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by Tony West and Jamar Lee
Lexus is a major force in the luxury hybrid market. With luxury and efficiency offered at different price point, Lexus hybrids are the stylish alternative to the Prius and the Fortwo. The 2013 Lexus CT200h hatchback with a base price of 32k is moving major units because of its combined EPA of 42 mpg.
The 2013 CT200h should compete with the new Mercedes CLA and the Audi A3. Competing with the Chevy Cruze Eco and the Ford C-Max Energi, the CT200h has a chance. The CT200h kept many design elements from 2012. The exterior has the familiar Lexus spindle grille with 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels. The CT200h also has LED low beams and LED side turn signals. The tail lamps feature the stylish L-shaped motif. And the F-Sport package adds mesh inserts in the front grilled and metal front scuff plates.
Exterior unchanged with Lexus-like interior
Buyers may need to purchase additional packages with comfort and luxury features for the CT200h to feel like a typical Lexus. 38k later, the fully loaded CT200h is much less Lexurious than the Lexus ES hybrid that’s nearly the same price. I get it- the CT200h is a hatchback not a mid-size sedan. Still it was impossible for 6-foot Correspondent Jamar or 5”5” Editor Sommer to get comfortable in the CT200h. The seatbacks in the front and rear are too low and the lumbar area seems to protrude too much. With low seatbacks in the rear and a small rear windshield, the rear passenger’s head blocks the driver’s rear view.The CT200h weighs 3,196 lbs, yet had little trunk space or legroom. The only storage besides the trunk and the glove box is a small center compartment. I guess the engine and the 2 electric motors is why the CT200h rides heavy, as the body felt very light.
Hybrid Compact Handling
The CT200h comes standard with the 1.8 liter 4-cylinder gas engine with 98 horsepower and 105 lb-ft of torque. The engine is coupled to electric drive motor that directs the front wheels and aids regenerative braking, and a second electric motor that starts the engine. The electric motor has a max output of 80 horsepower making the total output for the CT200h 135 horsepower. Direct fuel injection and variable valve timing add efficiency to the small engine.
The engine and motor are matted to an Electronically Controlled Continuously Variable Transmission. A Drive Mode Selector allows drivers to adjust throttle response to Normal, Eco, and Sport mode. Normal mode, for everyday driving, has a linear throttle response. In Eco mode, air conditioning settings are adjusted and throttle response reduced relative to pedal angle. EV mode allows the CT200h to be driven short distances using only the electric motor. Whipping the CT200h in Normal and Sport modes felt almost the same with Sport mode only taking a bit of the heaviness out of the response. Sport mode should’ve been the Normal or default driving mode. The body shell felt light, yet the engine and the motor felt very heavy.
Along with the inescapable pull from the front of the CT200h, I heard this loud scrubbing noise under the body driving fast in heavy rain. It felt like water rushing under the car. Honestly, I didn’t feel the overall hybrid benefits on the road like I do with the Fusion, or the even the Chevy Volt. Even with an EPA of 43 mpg city and 42 mpg highway, I still had to pay quite a bit for gas-often. Regenerative Braking and Smart Stop technology doesn’t seem add as much efficiency as in the ES hybrid. If I could see the benefits to low revving and regenerative braking in real time, I may have seen more savings.
Gearshift the biggest Anomaly
The biggest anomaly of the CT200h is undoubtedly the gearshift. “Park” is a button which is dangerous and illogical. Shifting down is “Neutral” and down to the left is “Drive”. Shifting completely up is “Reverse.” Imagine parking and doing what most American drivers have learned to do, which is shift up to park, and instead, accidently putting the car in Neutral or Reverse and rolling back. Then the CT200h beeps when reversing – why, who knows.
The CT200h comes with MacPherson strut front suspension and independent double wishbone rear suspension. The CT200h also has an electronically controlled brake system with ABS.
Add-ons for Style, Lux, and Lexus Character
Despite a powertrain that doesn’t thrill, the Lexus CT200h offers add-on packages that add comfort and premium-like luxury. Standard luxury features include a moon roof, carpeted floor mats, an 8-inch media display screen, HD radio, Bluetooth, and a 6-speaker sound system. The Navigation package adds HDD Navigation, backup camera, voice command, and Remote Touch Controller. Also with this package is Lexus Inform with AppSuite. AppSuite integrates smart phone apps with the vehicle, while Lexus Enform adds Safety Connect. Also included with the Navigation package is weather, stocks, and nearby fuel prices. The Leather package adds leather seats and rain sensing wipers. While the Seat Comfort package adds heated and ventilated seats. The Premium package adds a 10-speaker sound system and Homelink. Lastly the F-Sport package gives the CT200h much needed flair with F-Sport tuned suspension, leather steering wheel, leather shifter, aluminum sport pedals, and the front mesh grille. 38k later the fully loaded CT200h is has only base model luxury flair.
The fun multimedia system in the fully loaded CT200h takes my mind off the fact that can’t get comfortable. The CT200h has Remote Touch Control to adjust infotainment, navigation, and XM Satellite Radio. Safety features in the CT200h included Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability Control, Electronic Throttle Control, and Park Assist.
Overall I give the CT200h a high rating for efficiency but a lower rating for style. Many people didn’t believe the CT200h was actually a Lexus. The 38k ES300h is my first choice above all luxury mid-sized hybrids on the market.