2017 Lexus CT 200h
The 2017 Lexus CT 200h provides many attributes in a smaller package.
The 2017 Lexus CT 200h gas/electric hybrid provides decent highway performance but is best suited for congested urban areas with its small size and fuel-stingy hybrid gas/electric design.
The front-drive CT 200h four-door hatchback comes as the standard $31,250 model and as a sportier $32,980 F Sport version.
Both versions provide 134 horsepower with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder gas engine and 650-volt motor generator. A second motor generator in the car's hybrid system serves as a starter for the gas engine and generator to charge the hybrid battery pack.
The CT 200h's proven powertrain is the same used in the Toyota Prius. It works with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that makes the best use of the electric motor's instant torque and quickly finds the optimal ratio to enhance driving conditions.
The payoff? An estimated 43 miles per gallon in the city and 40 on highways. The gas tank holds 11.9 gallons, and only 87-octane fuel is required. In "EV" mode the CT 200h can be driven short distances using only the electric motor.
Acceleration is lively in town, while the 65-75 m.p.h. passing time is average on highways.
Steering is quick, although a bit heavy. The ride is firm and generally supple, but gets choppy over some rough surfaces. The braking system is augmented by regenerative braking which helps recharge the hybrid battery pack and enhance fuel efficiency.
The chassis features an all-independent suspension, with a double-wishbone rear suspension and lateral performance dampers to keep the CT 200h well connected to curves. The F Sport model has specially tuned dampers and springs for greater roadability.
So far, so good. But the transmission has a small shifter near the steering wheel that can be difficult to operate quickly. It saves cabin room, but can be a pain in the butt. One must push a separate console button to put the car in "park" mode.
The Lexus Drive Mode Select system lets a driver choose Normal, Sport, Eco or EV modes. I left the car in Eco mode most of the time, and it did fine. I didn't notice much difference during regular driving between Normal and Eco modes and Sport mode.
Don't expect anything approaching sizzling performance from this 3,130-pound car, which has "hybrid" badging. The 0-60 mp.h. time is a (factory claimed) respectable 9.8 seconds and top speed is 112 m.p.h.
The CT 200h is the lowest-priced Lexus, but has a quiet interior. It's well-equipped and uses high-grade interior materials with attractive stitching. However, there aren't many cabin storage areas.
Gauges can be quickly read, and controls, although mostly small, aren't difficult to operate. But the rear view is limited, and thick windshield posts obscure visibility during some driving conditions.
Standard items include a power driver's seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, push-button start, tilt/telescopic wheel and a six-speaker audio system.
There isn't lots of room to spare up front, and rear-seat legroom is tight for tall adults. Lexus calls the car a five-seater, but only four adults fit comfortably. Rear windows lower all the way.
Safety items include vehicle stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes and plenty of air bags and side curtains.
The F Sport's 17-inch alloy wheels have a unique design, and there's an exclusive mesh version of the low-set Lexus spindle grille, black contrast roof, rear spoiler with two large air ducts and mesh and fog lamp inserts with black surrounds. "F Sport" badges adorn the front fenders and rear hatch. Too bad the F Sport version doesn't have more power.
Options include a $3,480 navigation system with a remote touch interface and backup camera and premium audio system. A $1,500 pre-collision system features dynamic radar cruise control. A power tilt-and-slide sunroof also is offered.
The hatch opens high to reveal a modestly sized cargo area. But rear seatbacks flip forward and sit flat to provide impressive cargo room.
The CT 200h just might be the Lexus model for those with relatively limited resources who want an upscale fuel-stingy car that's easy to park and handle in heavy traffic.