If you are looking for a hybrid car you might as well go with a model that is sporty and refined. Lexus launched the all-new CT200 Hybrid in 2011 and brought a new level of luxury to the segment. The Lexus CT 200h is a five-door hatchback that features a hybrid gas-electric powertrain taken from the Toyota Prius. This week we’ll be testing the 2012 CT200h F Sport that comes with sport suspension tuning for a more planted ride in the corners. The CT 200h gives hybrid buyers the Lexus luxury and also gets good fuel mileage.
Even though the Lexus CT 200h uses the same hybrid gas-electric powertrain from the Prius, the hybrid model doesn’t feel anything like the Toyota in the curves. In the week of driving the Lexus hybrid, the F Sport felt spirited and was fun to drive through the corners. Ever since Akio Toyoda took over the top job at Toyota, he has made it a goal to bring sportier models to the Toyota and Lexus lineups. We are seeing his vision through new models like the CT200h F Sport. Toyota engineers have been working on developing these sportier models and have been given a directive to improve the luxury division of Lexus as well.
The CT200h gets an upgraded sport tuned suspension
Top chassis engineer, Mr. Satakata, worked to make the CT 200h feel spirited, sporty and secure in the curves, and they accomplished their goal. The chassis team addressed the issue of torsional rigidity and the hybrid gets a number of special features that moves it way ahead of anything the Prius could muster up.
The chassis features a double-wishbone rear suspension, low center of gravity, centralized moment of inertia (like a horizontal center of gravity), and performance dampers, which are horizontal bars with a gas shock absorbers mounted between the front strut towers and rear frame horns. The result in the corners is terrific. In tight corners in the mountains west of Denver, the CT 200h F Sport took the corners flat and felt like a sport coupe. But after the suspension upgrades, the Lexus hybrid model is much like the Prius in power.
Toyota hybrid technology
With the same Prius powertrain, the CT 200h makes 98 horsepower from the 1.8-liter Atkinson Cycle gas engine and 80 hp 60 (kW) from the generator, for a total of 134 hp, which won’t win many races going up I-70 at altitude. It has a 0-60 mph acceleration time of 9.8 seconds that leaves the driver feeling like its underpowered with an economy drivetrain. But it corners so well that it lures the driver into thinking it’s a true sport model. The power combined with the electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (CVT) will bring the driver back to reality quickly.
Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 43 mpg City, 40 mpg Highway. But in real-world driving, that will be hard to achieve with the CT 200h. Even though the Lexus hybrid has an all-electric mode, it was only seen a few times right after start-up and sitting in the driveway during the week long test drive. The CT 200h has four driving modes: EV, Eco, Normal and Sport. Even though Lexus says the CT 200h can go for one mile at 28 mph in EV mode on a full battery charge, it is hard to achieve unless the conditions are perfect. In EV mode, battery power goes away fast.
The hybrid powertrain is designed for city driving, and that is where the CT200 is at its best. Around town, below 25 mph, Eco mode works just fine. But beyond those speeds, if accelerating fast or going up hill, the CVT will shift into power (Sport) mode very quickly. Out on the open highway, in Sport mode, the CT 200h does have plenty of power to comfortably cruise at 70 mph and the tach is right around 2000 rpm for decent fuel mileage.
CT200h F Sport extras
The 2012 Lexus CT 200h F Sport ($34,080) gets a few extras beyond the suspension upgrades, and features a black leather interior, dark 17-inch alloy wheels, lower and upper mesh grilles, a large rear spoiler, aluminum pedals, perforated leather steering wheel, leather trimmed shifter, titanium-gray metal instrument panel trim, and F Sport badging on the front fenders.
This CT 200h tester came with the optional Navigation Package ($2,445) that includes HDD navigation system, rearview camera, enhanced Bluetooth, Lexus Enform with destination assistance, Lexus Insider, remote touch navigation controller, voice-command recognition, XM NavTraffic and Weather and Sports and Stocks.
Luxury abounds inside
Inside, the CT 200h is full of Lexus luxury that you would expect from the Toyota luxury division. The cabin is not large but cozy with a comfortable driver’s seat. The interior materials are quality and the fit and finish is typical Lexus. The CT 200h is a five-door hatch and cargo space is somewhat small for a hatch. There’s 14.3 cubic feet of storage space behind the rear seat, about the size of the trunk in a compact sedan. The batteries take up extra cargo room under the cargo compartment, and is the price paid for the hybrid technology.
As automakers try to meet the new mileage and emission standards, we will see more hybrid models being launched like the 2012 Lexus CT 200h. The F Sport adds a sporty dimension to the otherwise slow-accelerating hybrid powertrain. The CT 200h has a quiet cabin, a comfortable ride and has excellent cornering in the curves. Its a good choice for those looking for a bit of luxury to go along with the fuel-sipping hybrid technology.
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