“A Prius for everyone” is the jingle that ends the latest Prius commercial as the five-member Prius parade rolls through a colorful landscape. But Toyota has a bastard child, a 6th hybrid platform that often gets overlooked. Enter the Lexus CT200h. Arguably the best looking dedicated hybrid platform that money can buy, the CT200h shares some vital genetics with its Prius brethren. The 1.8L inline 4-cylinder engine, CVT transmission, and front suspension are all identical. But the Lexus, not being born of the House Toyota, has to be more luxurious. The F Sport designation also means that this particular model has to be sportier, which has typically been a challenge for hybrids.
This is Limited Slip Blog’s first hybrid review and the first hybrid that I’ve ever driven. I’ve always been a bit skeptical of hybrids, but if the above picture is to be believed, sometimes it can actually be all rainbows and fuzzy creatures. The Lexus was so good that it prompted a spontaneous 500 mile road trip. The talking points for the Lexus CT200h F Sport are simple; luxury (Lexus), efficiency (CT200h), and performance (F Sport). So how does it deliver on all three categories?
First and foremost this is a Lexus, and it is built as such. Everything that you rest your body against is incredibly cushioned and soft-touch. The sport seats, part of the F Sport package, are comfortable and supportive. By nature, hybrids are quiet cars. Lexus, too, pride themselves on a quiet cabin. The CT200h lives up to that expectation. In EV mode, which is available up to 25mph, the only audible noise is the whine of the electric motor. As speeds climb, the engine fires imperceptibly and assists inaudibly. The only sounds are road and tire noise. On our four hour trip, we were only required to stop once to get out and stretch. There were no headaches or sore joints on the part of the Lexus. We did, however, find the lack of heated seats puzzling.
With luxury also comes technology. Aside from the hybrid tech, the CT200h includes the Lexus Enform system with navigation, satellite radio, MP3 and Bluetooth connectivity, and a host of applications for on-the-go information. We’re not sure why you’d want to check your stocks while driving, but you can if you are able navigate the Enform interface. This brings us to the only problem in the luxury category. The Lexus Enform interface feels clunky and outdated. It took two twenty-something automotive journalists a solid 5 minutes to enter a navigation destination and then an additional 5 minutes to figure out how to silence the turn-by-turn directions. Want to see a list of the available the satellite radio stations? You can’t. You have to helplessly scroll through each station or “Browse” though the categories that nobody remembers.
Being part Prius makes the CT200h’s drivetrain is highly efficient. The engine and electric motor can run independently or combine under hard acceleration. When required the CVT winds the engine up to 4,000rpms and engages the electric motor for a total output of 134hp. When the petrol power isn’t required, the car let the electric motor maintain speed in EV mode. This mode can also be summoned by a button, operating only on battery power until acceleration, speed, or charge level require otherwise. Coasting and deceleration trigger regenerative braking to recharge the battery. The transmission also has a “B” setting to engage engine breaking and additional regeneration. The result is 42 miles per gallon both listed as the EPA average and realized as our consumption average over 1,000 miles. The relatively small 11.9 gallon tank yields a cruising range of 500 miles.
Efficiency and performance are often at odds. There is a noticeable hesitation between when the accelerator is floored and the gasoline engine comes to the electric motor’s aid. This contributes to the 0-60 time of 9.8 seconds. No, the Lexus CT200h isn’t even moderately brisk. That begs the question as to why it is available as an F Sport. The answer comes in other performance aspects. Dialing up “Sport” mode stiffens the suspension and tightens the steering ratio. The resulting change in character makes the CT200h more of a driver’s car. There is uncannily little roll, thanks in part to the independent rear suspension that isn’t shared with the Prius. Without a ton of power on tap, being smooth and maintaining momentum become the key to driving the Lexus briskly. Of course, smoothness and momentum are also beneficial to efficiency. Therefore, in a twisted way, the Lexus CT F Sport makes sense. It isn’t a performance vehicle based on power, but it has a balance and control that more powerful cars lack.
The Lexus CT200h F Sport is a luxurious and efficient car that is a pleasure to drive. We consider the hatchback design, especially in Ultrasonic Blue Mica with the F Sport’s dark graphite wheels, the best looking hybrid platform on the market. It doesn’t immediately identify itself as a hybrid, despite wearing hybrid badging and the gimmicky blue-shadowed Lexus logo. A hatchback with this level of curb appeal that can carry 4 people, get 42 miles per gallon, and provide a relatively poised driving experience is a vehicle to be commended. Toyota may claim to have a Prius for everyone, but Lexus seems to have made an appealing one.
|2013 Lexus CT 200h
|F Sport Package||$1,000|
|Lexus Enform Navigation||$2,735|
|As Tested MSRP||$37,870|