces. Like many small cars, ride silence (or lack of it) is dependent on road quality; decent road, decent silence, concrete or otherwise, noisy ride. This is not a fault of the CT200h per se, just a complaint about many small cars in general, and it may be the fault of the tire manufacturers.             The hybrid motor (gasoline engine and electric) combine to provide decent power when needed. If you need acceleration, it's there, unless you're drag racing a Shelby Mustang or its ilk. We also found that on the Florida highways we drove in our test, fuel economy was decent, 42 mpg. Other journalists had numbers in the 50s, so that's a good sign.            The front seats offer excellent side support, belying the rather normal handling of the CT. Granted, Florida doesn't have super winding roads (and almost no hills), so we didn't challenge the car that much, but handling was decent.            Seat fabric is of a new material called NuLuxe, which simulates leather quite well. It's hard to tell it from the rear thing. I'll bet cows are happy.   My co-driver and I were impressed by the very good HVAC system with handy controls that are well integrated into the dash. The audio system, however, seems like an afterthought in a non-navigation system car. It's worse in navigation system-equipped cars. There are no presets without having to go to the navi screen. Whatever happened to plain old push buttons?           The navi system itself rises from the dash and can be lowered, so if you're not using it, it isn't a distraction.   On the console is a rotary control that you use to switch among modes. It isn't a sophisticated system like in the Infiniti or BMW models, but it does the job. It's easy to learn.            For audio, there's a USB/AUX and+12V connection in the center console. there's also a small "key" holder ahead of the U SB/AUX. Ahead of that is a cubby to fit a Garmin holder. A nice c\small cubby to its left holds the navi controls.  The second row seat folds flat for more cargo capacity. When it's up, you can stow roll-on luggage in the trunk. The rear seat also offers good legroom.           Among the many challenges facing Lexus with the CT200h are getting people to use "fun to drive" and "luxury hybrid" in the same sentence. The designers focused on handling and ride comfort, and while we didn't severely test the handling, we did enjoy the ride comfort.           We were told by Lexus executives that the CT200h can be a game changer for Lexus. Let's hope for their sake that the game result is a good one and not an exercise in futility.

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