Lexus CT 200h 2011 Review: A beautiful entrant into the luxury hybrid market
Our review of the 2011 Lexus CT 200h, which will become the first, true gasoline/electric hybrid car in the U.S. premium compact market.
Toyota will be introducing the new Lexus CT 200h hybrid hatchback to the U.S. market sometime in 2011. The sporty, ultra-low emission, European-style hatchback will become the first, true gasoline/electric hybrid car in the premium compact market segment in the country.
Toyota appears to be targeting the Lexus CT 200h squarely at younger, more environmentally-conscious buyers in an apparent bid to broaden the Lexus customer base. The car was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in mid-2010 and was originally slated for sale only in Europe, until Toyota executives in the U.S. convinced the company to make it available in the U.S. as well.
Below, we review the Lexus CT 200h hybrid hatchback.
Technical Features: The front-wheel drive, 4-door, 5-passenger Lexus CT 200h is Toyota’s second hybrid in its luxury line-up, the other one being the HS 250h sedan. The Lexus CT 200h will feature a hybrid system that is similar to the one found in Toyota’s popular Prius.
The Lexus CT 200h will be powered by a four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle 1.8-liter, energy-storing, continuously variable transmission gas engine that generates 98 hp. The car will come with a conventional nickel hydride battery pack rather than a Lithium-Ion one, which means that it will not support plug-in charging capabilities at least in its first iteration.
The Lexus CT 200h engine integrates two electric motors. One of them is designed to function largely as an engine-driven generator for battery charging purposes, while the other will function as drive motor for the front wheels. The battery-pack itself is situated to the rear of the vehicle for better weight distribution.
Size: One major difference between the Lexus CT 200h and Toyota’s other hybrids is the fact that the new car features a totally new front-wheel drive platform. As a result, the Lexus CT 200h has a shorter wheelbase than the Toyota Prius, but is about an inch wider, and about 2.4 inches lower to the ground.
Overall, the hybrid car clocks in at 102.4 inches in length, 69.5 inches width, and 56.7 inches height. The Lexus CT 200h has a curb weight of 3200 pounds which puts it right in between the Prius and the HS.
Efficiency / Fuel Economy: Toyota itself has not yet released fuel economy numbers for the Lexus CT 200h, though the company has claimed that the new hybrid’s small size and aerodynamics will enable better fuel-efficiency than the 50 mpg currently offered by the Prius. The actual EPA ratings for the Lexus CT 200h are 42 mpg, which puts it roughly in the same ballpark as the 2011 Toyota Prius and the 2011 Honda Civic Hybrid. The hybrid car will come with three driving modes: Eco, Normal and Sport.
Design and Ergonomics: As can be expected with any vehicle bearing the Lexus insignia, the exterior of the Lexus CT 200h is an embodiment of style and finesse. The vehicle is clearly designed to catch the eye of younger buyers and features a sporty, yet elegant exterior aesthetic. The front of the vehicle, with its deep front bumper, wide-tracked stance, sculpted front wings, headlamp clusters and new, arrowhead-shaped LED daytime running lamps, is designed to convey an impression of power and precision. The sleek new frontal design, the sweeping lines of the Lexus CT 200h and its low center of gravity increase its aerodynamics and reduce drag, resulting in better fuel efficiency.
The snazzy exterior is complemented by an interior featuring all the bells and whistles that one expects from a Lexus. Despite the compact size and full hybrid features of the Lexus CT 200h, the car is surprisingly roomy. The interior highlights include NuLuxe, a synthetic leather-like upholstery, metal cabin accents, tilt and telescoping steering, driver seat with ten-way power control, a six speaker audio system, USB inputs, iPod control and a cell-phone link.
Price: The Lexus CT 200h hybrid hatchback will retail in the U.S with a starting price tag of $29,995, which is a shade higher than that for the Audi A3 TDI diesel, Honda Civic Hybrid and Lincoln MKZ hybrid - the three cars which Car & Driver magazine expects will be the main competition.