New & Used Lexus CT 200h: In Depth
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The Lexus CT200h is a compact five-door hatchback that's in a class almost by itself. It's a hybrid luxury five-door, and until the Audi A3 e-tron arrives in 2015, it will be the only such vehicle sold in America, unless you consider the Porsche Panamera plug-in hybrid in the same class.
The CT shares some of its gas-electric drivetrain with the evergreen Toyota Prius, but it's not dowdy like the Prius--it's meant to attract younger and greener new buyers into Lexus showrooms, from both Generation X and Generation Y.
Rivals are few, what with the CT's powertrain, but shoppers would do well to compare other alternative-drivetrain vehicles, everything from the VW Golf TDI and Audi A3 TDI to the Ford C-Max Hybrid.
MORE: Read our 2015 Lexus CT 200h review
The CT arrived while the slow-selling and unloved HS 250h sedan, the first dedicated hybrid from Lexus, was still on the market.The unexpected aspect of the CT hatchback is that is also one of the most entertaining Lexus models to drive. The Lexus CT is powered by the same 98-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and twin motor-generators that are used in the Toyota Prius, which is larger inside and less expensive, but doesn't offer the luxury accoutrements or the luxury branding of the CT.The engine and hybrid system together combine to produce peak power of 134 horsepower, with the nickel-metal-hydride battery pack that delivers electricity to the motor located behind the rear seat and under the load deck. With the CT's already-squat roofline, though, that makes the load bay remarkably shallow--there's less than a foot of height below the rollout securty cover--and doesn't offer a lot of volume for cargo.
As compact hybrids go, the roadholding of the CT 200h is good. Drivers can select from three drive modes--Normal, Eco, and Sport--with Eco being borderline painful and Sport by far the most fun. In Sport mode, the car's steering feel and throttle mapping change to a more performance orientation, giving more electric assist under acceleration. The blue power gauge in the instrument panel also morphs into a red-hued tachometer, a neat "surprise and delight" feature.
The CT's lines are unique. It sits squarely on the street, with slab sides and thick roof pillars, giving it an interesting, slightly sporty stance. In the end, though, its lines say it's a standard, somewhat squat five-door hatchback--meaning it not only goes unnoticed on the street, but is hardly recognizable as a Lexus. Inside, the cabin is wide and surprisingly roomy, though all passengers sit low--especially on the short seat cushion in the rear--and the view out the slit-like rear window is minimal.
While it still doesn't come across as effortlessly luxurious as do larger Lexus sedans, standard features include keyless ignition, full iPod integration, Bluetooth for audio streaming and hands-free calling, and satellite radio. And the CT 200h has a long list of luxury options as well, with LED headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, and an extensive line of dealer-installed F-Sport performance and appearance accessories.The CT 200h has changed very little since its launch. The base price of a Lexus CT is around $30,000, but a heavy hand on the lengthy options list--especially in the electronics and safety area--can take buyers as high as $40,000. For 2015, the CT adds Siri Eyes-Free Mode and an updated Lexus Enform infotainment system.